Purple Coneflower Plant Care

The purple coneflower plant (Echinacea purpurea) is one of the most popular plants in cultivation today. They are easy to grow and provide a good yield of flowers each season. The purple coneflowers have been used for centuries as ornamental plants and medicinal herbs. There are many different kinds of purple coneflowers.

Some of them are the common purple coneflowers, which include Echinacea purpurea and Echinacea perenne. Other purple coneflowers include the rarer species such as Sideritis rubra and Sideritis rufipennis.

There are several things you need to keep in mind when growing purple conefloors:

They require full sun or partial shade for best growth. They prefer moist soil with a pH between 6-8.5. They prefer soil that is loamy and rich in organic matter.

They do not require frequent watering unless the soil is very sandy; in that case you will need to water them more often. The plants can survive in a wide range of temperatures, but they grow best between 60-80 degrees F. Sow common purple coneflowers after all danger of frost has passed and when the soil temperature reaches at least 65 degrees F. Plant them in full sun to partial shade. If you are growing them in a container, the depth should be at least 10 inches.

Their average mature height is 4-5 feet and they have a spread of 2-3 feet. They tend to spread out more if grown in rich soil. It is better to prune plants back in early spring before new growth starts. Cut off any dead wood or weak stems.

This will encourage stronger growth and a bushier plant. Flowering stems will grow from the center of the plant outward and upward. The typical bloom season for purple coneflowers is summer.

The common purple coneflower is by far the most popular species in cultivation. It has tall, thick, spiky blooms that range in color from magenta to reddish purple. Plants produce a large amount of seed every year, which can be collected and stored before germination. These seeds can be planted the following season or they can also be planted right away.

Sow them after all danger of frost has passed and when the soil temperature reaches at least 65 degrees F. The seeds should be sown in full sun to partial shade; however, they will grow even if they receive only a few hours of sun each day. The seeds should be lightly covered with soil and watered regularly until they are well established.

Water them once or twice per week. Apply a layer of mulch around the plants after they are established to conserve water and keep the soil temperature down. Also avoid walking on or driving vehicles over the beds, as this can compact and damage the soil structure.

Bearded Purple Coneflower

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The Bearded Purple (Echinacea ‘Bravo Purple’) is a cross between the common coneflower and the prairie coneflower. The blooms have a dark brown central cone surrounded by a light brown ring and a corona.

These plants are very easy to grow, but they require full sun and well-drained soil. They will survive in dry conditions, but they will produce a much larger number of flowers if they receive adequate moisture.

They need to be fertilized every couple of weeks during the growing season. If planted in pots, they should be at least 10 inches in diameter to allow for root growth.

Deadhead coneflowers regularly to encourage the production of more flowers.

Plant Care

Coneflowers need full sun for best flowering. They will grow in areas with partial shade, but they tend to bloom less and the foliage tends to be weaker.

Apply a thick layer of mulch around the plants in gardens that have alkaline soil, as this can help to counteract the effects of the soil. Bearded purple thrives in nearly every type of soil, but to produce large numbers of blooms, it needs moist soil.

Coneflowers are shallow-rooted plants and do not require deep or intensive cultivation. Any type of fertilizer designed for flowering plants applied at the beginning of spring will encourage maximum blooming.

Prairie Coneflower

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The Prairie Coneflower (Echinacea Pallida) is a wildflower native to the United States. It grows in prairies and open woods from Minnesota south to Alabama and west to California. It is a perennial that blooms from late spring to early fall, and reaches heights of up to 5 feet. The flowers are deep pink with purple-veined petals surrounding a dark cone.

A unique feature of this flower is that it twists and turns as it matures.

This is a very easy plant to grow and will bloom the first year from seed. It thrives in full sun and well-drained soil. It requires little maintenance once established, though it should be planted in locations with room for the roots to grow, as they can grow quite large. It is very drought resistant and will do well even with infrequent watering.

Prairie Coneflower should not be confused with the Common Purple Coneflower (Echinacea Purpurea), which is a hybrid between the Prairie Coneflower and the Large Flowered White Coneflower (E. Macroclears). The differences among the three varieties are minute, though aficionados can tell them apart. All three are grown for their spectacular blooms and easy growth.

Echinacea is used as an ingredient in herbal medicine, most commonly to boost the immune system. It is also used to prevent and treat colds, upper respiratory infections, and illnesses similar to the common cold.

These plants can be used in dried flower arrangements, and the petals can be removed and used in candied recipes. The roots and flowers can be used to make tea.

