Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) is a popular perennial in Zones 3-9.

Coneflowers are popular perennials with good reason. They are heat and drought resistant, easy to grow, bloom for months, make great cut flowers, and attract birds and pollinators.

They come in glorious shades of pink, orange, yellow, red, and chartreuse, as well as a range of flower forms—standard shuttlecock to horizontal ruffs to doubles with a powder-puff center. What more could you ask?

CONEFLOWER BASICS

Zones: Varies, but species range from Zones 3 through 9.

Height/Spread: : Varieties 2 to 5 feet tall and 1-1/2 to 2 feet wide.

Exposure: Varies by species and zone, but typically thrive in full sun. Some may tolerate partial shade, and in hotter southern climates, some light afternoon shade can prevent burning.

Bloom time: Varies by species and cultivar, but bloom times usually range from June to August or later.

Flower color: Most well-known are the purple coneflowers, but pink, red, orange, white, yellow and green varieties are available.

Types: While the purple coneflower, Echinacea purpurea, is most familiar to gardeners, there are other varieties including E. paradoxa, E. pallida, and E. tennesseensis. All are native to the U.S., found in areas across the Midwest and South. Echinacea purpurea, E. angustifolia, and E. pallida are commonly used in herbal remedies.

Are they deer resistant? Many gardeners report that they are deer resistant. Their spiny centers and strong aroma deter deer. However, if deer are hungry enough, they will eat almost anything. Other animals that may take a taste include rabbits, squirrels and woodchucks.

Do they attract bees and butterflies? If you want to enjoy butterflies and songbirds in your garden plant coneflowers. For weeks, even months, during the summer and fall the blooms and seed heads will attract a multitude of winged beauties. Each composite flower (actually a compact arrangement of ray and disk flowers) offers up a fully loaded buffet table for butterflies. Other pollinators, such as honeybees and hummingbirds will visit Echinacea too.

HOW TO PLANT

When to plant: Varies by zone; sow seeds in spring or fall.

Where to plant: Echinacea should be planted in an area that receives 6 to 8 hours of sunlight a day, as too much shade can result in floppy stems and foliage susceptible to powdery mildew.

How to plant: To plant Echinacea seeds, loosen the soil to a depth of 12 inches. Add compost to the top 2-4 inches of soil. Seeds take approximately 3 to 4 weeks to germinate, and you should see true leaves at about 12 weeks. If transplanting, dig a hole twice as wide as the pot and deep enough so that the rootball will be level with the top of the soil.

CARE ADVICE

These easy-care perennials require only the basics: regular watering of about an inch per week, a light layer of compost added in the spring, and to be cut back in fall, and even that’s optional if you prefer to leave the seed heads.

Pruning: Though deadheading is a common garden practice to encourage repeat blooming, many varieties these days are flower machines and will keep producing without snipping off spent blooms. That way you can leave them be, guaranteeing food for another beloved category of wildlife—birds, particularly small songbirds like goldfinches, which are crazy about the seeds. Flowers appearing post-deadheading can be smaller and less satisfying, so why not just leave the first, bigger flowers to go to seed and give the birds a feast?

Once your coneflower has finished blooming, it can be cut down to ground level to over-winter. Or, if you prefer to leave the dried seed heads, it can be cut down in early spring.

Soil: Average, well-drained soil.

Amendments & fertilizer: Work a bit of compost in around the plants if flowers are small or poorly developed. Be careful, over-feeding can lead to an abundance of foliage and a lack of flowers.

Watering: Tolerant of drought, but does best in average, dry to medium moisture. Water regularly, but let soil dry out in between. Coneflowers need at least an inch of water weekly.

Propagation: Divide clumps when crowded, about every 4 years. If spent flowers are left intact, they will reseed with little effort on your part. Deadheading can help to control this if they are getting out of hand. Some gardeners choose a middle ground and collect the seeds and plant them in carefully selected spots for the following season.

