If any flowering perennial could be considered essential for American gardens, it would probably be the purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea). Although a native of the Midwestern plains, the purple coneflower flourishes almost everywhere in the continental United States, blooming from early to mid-summer in most locations. It tolerates heat, humidity, drought, wind, and some shade.
The purple coneflower has long been prized for its large, daisy-like, pinkish-purple flowers, but new cultivars are available with white, yellow, orange, or burgundy blooms. The plants typically reach 2 to 3 feet in height in clumps a foot to 2 feet across. A sweep of purple coneflowers makes a dramatic statement at the back of a border or the center of a landscape island. They also look grand in plantings with lamb’s-ears, globe thistle, Russian sage, and other perennials. Purple coneflowers attract butterflies and bees, and birds eat the seeds from mature plants. The flowers are also excellent for cutting.
Here are a few things you should know if you want to grow purple coneflowers:
- Plant them in full to half-sun.
- Plant them in well-drained soil with plenty of organic matter .
- They are basically free from insect problems, but older, crowded clumps may develop stem dieback, a viral infection. Those plants should be removed from the garden.
- Feed them with a balanced plant food, every three months during the growing season.
- Deadhead to prolong bloom into fall.
- Clumps expand by creating small new plants around the base. You can transplant these when you divide the clump in spring or fall every five years or so.