Purple Coneflower 101: WHY & HOW To Grow This Flower!
Are you ready to learn more about Purple Coneflower?
If so, you are in the right place. Today, you are going to learn everything you need to know about this wonderful, NATIVE plant.
I’ve organized this post into the following sections:
Why should you grow Purple Coneflower? (5 reasons!)
Let’s get started!
What is Purple Coneflower?
Purple Coneflower, also known as Echinacea purpurea (more on that later), is a vibrant purple perennial flower that is native to North America. Some other names for it include Eastern Purple Coneflower or Hedgehog Coneflower. Purple Coneflower is an incredibly hardy plant and can be grown in USDA plant hardiness zones 3-9.
The name Echinacea comes from a Greek word meaning “spiny,” which fittingly describes the spiny appearance of the dark reddish-brown flower center.
There are various species of coneflower, but Purple Coneflower is the most popular.
Purple Coneflower very closely resembles a daisy, with its long, oval-shaped petals and round floral disc. In fact, coneflowers are part of the Asteraceae family, which includes daisies, asters, and thousands of other species.
The cone-shaped disc is actually made up of several smaller flowers, which, unlike the petals, contain loads of nectar. The colorful blooms draw the attention of bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds, that make a delicious meal out of the floral disc.
Purple Coneflower is extremely hardy, which is one reason that people love growing them in their gardens. These flowers are also heat and drought-resistant, which means they will thrive in harsh conditions.
I love that this native flower provides beautiful blooms from early summer up through the first frost.
Purple Coneflowers go through an initial blooming period, after which they may lose their blossoms. However, it is not unusual for new petals to appear, particularly if you deadhead your flowers.
Make sure to select an appropriate place in your landscaping beds, as Purple Coneflower normally grows anywhere from two to four feet high. But growers have also recorded plants as tall as six feet. Coneflowers grow in clumps or clusters up to two feet wide. So be sure to give your plants plenty of room to thrive!
Lastly, Purple Coneflower is a perennial, which means it’s a plant that comes up again year after year with only a single planting. Your original coneflower will die out after about three years. But have no worries, because they are self-seeding, which means you will notice new plants taking the place of old ones.
Why Should You Grow Purple Coneflower?
Are you looking for reasons to grow Purple Coneflower? Here are FIVE reasons why I grow it in my backyard!
1. Birds and insects love it!
I love that Purple Coneflower ATTRACTS WILDLIFE.
We all want more birds in our yard, right? After all, learning to attract more wildlife is probably one of the reasons you came here in the first place.
Purple Coneflower provides THREE primary benefits for animals.
First, the nectar is attractive to bees, hummingbirds, butterflies, and moths. You should see a wide variety of species feeding on the nectar all summer long!
Second, the seeds serve as a fantastic food source in the winter for a wide variety of birds. The species you may see feeding on the seed heads include sparrows, goldfinches, blue jays, cardinals, black-capped chickadees, downy woodpeckers, juncos, and more.
Lastly, the leaves also draw in additional insects that don’t feed on nectar. For example, you may notice caterpillars munching on the leaves, or ladybugs eating aphids.
Seriously, having Purple Coneflower in your backyard is an excellent way to help attract all sorts of animals and wildlife!
2. Purple Coneflower is native to North America.
Many native wildflowers (and their cultivated varieties) are essential food sources for local birds and insects.
Native plants are the BEST eco-friendly choice for your backyard. Native plants have evolved with your local climate and conditions. They are well-suited to your area’s soil, temperature, and rainfall. They generally require less weeding, watering, and fertilizing than their foreign counterparts.
- RELATED: 22 PROVEN Flowers That Attract BEES!
3. It’s a beautiful addition to your flower garden.
Purple Coneflower is a garden classic, and extremely popular. I love seeing them in landscapes, as the bright purple flowers are gorgeous and bloom for many weeks. Nothing screams late summer to me more than coneflowers!
4. It is easy to grow!
One thing I love about Purple Coneflower is that it doesn’t require a lot of attention. All you have to do is make sure the plants have enough water (which is not often) and divide them on occasion. After that, I just sit back and watch the birds come flocking into my garden.
Echinacea purpurea is an excellent plant for beginners as well as anyone who struggles with not having a “green thumb.” So if you want a flower that attracts birds and butterflies but doesn’t need much attention, then Purple Coneflower is for PERFECT.
5. It Thrives in a Variety of Light Conditions.
We’ve already talked about the heat-resistant properties of Purple Coneflower. As you may have guessed, this means you can easily grow them in full sun. But guess what? They also thrive in partial shade.
The fact that they adapt to a variety of light conditions means they are an excellent choice to plant nearly anywhere. So if you need to fill in that somewhat shady spot, Purple Coneflower could be just what you need.
How Do You Grow Purple Coneflower?
Echinacea purpurea was originally a wildflower that mostly grew in prairies and woodlands. But today you can buy Purple Coneflower one of two ways.
Plants that you purchased from a store.