Diseases and pests: One problem worth noting in Echinacea is “aster yellows,” a virus-like disease caused by a phytoplasma. Symptoms are deformed flowers, sometimes with weird tufts in the cones, and yellow leaves with green veins. The organism is spread by sap-sucking insects like leafhoppers (and can also be spread on pruners during deadheading). There’s no cure, so once you notice a plant is infected, dig it up immediately and throw it away. They can also be bothered by leaf miners, powdery mildew, bacterial spots, gray mold, vine weevils, and Japanese beetles.

CONEFLOWER PICTURES

Swipe to view slides

Photo by: Rob Cardillo.

Echinacea ‘Green Jewel’

Zones: 3-8

Height/Spread: 1-1/2 to 2 feet tall, 1 to 1-1/2 feet wide

Exposure: Full sun to partial shade

Bloom Time: May to August

Color: Light green rays with dark green cone

With large fragrant flowers that are 4 to 5 inches across, ‘Green Jewel’ grows to form a compact clump. Discovered by Piet Oudolf in 2005.

Photo by: Rob Cardillo.

Echinacea Big Sky Sundown

Zones: 3-8

Height/Spread: 2-1/2 to 3 feet tall, 1 to 1-1/2 feet wide

Exposure: Full sun to partial shade

Bloom Time: June to August

Color: Russet orange rays with dark brown cone

Large flowers that are 4 to 5 inches across have a rose-like fragrance. Part of the Big Sky series developed by Richard Saul of Itsaul Plants.

Photo by: Rob Cardillo.

Echinacea Mango Meadowbrite™

Zones: 4-9

Height/Spread: 2 to 3 feet tall and wide

Exposure: Full sun to partial shade

Bloom Time: June to August

Color: Yellow rays with brown cone

A combination of yellow-flowered E. paradoxa with white flowered E. purpurea ‘Alba’. Part of the Meadowbright series bred by Jim Ault.

Photo courtesy: Terra Nova Nurseries, Inc.

Echinacea ‘Maui Sunshine’

Zones: 3-8

Height/Spread: 2 to 3 feet tall, 1-1/2 to 2-1/2 feet wide

Exposure: Full sun to partial shade

Bloom Time: June to August

Color: Yellow rays with orange cone

Part of the Prairie Pillars collection, with long sturdy stems perfect for cut flowers, its bright yellow rays mellow as they age. Others in the collection are red-flowered ‘Hot Lava’ and orange ‘Tiki Torch’.

Photo by: Rob Cardillo.

Echinacea purpurea ‘White Swan’

Zones: 3-8

Height/Spread: 2 to 3 feet tall, 1 to 2 feet wide

Exposure: Full sun to partial shade

Bloom Time: June to August

Color: White rays with copper cone

Somewhat shorter than the pink versions with a honey fragrance and reflexed white petals. Another white coneflower is ‘Fragrant Angel’.

Photo by: Rob Cardillo.

Echinacea purpurea ‘Fatal Attraction’

Zones: 3-8

Height/Spread: 1-1/2 to 2 feet tall, 1 to 1-1/2 feet wide

Exposure: Full sun to partial shade

Bloom Time: June to September

Color: Magenta purple rays with orange-brown cone

The stems are reddish ebony, adding further color and drama. This compact and sturdy, fragrant coneflower from Piet Oudolf is best suited for the front or middle of a border. Other coneflowers with dark stems are ‘Merlot’ and ‘Solar Flare’.

Photo courtesy: Terra Nova Nurseries, Inc.

Echinacea ‘Coral Reef’

Zones: 3-8

Height/Spread: 2 to 3 feet tall, 1-1/2 to 2-1/2 feet wide

Exposure: Full sun to partial shade

Bloom Time: June to August

Color: Coral rays with dark coral red cone

Introduced by Terra Nova Nurseries, this two-toned double flower has a ruffle of salmon-colored rays under a ball of dark coral-red. Flowers are 3 to 4-inches across with tall strong stems well-suited for cut-flowers.

Photo by: Rob Cardillo.

Echinacea purpurea ‘Coconut Lime’

Zones: 3-8

Height/Spread: 2 to 2-1/2 feet tall, 1-1/2 to 2 feet wide

Exposure: Full sun to partial shade

Bloom Time: June to August

Color: White rays with lime green center disk

The first double white coneflower was developed by Arie Blom and introduced by AB Cultivars in 2007. The cone starts out green and matures to pale chartreuse with an orange heart. It grows in well-branched clumps and is a heavy bloomer with up to 20 blooms per plant.

