Over the past ten years, no other perennial flower has gone through such a popular transformation as this Midwestern native wildflower. What first began as a beautiful perennial only found in wildflower mixes has now become a widely popular standard in many perennial gardens. Its popularity in the perennial flower world was heightened when it became widely used as a medical remedy as well. Now many millions of people take Echinacea extracts for colds and the flu.
The purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) is the most common species of Echinacea available. However, there are many other species that feature other flower colors such as white or yellow. Recently breeders have begun creating Echinacea hybrids that feature more vivid colors than the original species (such as red, pink, green, and orange), different flower forms, and fragrant flowers as well. Coneflowers actually get their name from the spiny “cone” in the center of the flower. Now you can purchase varieties with double flowers and even flowers stacked on top of each other.
Despite all these external variations, deep down, Echinacea is still a tough perennial flower that is widely adapted to growing in many regions of the country. It’s hardy in USDA zones 3 to 9. Most varieties grow three to four feet tall and flower from midsummer until fall. They are relatively pest free and the flowers are great for cutting. Although widely adapted to growing in a variety of soil types, they perform best in well-drained sandy-loam soil. Echinacea flower best in full sun, but can take some afternoon shade and still be prolific. The 2- to 4-inch wide flowers come in a range of colors mentioned. They can flower for up to three months, especially if deadheaded. Even after the flower petals have dropped, the cone is an attractive addition to the garden and a favorite of birds. Small birds, such as finches, will eat the tiny seeds in the cone as it matures in fall.
The plants have deep tap roots so are drought tolerant. It’s the taproot that is often used in making cold tinctures. However, they don’t transplant easily, so be sure you like where you plant them since they will be hard to move later.
The most popular species are the common coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), yellow coneflower (Echinacea paradoxa), pale purple coneflower (Echinacea pallida) and the narrow leaf coneflower (Echinacea angustifolia). I’ll be focusing mostly in the hybrids of the purple coneflower in this article.
Best of the Best:
Many of these new hybrid Echinaceas are the result of crosses between species. In general, a cross is not as vigorous, and sometimes not as hardy as the original species. However, the new characteristics are highly desirable. I think you’ll like these.
Find the best echinacea flowers to create a beautiful garden to look at and harvest. The best purple flowers, these coneflower recommendations include a myriad of styles that you'll love to plant.