Transplanting Coneflower Plants Purchased From a Store
The most popular way to plant a coneflower is to purchase a plant from your local garden center. It’s essential to plant correctly and take proper care of it, or you risk it dying! Plants are susceptible immediately after being planted somewhere new.
Here are some steps that I follow when planting coneflowers, along with pretty much any other flower:
- Plan where you want to plant your coneflowers. I like to place them where I think I want them in my garden, then walk away to see how it is going to look. Make sure to read the tag for instructions and spacing recommendations! For reference, most Purple Coneflower cultivars recommend spacing about 2 feet apart.
- Dig a hole. You want a hole that’s about 50% wider than the root ball and just as deep.
- Take the coneflower out of the container. I find it easiest to hit the sides of the pot to loosen the plant, then carefully slide it out. BE CAREFUL not to damage the plant while removing it.
- Place the plant in the hole. The top of the root ball should be at the same level as the soil. If anything, place the top of the root ball about 1-2 inches above the top of the dirt. It’s common for a plant to sink a bit after planting, and you will also be adding mulch.
- Fill in soil and pat the dirt down firmly around the base. Add mulch to help preserve moisture. Purple Coneflower shouldn’t require a lot of fertilizing. To help it thrive, add compost to your garden before planting.
- Water to help the Purple Coneflower become established. Proper watering for Purple Coneflower is essential for it to thrive. These plants are fairly drought resistant, but they will need plenty of water as they are young and getting established. When watering, make sure you’re soaking the soil enough that the water is seeping down into the ground, and it’s not just the first inch that appears damp. To avoid evaporation, make sure to water in the early morning or evening.
Starting From Seed
Purple Coneflower is easy to start from seed. And once it’s established, it can spread quite easily, so keep this in mind when selecting a planting site.
Purple Coneflower Seeds Check Price - Amazon
First, you will need to buy some seeds. Luckily, Echinacea seeds are incredibly inexpensive and can be purchased in bulk at a variety of places online or at your local garden center.
You can also harvest your own seeds! Learn how below:
To direct sow Purple Coneflower in the ground, scatter seeds across the dirt bed and lightly rake the seeds into the soil.
Alternatively, you can start the seeds indoors about five weeks before spring temperatures are consistently in the 50°Fs. Sow the seeds about 1/8 inch deep in containers of potting mix.
Keep the containers at around 70°F. Transplant your seedlings when they reach about 2 inches tall and plant them about 1 foot apart.
Should you divide Purple Coneflower?
We’ve already talked about how Echinacea purpurea grows in clumps. As Purple Coneflower spreads, it can sometimes overtake areas you would rather not have it in. When growing in flowerbeds, your plants could also become very crowded. In these instances, you can choose to divide your flowers. Many hybrid coneflowers have a taproot, which means you CAN’T divide without killing the plants. Only divide true Echinacea purpurea!
- Use a garden spade or shovel to cut an area around one of your plants. Go a few inches deep so that you can get underneath the root ball.
- Lift the plant out of the ground and shake off the excess dirt.
- Take a sharp knife or tiny saw to cut the root ball into sections. Depending on the size of your clump, you can probably get by with cutting the coneflower into only two or three parts.
- Plant one of your sections back into its hole, adding more dirt if needed. Choose another location for the remaining parts, or give them away to friends.
The BEST time to divide Purple Coneflower is in early spring or late fall!
Here’s a quick recap of the steps:
Deadheading and Cutting Back
Should you deadhead your Purple Coneflower? If you want a long blooming season, the answer is YES. The Purple Coneflower will often sprout new blossoms on its own. However, deadheading dramatically increases the odds of repeat blooms throughout the season.
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Deadhead flowers, like the one seen above, that are about to go to seed to encourage new blooms!
When deadheading Echinacea, choose plants whose petals are faded. Next, use a pair of garden shears to snip off the top of the plant just above the first set of leaves.
When you are deadheading your coneflower, try not to get too carried away. Remember to let a few plants go to seed so you can continue to attract finches and other birds in fall and winter.
Common Pests and Diseases That Affect Coneflower
Here are a few pests and diseases you should watch for!
Stem Rot from Overwatering
A common tendency people have is to overwater Purple Coneflower. But remember, these flowers are drought resistant, which means they do not need to be watered as much as you might think.
In fact, you may not need to water them at all if you receive adequate rainfall.
If your plants develop stem rot, you will notice rotting or fungus in the stems. A liquid copper or another fungicide could be needed to eliminate stem rot.
Powdery mildew is another disease caused by moisture and presents itself as a thin white powder on your plant’s leaves.
It’s caused by a fungus, which means you will need an anti-fungal treatment to get rid of powdery mildew. In addition to treating, you may also want to thin your flowers, which will improve airflow and keep your powdery mildew from spreading.
Once you are done thinning, don’t forget to disinfect your clippers!
Wipe them down with a solution of 70% isopropyl alcohol and then allow them to dry naturally.
