Purple coneflower is a pretty perennial for sunny beds and an insect magnet at the same time. This is how you plant and care for the perennial properly.
Profile of purple coneflower:
Scientific name: Echinacea purpurea
Plant family: daisy family (Asteraceae)
Other names: eastern purple coneflower, hedgehog coneflower
Sowing time: spring
Planting time: April to May
Flowering period: July to September
Location: sunny to partially shady
Soil quality: gravelly to loamy, lime-tolerant, nutrient rich, humus rich
These information are for temperate climate!
Use in: flower beds, flower bouquets, single position, group planting, planters, borders, apothecary garden, cottage garden, flower garden, prairie garden, potted garden
Winter hardiness: hardy, USDA Plant Hardiness Zones: 4 (-32 °C / -25 °F)
Bee and insect friendly: Yes
Plant characteristics and classification of purple coneflower
Plant order, origin and occurrence of purple coneflower
The purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), also known as eastern purple coneflower or hedgehog coneflower, is a very popular garden perennial from the daisy family (Asteraceae), which originally comes from the prairies of North America. Already with the American Natives, the wild herb was considered an antiseptic medicinal plant and is used today in many cold remedies.
In 1696 the perennial was described for the first time in England by the botanist Leonard Plukenet (1642-1706) as “Chrysanthenum americanum”, because he discovered similarities with the garden chrysanthemum. Carl von Linné gave the species the name Rudbeckia purpurea in 1753, with which it was assigned to the genus Rudbeckia. Only in 1794 the genus received its until today valid name Echinacea by Conrad Moench (1744-1805). Meanwhile, Rudbeckia and Echinacea are assigned to two different botanical genera. With the yellow flowering coneflower (Rudbeckia) the purple coneflowesr are – since some years – officially no longer closely related, although the plants resemble each other very much at first sight. However, the degree of relationship between the two perennials is still hotly debated among botanists. If one compares the two perennials more closely, however, clear differences can be found.
The perennial owes its name to the shape of the flower base, which resembles a pointed hat. The name “hedgehog coneflower” refers to the spiny texture of the flower heads. The botanical name Echinacea is derived from the Greek word “echinos”, which also means “hedgehog”. Meanwhile there are numerous colorful cultivars of Echinacea purpurea.
Characteristics of purple coneflower
The purple coneflower forms upright clumps. From a powerful taproot with numerous vertically growing secondary roots, upright and bristle-hairy stems sprout. The perennial grows between 80 and 100 centimeters (32 and 40 in) high. In winter the above-ground parts of the plant freeze to death, but in spring Echinacea purpurea reliably sprouts again.
The basal leaves are ovate, toothed, rough-hairy, dark green and up to 15 centimeters (6 in) long. The stem leaves are somewhat smaller.
From July to September, up to 12 centimeters wide, marguerite-like flower heads with purple-pink florets and a highly arched, brown-red center, the so-called basket, appear. In the meantime, there are also varieties with white, yellow and orange-red flowers. The flowers magically attract butterflies and bees.
Purple coneflower forms gray-white, up to 5 mm (0.2 in) long schizocarp fruits, so-called achenes.
Purple coneflower – cultivation and care
The splendid perennial needs a sunny place as a location. Partially shady places are also possible, but the purple coneflower does not flower as much in these places.
The purple coneflower thrives best in nutrient-rich, permeable and not too heavy soils.
Planting purple coneflower
Echinacea purpurea is preferably planted in a sunny outdoor location from April to May.
Purple coneflower is very undemanding and does not require much care. If the plant is planted near water, it does not necessarily need watering. However, if the weather seems too dry, you should add some water to the plant. Be careful not to keep the soil too moist.
Adding compost in spring and occasional amounts of liquid nettle swill will also help the plant to thrive.
Once the perennial has established oneself, it is relatively easy to care for. Wilted flowers should be removed regularly. Cutting the coneflower directly after flowering prolongs its life.
Over the years, Echinacea purpurea’s flowering pleasure diminishes and it no longer sprouts as vigorously. Then a rejuvenation cure by dividing will help: Dig out the rootstock, divide it and replant the parts. This should be done every four to five years, preferably in spring.
In principle, the species can be sown by seed. The varieties of Echinacea purpurea are best propagated by division in spring.
Diseases and pests
Basically Echinacea purpurea is robust against diseases and pests.
The purple coneflower is hardy down to -32 °C / -25 °F.
Use in the garden
Purple coneflower looks very beautiful in sunny borders, for example in combination with asters, goldenrod, ornamental grasses or coneflowers. The nectar-rich perennial plant, which attracts numerous butterflies and bees, is also very effective in open spaces that are close to nature. The long flower stems are impressive cut flowers.
The purple coneflower, which classically blooms in carmine red, should be given a new name by now, because it no longer lives up to its old name: It has been available in white for quite some time, and the new varieties from the USA even have sulfur yellow to bright red flowers.
Among garden friends in America, however, new crosses of Echinacea paradoxa and Echinacea purpurea with sonorous names such as ‘Sunrise’, ‘Sunset’ or ‘Harvest Moon’ are now very popular. They are hardy, blooming and show sensational new colors from bright yellow to bright red.
The variety ‘Sunset‘, for example, has bright salmon-orange petals around a copper-colored center. In this variety, not all petals unroll. This gives the flower a star-shaped appearance.
The pompon-like filled Echinacea ‘Hot Papaya‘ also shines in orange-red. The flowers appear already in June and even exude a light fragrance. The variety ‘Tiki Torch‘ shines with its large flowers like a torch in pure orange. The variety ‘Tomato Soup‘ presents itself bright tomato red and was awarded two out of three stars in the perennial selection.
An unusual sight among the purple coneflower is ‘Green Envy‘. The white-green petals change their color from the center to the tips via pink to a delicate red. Due to this color gradient and its stable stem it is especially suitable as a cut flower. The variety ‘Sunrise‘ shows flowers up to 12 centimeters (5 in) in size in a delicate light yellow with a green dome. It also has a fragrance. ‘Green Jewel’ defoliates its calyx-shaped light green petals around a dark green center. Unfortunately, these beauties are not cheap, because the cultivators have protected all novelties in their assortment. The nurseries therefore have to pay quite high royalties for the propagation, which they pass on to the customers.