Purple Coneflower

Purple Coneflower

Also known as: Echinacea Purpurea

Although echinacea is known as a popular herb for building up and protecting the immune system, it's also a very popular wildflower known as a coneflower. Coneflowers, part of the aster family, are known to be beautiful from their first flowering to their last. They're named for the shape that the blossoms take – they begin as cones and flower out into the typical aster "sunburst". Echinacea is derived from the Greek "echino", which means "spiny".

Coneflowers are native to North America and were used medicinally by North American Indians for years. It was used as a snakebite remedy and for other skin conditions. It was said that the natives made a snakebite sufferer chew the roots and leaves of a coneflower while they sucked the venom out of their bite. This was thought to cure the snake bite in a few days. Now, Echinacea is produced in pill, liquid and ointment forms for many different conditions, including the common cold.

Growing up to 60 inches tall and spreading out to 24 inches wide, coneflowers resemble large purple daisies. They have pointed, light green foliage. The growing season is summertime, but they will flower long into the colder fall months until they are covered in snow. The blooms are typically purple, pink, and white with orange centers.

Growing Coneflowers

Coneflowers require full sun or very light shade to grow well. They need to be planted in a well-drained, relatively enriched soil. The plant is drought-resistant, but it needs regular watering or it will wilt. The plants may self-seed, and should be divided every four years in the fall when completing your seasonal garden care. If you want to see the flowers bloom all season, deadheading is recommended at first. Pinch the plants back to encourage more bushy growth.

Recommended Varieties

Although most coneflowers are of the purpurea variety, you can have other cultivars such as "Magnus", "White Luster", and "White Swan". The last two will grow beautiful white flowers with orange centers. You can find these varieties of coneflowers at your local garden center.

Landscape Design Tips

You can plant coneflowers in a sunny location as part of a meadow or kitchen garden. They also look well standing alone or in informal borders. The flowers will dry out as they die, providing a textured focal point in the fall and winter. The plants can be dried for herbal uses.

Gardening Zones

Coneflowers are hardy in zones 4 to 8.

Pests and Problems

Powdery mildew seems to be the coneflower's biggest issue, but you can also see leaf miners, mold and bacterial spots. Occasionally, they will be eaten by bigger animals like rabbits and groundhogs.