Bacteria-like organisms known as phytoplasma may cause a viral-like disease called aster yellows. This disease can cause significant damage and is characterized by yellow leaves and flowers that wilt.
Aster yellows are spread by leafhoppers, which are small insects that hop from plant to plant. Once a leafhopper is infected, it carries that infected phytoplasma with it the rest of its life.
Certain insecticides containing acephate or disulfoton are very effective at controlling aster leafhoppers. However, to slow the spread, you may also wish to remove any infected plants from your garden.
This video will help you identify leafhoppers and their damage.
What other pests are concerning?
There are a few others, and one of the most common is the sweet potato whitefly. At around 1/25 inch long, this tiny yellowish-white insect can wreak havoc on your coneflower, resulting in a condition known as black sooty mold.
As the name implies, it involves a black, soot-like mold that develops on your plant’s leaves and stems. To eliminate it, you will also need to get rid of whiteflies by using an insecticide.
Horticulture oil or neem oil are excellent solutions because they are non-toxic and will not harm the birds, bees, and butterflies you are hoping to attract.
Aside from whiteflies and leafhoppers, you may notice a few other pests, such as aphids, eriophyid mites, and sunflower moths. These insects can be controlled with the same products used to get rid of sweet potato whiteflies or leafhoppers.
Where Can You Buy Coneflower?
Luckily, Purple Coneflower should be easy to find at a local garden center. Just call around to check availability in your area!
You can also purchase Purple Coneflower online. Many places offer full-size plants that can be shipped, but I have not tested any online garden centers that I can recommend. But for seeds, Amazon has a ton of options!
As mentioned, Purple Coneflower is only one type of coneflower, which has the scientific name, Echinacea purpura.
But there are more native coneflower species, along with DOZENS of others developed by horticulturists.
Coneflowers come in all sizes AND colors!
For variety, you may want to add a few other coneflower species to your garden. Here are just a few examples.
Daydream: With its golden yellow petals and large, reddish-brown disc, this variety will remind you of a miniature sunflower.
Tomato Soup: As you have probably already guessed, this variety has bright red petals.
Greenline: This variety is unique in that its cone, petals, stems, and leaves are all varying shades of green.
Milkshake: Featuring white or cream petals and a double cone, an echinacea milkshake flower provides extra seeds for even more birds.
PowWow White: I have this variety planted in my flower garden. It is a smaller coneflower, and only grows 20-24 inches tall, and features white blooms.
3 Fun Facts About Purple Coneflower
Fact #1: Echinacea has health benefits!
Have you heard of the herbal supplement called Echinacea? If not, look for it next time you are at the pharmacy or grocery store.
That supplement comes directly from the Purple Coneflower!
Echinacea is most famous for its ability to strengthen the immune system. Many people take it as preventative medicine to help ward off colds and flu.
The part of the plant that grows above ground is LOADED with immune stimulators. It also has lots of antibiotic properties and is often used to cure upper respiratory infections, urinary tract infections, open sores, and wounds.
The fact that Purple Coneflower can cure many ailments is impressive enough, but that’s not all it can do. Some herbalists believe it can also fight cancer, lower blood sugar, reduce blood pressure, and reduce inflammation.
And while the tops of the plants get most of the credit, the roots can be used as well. Some people dry the roots and cut them up to make tinctures or herbal tea.
Great Plains Indian tribes first recognized the medicinal properties of Echinacea more than 400 years ago. Until the mid-1900s, many physicians routinely prescribed it for cold and flu-like infections. This all changed when antibiotics became more common.
Today, many doctors are hesitant to recommend it because the FDA does not regulate herbal supplements. But that doesn’t make it any less beneficial, as the thousands of people who take Echinacea will attest.
Fact #2: Tennessee Purple Coneflower has been taken off of the Endangered and Threatened Plant List.
Tennessee Purple Coneflower (Echinacea tennesseensis) is nearly identical to Eastern Purple Coneflower. The only difference is that its petals always remain upright rather than drooping like Echinacea purpurea.
This variety spent more than 32 years on the Endangered Species List published by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. But thanks to conservation efforts, it was removed from the list on September 2, 2011.
Fact #3: In Florida, Echinacea Purpurea grows wild in only one county.
The Tennessee Purple Coneflower may have been taken off of the endangered list; however, the Eastern Purple Coneflower is considered an endangered Florida wildflower. Gadsden County is the only Florida county where Purple Coneflower is still found in the wild.
With its brilliant colors and long-lasting blooms, Purple Coneflower makes a stunning addition to any garden. This hardy flower requires minimal effort, yet it will attract a variety of wildlife. The fact that it comes back year after year is just icing on the cake.
If you are looking for an easy way to attract birds and butterflies, Echinacea purpurea is a great choice.
- RELATED: 22 PROVEN Flowers That Attract BEES!
Do you have Purple Coneflower growing in your garden?
Comment below and tell me more about your plants. Don’t forget to mention where you live.
Thank you for stopping by.