Edible Uses

The roots of the plant are edible and were eaten by Native Americans after roasting. They can also be ground into a powder and used as a thickener or added to other dishes for flavor. The leaves and stems can also be eaten cooked or raw.

The flowers can be candied and eaten. They can also be dried, ground into a powder and then used to flavor cakes or cookies.

The seed of this plant can be made into a nutritious flour that can be used in place of other types of flour. It can also be sprouted and eaten as a vegetable.

General Upkeep and Considerations

Echinacea is very easy to grow and will thrive in full to partial sun. It will grow well in any type of soil and is drought tolerant once it is established. It is not a picky about the amount of watering and fertilizer it receives, though it will flower better if given adequate amounts.

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Plant Echinacea from containers or purchased seed. Plant the seed ¼ to ½ an inch deep and keep the soil lightly moist until the seeds sprout. Transplant the new seedlings into individual containers once they have at least two sets of true leaves.

Once the plants are a few inches high, transplant them into your garden. Space the plants about 2 feet apart. Echinacea grows very rapidly and will quickly take over a small patch of land.

Echinacea can grow up to 5 feet tall and just as wide, so make sure you give it plenty of space to grow. It should be planted in locations with full sun exposure to thrive. It can be planted under trees or at the edge of a woods.

If you want to harvest the roots, stems and leaves once the plant has matured, then you should space the plants further apart at least 5 feet to prevent the plants from shading each other.

Always make sure your Echinacea plants have well-drained soil to prevent them from rotting. If your plant starts to topple over you can prevent this by cutting the top off and mulching around the base of the plant.

Echinacea attracts a wide variety of pollinators including butterflies, bees and even hummingbirds. It also makes a fine border plant due to its attractive flowers.

The roots, stems and leaves of this plant contain chemicals that can be used as a mild sedative, similar to tea. Native Americans would sometimes use the roots as a substitute for hops in brewing beer. The roots were used to make medicine for treating issues with the liver, kidneys and bladder.

The root of the Echinacea can be candied and eaten like candy or used in baked goods.

Harvest the roots in the fall after the first frost. Clean and dry them and then store them in a cool, dark location until you are ready to use them.

The stems and petals can be dried and used for flower arrangements. You can also dry and powder the petals and use them as a substitute for food coloring sometime.

This plant is considered to be very attractive as well as useful. It can be planted in ornamental beds and borders or used to line driveway margins and pathways.

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Propagation

Echinacea can be propagated both sexually and a-sexual methods. It produces seeds that can be collected and planted, or you can divide the roots, stems, leaves or branches of an established plant and grow them into new plants.

More Echinacea Growing Tips

Also called the Purple Coneflower, this unique wildflower prefers well-drained, loamy soil and full sun. It is drought tolerant once it is established but grows fastest with regular watering. It can be grown in a container or in the ground.

Echinacea can be propagated by dividing the root clump every three years in the spring.

Sources & references used in this article:

First Report of Powdery Mildew, Caused by Erysiphe cichoracearum, on Coneflowers by PL Sholberg, JH Ginns, TSC Li – Plant disease, 1999 – Am Phytopath Society

Purple coneflower with reddening and phyllody: a new host of clover phyllody phytoplasma by J Fránová, J Přibylová, K Petrzik – European Journal of Plant Pathology, 2009 – Springer

First Report of Botrytis Blight, Caused by Botrytis cinerea, on Coneflowers by KF Chang, RJ Howard, SF Hwang – Plant disease, 1997 – Am Phytopath Society

Growth, nitrogen use efficiency, and leachate comparison of subirrigated and overhead irrigated pale purple coneflower seedlings by JR Pinto, RA Chandler, RK Dumroese – HortScience, 2008 – journals.ashs.org

Animal and plant originated immunostimulants used in aquaculture by MK Bairwa, JK Jakhar, Y Satyanarayana… – … Product and Plant …, 2012 – researchgate.net

Ethnobotany of purple coneflower (Echinacea angustifolia, Asteraceae) and OtherEchinacea Species by K Kindscher – Economic Botany, 1989 – Springer

First report of a 16SrIII-B subgroup phytoplasma associated with leaf reddening, virescence and phyllody of purple coneflower by J Fránová, J Špak, M Šimková – European journal of plant pathology, 2013 – Springer

Influence of fertilizer on eastern purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea (L.) Moench) productivity. by A Bertaccini, S Paltrinieri, N Contaldo, B Duduk… – Journal of Plant Pathology, 2009

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