Growing Echinacea

Learn how to coax the most from hardy coneflowers, including tips on extending the flowering season.

Echinacea purpurea ~White Swan~ (01) Bloomleaf

Echinacea purpurea ~White Swan~ (01) Bloomleaf

Echinacea purpurea ~White Swan~ (01)

Fill your yard with the carefree blooms of coneflower (Echinacea). Growing Echinacea isn’t difficult. The toughest part is choosing which type of coneflower to grow. Echinacea is a North American native wildflower, so it readily adapts to most home garden settings. Learn more about how to grow Echinacea, including a few tips on growing Echinacea from seed.

When it comes to growing Echinacea, consider the conditions where this native flower naturally occurs. On the whole, this perennial withstands—and even thrives on—high heat, humidity and full sun. Coneflowers also boast a sturdy constitution when it comes to cold weather, with the majority of coneflowers available for sale offering winter hardiness from Zones 3 to 8. That wide adaptability means that gardeners in any state can tackle growing Echinacea.

In the wild, coneflowers frequently grow in areas with tough soils, such as rocky, clay, sandy or low in nutrients. In the home garden, you’ll get the best results by tucking these perennials into a blend of local soil and compost. Coneflowers grow best in well-drained soils. Many gardeners experience winter-kill with the newer hybrids, but that’s usually due to poor drainage.

Areas with low rainfall and mandated watering restrictions frequently recommend growing Echinacea, because it’s drought-tolerant. Young plants and new additions to the landscape, however, do need regular water until plants are established. Irrigate new plantings during their first growing year, providing 1 to 2 inches of water per week when plants are actively growing. Even established coneflowers stage a more stunning performance when they receive regular irrigation.

Coneflowers tend to be low-maintenance plants. They don’t usually need staking, and if you have a small garden, you can find smaller hybrids that don’t demand a lot of garden space. Removing spent blooms (deadheading) keeps plants looking neat and encourages more flowers. Some gardeners extend the flower show for weeks by cutting some of their coneflower clumps back by half in early summer. This delays flowering, so that as unpruned clumps finish blooming, the pruned ones kick into gear. Using this technique can prolong the flower display by a few weeks.

Many coneflowers self-seed—sometimes to the point of being invasive. Removing seed heads after frost reduces self-sowing. But if you leave seed heads in place, birds such as goldfinches, quail and native sparrows will come to feast at the seedy smorgasbord. Round, spiky seedheads also add winter interest to the garden in snowy climates.

Growing coneflowers from seed isn’t difficult. The easiest way to do so is to let plants self-sow in the garden and transplant seedlings in spring. Keep in mind that hybrids don’t come true from seed. Most coneflowers grown from seed won’t flower until their second growing season.

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