Growing Echinacea has gained popularity in gardening thanks to its striking beauty and easy-to-grow nature. Echinacea, commonly called coneflower, is an herbaceous perennial plant that thrives in USDA Zones 4-9. It’s a member of the Daisy family and is native to North America. Here, we’ll cover all the important aspects of growing Echinacea, including the most commonly asked questions.
Is Echinacea a Good Cut Flower?
Yes! As clumping plants, they offer a dense, upright floral display until the first frost and make dazzling bouquets with a vase life of at least a week. In the gardening world, Echinacea is known for its stunning, large flowers and long, sturdy stems that produce blooms in various forms…single, double, and triple!
What Colors are Coneflowers?
Their flower color may be hues of red, pink, purple, white, yellow, lime green, or orange, and some have bi-color petals. Some hybrid flower blooms are so bright they are practically fluorescent!
Are Coneflowers Fragrant?
Some coneflowers are fragrant. Their sweet scent may be light or intense, depending on the variety. Plant breeders love Fragrant Angel for its strong, sweet smell, and we’ve been enjoying this high performer since it came to market in garden centers in 2005.
Do Coneflowers Come Back Every Year?
Yes, traditionally, coneflowers (Echinacea spp.) are perennials, meaning they will return to your garden each year with colorful flowers. However, some of the newest hybrids can be treated as annuals as they have a very short life in comparison and only sometimes come back the next year or set seed.
Do Coneflowers Need Full Sun?
Coneflowers prefer 6-8 hours of sun in the morning as it is less bright than the full sun in the afternoon. However, too much sunlight during the afternoon heat can damage the foliage and fade pretty petals.
Will Coneflowers Grow in Partial Shade?
Yes, coneflowers can tolerate partial sun or partial shade. Coneflowers need at least 4 hours of sun.
Is Echinacea Drought Tolerant?
Yes. It is drought tolerant once established. It prefers average, well-draining soil. Take care to not grow Echinacea in areas where water tends to collect. Plants standing in water can lead to root rot.
How and When Do I Plant Coneflowers?
The best time to plant Echinacea flowers is between early spring and fall when the soil is warm. However, if planting in the spring, do so after the last frost.
If planting in the fall, it’s best to plant Echinacea six weeks before the first expected frost. This will give the plant enough time to establish its roots before winter.
- Start by preparing the soil coneflowers love. They grow in many soil types except wet soil. If you have poor soil or sandy soil, they will like it and be healthy plants!
- Next, dig a hole slightly larger than the plant’s root ball and place the plant in the hole, ensuring that the top of the root ball is level with the soil surface.
- Backfill the hole with soil and tamp it down gently to remove any air pockets. Then, water it and make sure the soil drains efficiently.
How Do I Care For Echinacea?
Echinacea is a low-maintenance plant that requires little care once established. Water the plant regularly during the first growing season to help it establish its roots. After that, the plant can tolerate drought conditions.
Fertilize the plant once in the spring with a balanced fertilizer. Then, deadhead the spent flowers to encourage more blooms throughout the growing season.
How Do You Winterize Coneflowers?
You’ve got options. In late fall, you can cut back the entire plant just above the ground and apply a layer of mulch if you have extreme winters. It will begin to grow from the base and produce leaves again the following growing season in early spring.
You can also leave it alone and let the birds eat the seed during winter, then cut back right before spring to tidy your garden and make room for its new growth.
How Do I Propagate Echinacea?
Echinacea can be propagated by division, basal cuttings, or by seed. Most plants have fibrous root systems, and others have tap roots. To divide a plant, dig up the clump and carefully separate the roots into smaller sections. Replant the smaller sections in a pot or garden bed right away.
If planting seeds, pull apart the seed heads collected from native spent flowers in the fall and sprinkle them on the ground. Press in. They will effortlessly winter sow.
Will Harvested Seeds Grow To Look Like the Parent Plant?
It’s best to divide or make basal cuttings to get the exact characteristics of the parent flower unless growing native seeds. Bolder, frilly varieties are likely hybrids. If you’re lucky enough to get viable seeds from your hybrids, they will not produce the same flower as the parent plant.
How Long Does It Take for Echinacea to Grow From Seed and Bloom?
Echinacea typically takes about 2 years to reach maturity, but it’s well worth the wait. Some varieties may flower in their first year. Once established, Echinacea bloom for about 4 years before needing replacement. Natives tend to live longer than hybrids.
You can count the Echinacea bloom time from late spring/early summer until fall’s first frost. Each bloom on living plants lasts 2-3 weeks offering captivating color and delicate fragrance. The vase life for the cut flower is about 1 week. If you have varieties with fiery-colored cones, they will look attractive in dried arrangements. Just remove the petals.
Is It Easy to Grow Echinacea From Seed?
Yes, Echinacea seeds readily germinate if they are native. Hybrids often produce sterile seeds. They all do better with about 8 weeks of cold stratification. It can be easier to grow basal stem cuttings or divide the root ball if you don’t have any luck. Or, buy seed packets from reputable growers.
