How to Grow Coneflowers - Echinacea
Why Purchase Coneflowers?
Coneflowers are pretty additions to any perennial flower garden. Best of all they are easy to grow. At one time, coneflowers were thought of as just the purple ones, but now an array of new colors have been bred. They are now available in golden yellows, rosy reds, orange, white and more. The new colors add a real statement to the garden. Dwarf plants have also been hybridized.
These flowers bloom almost all summer long if you keep them deadheaded. Deadheading is just cutting off the old blooms before they reseed. If cut for fresh flowers, they'll last as long as 10 days and some newer varieties even offer fragrance. Butterflies love them and the birds enjoy eating the seeds in the fall and winter months.
Origins of Coneflowers
These flowers are native to the central states of the US. They grow in prairies and wild in the woods and are a variety of the daisy family. The plants have large flowers and some varieties have drooping petals that give them a different look.
The name echinacea comes from the flowers spiky middle cone, which produces the seeds. The name echinacea means hedgehog. The cone feels prickly like a hedgehog.
Where to Plant Coneflowers
Coneflowers can be grown from seeds, or you can purchase plants. Just plant the seeds outdoors when the danger of frost has past. If you want newer varieties to be true to color, it would be better to purchase the plants. Most coneflowers grow well in Zones 3-8 and a few new varieties will even tolerate Zones 9-10.
Plant coneflowers in well-drained soil in a spot with full sun. I have planted these in partial shade and they grew fine, but the blooms weren't as vibrant. They will tolerate average and poor soil, so you won't need to worry about fertilizing them as often as other perennials. Good soil is preferred, but not necessary. If you have a spot with slightly acidic soil of pH 6 - 6.8, that would be the perfect spot for them.
Most plants grow 2-4 feet tall and are about 2-feet wide. Keep this in mind when planting them in the perennial flower bed. Some newer varieties are shorter.
Planting Coneflower Seeds
Newer varieties may not have true color if planted from seeds. You can plant the old fashioned ones from seeds. You might try planting the newer colors from seeds, and you may just end up with a new color you love. But since they are hybrids, you won't get the color of the parent.
How to Plant Coneflowers
You will need to dig a hole about 12" deep and about double the width of the pot the coneflower was grown in. First, fill the hole with a little compost or cow manure. Unless the soil is very wet, pour some water in the hole. Take the plant out of the container and spread out the roots. Place the plant in the hole and finish filling with soil. Until the plant is established, water it whenever the soil dries out.
Because coneflowers have a deep taproot, you don't need to worry about watering them as often as other plants. I still water when it gets hot and dry in July and August. Deadhead the plants for rebloom.
If you plant the flowers in a windy location, you may need to stake the plants. I haven't needed to, but mine are in locations that are slightly protected.
How to Propagate Coneflowers
Because of the deep taproot that coneflowers have, they are difficult to divide and replant like you can do with many perennials. Old fashioned ones will reseed themselves, and you may end up with more than you want. If you want to try propagating by division, you'll be taking the chance of losing the plant.
If you'd still like to propagate the plant, they will start with root cuttings. Just cut off a slip of the plant. Dipping the end in root hormone will help it get a good start and then place it in some soil. I like to just plant the cutting in a shady place and cover with a quart glass jar. This will work like a terrarium and keep the plant watered. The next year, I replant it in a better location.
Some Varieties Available
After Midnight is a beauty. The variety was bread to be a dwarf and is 12" tall and 12" wide. It is a dark magenta (stunning). Hardiness zones are 4-8.
All that Jazz has quilled petals that are lavender pink. This variety grows 30" x 36" tall and spreads 18" x 24". Hardiness zones are 4-8.
Crazy Pink is a heavy bloomer that can have as many as 100 blooms at once. The flower has drooping petals. 30" x 36" tall and spreads 18" x 24".
Fatal Attraction has magenta blooms that have 2 layers of petals that make these look full and beautiful. 30" tall and spreads 18" x 24".
Fluffy Delight has a puffy center and less blooms on the outside.
Harvest Moon is the color of a harvest moon. The flower has tones of gold. Petals overlap each other, giving it a nice appearance. It has a rose scent. The plants grow 24" - 30" tall and is 18" - 22" wide. Hardiness zones are 4-9.
Pink Poodle is so full it almost looks like a football mum. This variety grows 30" - 34" tall and has a spread of 28". It is hardy in zones 4-8.
Secret Lust is one I think I'll try to find this year. It has a large cushion-looking center. As it blooms, it starts as an orange and gets darker as it gets older. Secret Lust was a 2011 introduction. It is 25" tall and 36" wide. The bloom is considered a double and is 3" wide.
Summer Skylight is orange with hues of rose. The plant is fragrant compared to other coneflower varieties and that helps attract butterflies. It grows 30" - 36" tall and 18" - 24" wide. Hardy in zones 3-8.
Sundown has become one of the most popular coneflowers. It is a warm orange color with a brown center. The plants grows 32" - 40" tall and 18" - 24" wide.
Sunrise has pastel yellow blossoms. The blossom change shades as they mature and look stunning with different shades of the same color. Sunrise grows 32" - 40" tall and 18" - 24" tall. Hardiness zones are 4-9.
Tiki Torch is a bright orange shade. This plant will grow 28" - 30" tall with a spread of 18" - 24". Hardiness zones are 4-9.
Dogs and Echinacea
My dogs love to eat these plants. It probably has to do with the fact that they are good for them. If you want your coneflowers to grow and have blooms, plant them in an area that the dogs don't go near.