Echinacea means medicine for colds for most people but for gardeners Echinacea (Coneflowers) bring to mind beautiful tall, daisy-like flowers that persist throughout our hot summers to fill vases and feed butterflies.
Traditional coneflowers, Echinacea purpurea, have deep pink petals and a gold-rust center. Only Mother Nature could come up with that color combination and make it work. Even when the flowers fade to soft pink from the sun’s hot summer rays, they attract butterflies and bees as well as garden walkers’ eyes.
Coneflowers are perennials so rather than having to re-plant every year, they multiply a bit every year, enlarging the size of the clump and bringing more beauty to full sun and part-shade flower beds.
You can purchase plants but the seeds are easy to propagate. From seed to flower takes about 90 days and they need a bit of chill to emerge so plant the seeds 1/2 inch deep in prepared soil in late winter while there is still a chance of frost.
If you prefer to plant them indoors, start them in mid-February. Press the seeds into damp, well-drained, seed starting mix. Keep them at 70 degrees and they will emerge in 10-25 days. If you have a place in the garage, put them outside (40-degrees) for a few weeks chill before bringing them to a warmer location. Check for moisture every week.
There are many colors to consider.
Cheyenne Spirit produces a combination of flower colors including gold, scarlet, red-orange, cream, purple, yellow and rose red.
Purpurea Baby White is 12 inches tall with big white flowers. For tall white coneflowers look for White Swan or Pow Wow White. Plant seeds in January for June flowers.
For a conversation piece, try Green Twister. The flowers are lemon green with carmine centers. Cherry Fluff has a lime green center with pink petals.
Whatever your garden palette, there is a coneflower that will increase its beauty.