Planting Coneflowers From Seeds
Whatever your preference, here’s how you winter sow, direct sow, or start their seeds indoors.
Winter sow Echinacea seed in Ziploc bags:
When I grow Echinacea from seed, I prefer to winter sow them in a gallon zip lock bag and let nature take its course. I always have success with this method:
- Put 5 cups of soil in a gallon zip bag.
- Moisten with water & sprinkle seeds on top. Press them in.
- Poke many holes in the bottom and sides of the bag for good drainage and the top for plenty of airflow.
- Zip up the top 3/4 of the way and sit the bag in a sunny spot. Put a clothespin on the open end to keep the top hole open. Don’t worry about snow or freezing temps. (If you have multiple bags, push long marshmallow roasting sticks or plant stakes into each top corner, fitting as many as possible. Then, prop the end of the sticks on cinder blocks to keep the bags upright all winter. Water if the soil dries out, which is unlikely if you have wet winters.
- When the danger of frost has passed, open the top completely to let every Echinacea seedling stretch in the breeze. Transplant them once the soil warms.
You can also winter sow using milk jugs; however, they don’t store as neatly as zip bags and require more work to prepare. YouTube has lots of tutorials.
Planting Echinacea by direct sowing or starting indoors:
- Prepare soil. Echinacea plants prefer well-drained soil. Add sand or gravel to improve drainage.
- Sow seeds. Echinacea seeds do best if cold-stratified for about 8 weeks. They can be sown directly in the ground, in pots, or indoors — soaking seeds is unnecessary.
- Water seeds. Bottom-water seed trays and pots to keep the soil moist but not wet.
- Germination. Echinacea seeds require light and should germinate in about 2-3 weeks. If sowing indoors, placing them on a heat mat (70°F) will dramatically reduce this time, but remove the heat mat and dome once you’ve achieved about a 75% germination rate. Provide good airflow after the Echinacea sprout.
- Thin seedlings. Don’t feed. Once the seedlings have germinated, thin them out to 18-24 inches apart. If sown indoors, harden them off slowly in partial shade before planting outside in your sunny garden beds.
- Care for the plants. Echinacea plants are relatively easy to care for since they are drought-tolerant plants. Once established, you might consider feeding them in the spring and fall, but no more than that, or they get droopy. Save yourself the work. Remove spent blooms for more flowers.
Why Should I Wait 2 Years to Harvest Coneflower Seeds?
It may be tempting to cut the first flowers you see and take them inside, but try not to disturb the plant during its first year of flowering. Delaying the harvest of Echinacea plants lets them focus on developing their root systems rather than producing flowers and seeds. This helps to ensure that the plants have more flowers in subsequent years.
Do Coneflowers Self Seed?
Yes, the self-seeding nature of coneflowers makes them a favorite of gardeners. However, you can deadhead the flowers regularly to prevent them from going to seed. On the other hand, the birds feed on the dead flowers in winter by feasting on their center cone, so it’s kind to leave the seed heads.
Can Echinacea Be Grown in Containers?
Yes, you can grow Echinacea in containers as long as the container is large enough to accommodate the plant’s root system. Use a well-draining potting mix and place the container in a sunny location.
Do Coneflowers Attract Pollinators?
Yes! Coneflowers are an excellent choice for pollinator gardens and ideal for attracting bees and butterflies.🐝They provide food and shelter for many beneficial insects. Coneflowers are a must-have if you want a busy, buzzing garden!
Do All Coneflowers Get Tall? What Is Their Max Height?
Coneflower height varies. These plants range from 1.5 to 3 feet tall with a width of 1 to 4 feet, depending on the root ball size and whether they are a compact or tall variety.
If you’d like flowers of different heights in your flower garden, cut some of the stems at half-height to delay blooming. This staggers them for interest.
Are There Any Pests or Diseases That Affect Echinacea?
Echinacea is generally a hardy plant that is not susceptible to pests or diseases. However, it can be affected by fungal diseases such as powdery mildew or aster yellows. Sap-sucking insects can also spread disease from one coneflower plant to another, but they are usually problem-free with healthy foliage. If the plant does become infected, remove the affected parts.
You may also notice evidence of common pests like leaf miners. You’ll want to watch for vine weevils that come out at night to snack or Japanese beetles that don’t care what time of day it is. You can buy traps for Japanese beetles online and at most garden centers. I highly recommend them since they are very effective.
Is Echinacea Purpurea (Purple Coneflower) Invasive or Aggressive?
No, E. purpurea does not have an invasive or aggressive root system. It is a native prairie plant and is not considered a noxious weed. If you want to grow a wildflower meadow, purple coneflowers will look beautiful and thrive naturally by self-seeding.
Benefits of Planting Echinacea
With so many colorful options, planting coneflowers is a great way to add beauty and pollinator habitat to your cutting garden. Plus, they supply lots of cut flowers to brighten your home. Being one of the easiest flowers to grow and practically maintenance-free, it’s perfect for beginner gardeners.