Photo by: Rob Cardillo.

Echinacea Big Sky Harvest Moon™

Zones: 3-8

Height/Spread: 2 to 2-1/2 feet tall, 1 to 1-1/2 feet wide

Exposure: Full sun to partial shade

Bloom Time: June to August

Color: Golden yellow rays with orange cone

Also part of the Big Sky series from Itsaul Plants. Golden-yellow reflexed rays surround a golden-orange cone on this rose-scented, sturdy plant.

Photo by: GWI/Floramedia.

Echinacea ‘Tangerine Dream’

Zones: 3-8

Height/Spread: 1-1/2 to 2 feet tall and wide

Exposure: Full sun to partial shade

Bloom Time: June to August

Color: Orange rays with dark brown cone

Part of the Dream series from Terra Nova Nurseries in 2009, this coneflower holds its color for an exceptionally long time. Its large 4-inch flowers are honey-scented. Others in the series are ‘Glowing Dream’ (watermelon-coral), ‘Amazing Dream’ (deep-pink) and midsize ‘Daydream’ (yellow).

Photo courtesy: Terra Nova Nurseries, Inc.

Echinacea purpurea ‘Pink Poodle’

Zones: 4-8

Height/Spread: 2 to 2-1/2 feet tall, 1-1/2 to 2 feet wide

Exposure: Full sun to partial shade

Bloom Time: June to August

Color: Pink rays

This coneflower looks more like a dahlia or zinnia. Dan Heims of Terra Nova Nurseries notes that the well-branched stems are crowned by large, 4-inch, fluffy flower heads. This sturdy perennial has long-lasting blooms good for cut flowers.

Photo by: Richard Bloom.

Echinacea purpurea ‘Green Envy’

Zones: 4-9

Height/Spread: 2 to 3 feet tall, 1-1/2 to 2 feet wide

Exposure: Full sun to partial shade

Bloom Time: July to September

Color: Pale green rays that change color to magenta from the center

On first viewing a photo of this plant found by avid gardener Mark Veeder, Tony Avent of Plant Delights Nursery thought it was Photoshopped. Each recurving rose-pink ray petal is tipped with lime green, taking bicolor to the next level. Unusual cones are deep green with hints of brown, lime green and purple.

Photo by: Rob Cardillo.

Echinacea purpurea ‘Razzmatazz’

Zones: 3-9

Height/Spread: 2 to 2-1/2 feet tall, 1-1/2 to 2 feet wide

Exposure: Full sun to partial shade

Bloom Time: June to August

Color: Rose pink

A circlet of short pink petals is topped with a puff of darker pink, reminiscent of anemone dahlias. According to Plant Delights Nursery, a chance seedling of ‘Magnus’ popped up in the growing fields of Dutch breeder Jan van Winsen in 1997.

Photo by: Rob Cardillo.

Echinacea ‘All that Jazz’

Zones: 3-8

Height/Spread: 2-1/2 to 3 feet tall, 1 to 1-1/2 feet wide

Exposure: Full sun to partial shade

Bloom Time: June to August

Color: Lavender-pink rays with orange cone

Developed by Kevin Hurd and introduced by Walters Gardens, ‘All that Jazz’ has quilled petals with spoon-shaped tips that are mum-like. A yellow-flowered version has the name ‘Passion Flute’.

DESIGN TIPS

  • Mix early- and late-blooming varieties to enjoy colorful flowers up to 5 months. Early-bloomers like ‘Green Jewel’ and ‘Merlot’ start flowering in May, while cultivars such as ‘Fatal Attraction’, ‘Pica Bella’, and ‘Springbrook’s Crimson Star’ continue into September.
  • Russian sage, black-eyed Susan, Shasta daisy, phlox and liatris make complimentary garden companions.
  • Excellent choice for cut flowers with their long, strong stems.
  • Add color and height to a mixed container planting.
  • Plant in masses in borders, meadows, native plant and wildflower gardens.

Last updated: July 6, 2018

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