Coneflowers Add Brilliant Colours to Your Garden

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Echinacea is an excellent flower to grow in a garden because its brilliant colours stand out against the green surroundings. They make an eye-catching colour display, especially when placed amid shorter perennials, where the spectacular purple, pink, and white blooms shine out above the leaves. It is also one of the perennial border’s longest-blooming plants. Long-blooming flower for massing in the border, meadow, native plant garden, naturalised area, wildflower garden, or woodland garden part shadow area. In nature, they grow in moist to dry prairies and open wooded areas.

Coneflowers, also known as Echinacea, are tough little native flowers that draw butterflies, bees, and birds to the garden! Trouble-free, coneflowers are drought-tolerant, once established. They can take the heat!

They have become one of the most common and highly valued medicinal plants on the Canadian Prairies. Several laboratory and animal studies suggest that echinacea contains active substances that boost immune function, relieve pain, reduce inflammation, and have hormonal, antiviral, and antioxidant effects.

Types fo Echinacea

Upright Types

The SUPREME™ Series are stars both in the garden and as a cut flower. SUPREME™ ‘Cantaloupe’ is a rare color in Echinacea – a pure, ripe melon color – unmistakable! Growing near 30” tall the SUPREME™ are aptly named and make great garden plants with their high
crown count and supreme colors. Other upright favorites include ‘Aloha’, ‘Big Kahuna’, ’Maui Sunshine’, ‘Firebird’, ’Mamma Mia’, ‘Hot Lava’ and ‘Flame Thrower’. We also must mention two of our long term most popular plants; ‘Tomato Soup’ and ‘Tiki Torch’.

Doubly Wonderful Wonder Types

The gene for doubleness was an elusive one originally but TERRA NOVA® captured it in it breeding work and brought it to a new level. The CARA MIA™ Series launched to great fanfare, and CARA MIA™ Yellow captured the hearts of growers from west to east coasts. Quotes of “Fabulous” and “The best double yellow on the market” we echoed over and over again. CARA MIA™ Rose is the mirror match for our brilliant yellow CARA MIA™; both cultivars possessing full, mounding habits excellent quality foliage and unbelievable holding ability.

Medium Mounding Types

Among the most favorite series at TERRA NOVA® is the DREAM™ Series. Full, upright mounds explode with color in the summer, every year. ‘Tangerine Dream’ is a robust orange color with fabulous color retention. ‘Glowing Dream’ is an electric watermelon red color – nothing else is like this one! ‘Amazing Dream’ is just that, Amazing, A warm lavender-magenta that color shifts as the flower ages, this plant has the most numerous flowers of the three DREAM™ varieties.

Caring for Echinacea

This is an easy care, heat and drought resistant plant. Its long tap root tolerates dry conditions and may only require an inch of regular weekly watering. Deadheading below the bloom will encourage continuous flowering. Applying a light layer of compost in the spring is all that is needed as overfeeding will give you an abundance of foliage and few flowers. Cutting back in the fall is optional. Remaining seed heads provide a food source for birds and also encourage new plants if you want to expand your planting.

Caring for Coneflowers in Containers

Coneflowers are big plants that need big containers of at least 3 gallons to accommodate its tap root. The plant will become cramped after a few years so dividing will be required. Containers typically dry out faster than gardens and in spite of this perennial’s love of dry conditions, too dry is as bad as too soggy. Water deeply at soil level when the first inch of topsoil is dry.  A weak water soluble 10-10-10 fertilizer can be added twice a month. Wet leaves can lead to fungal disease and overwatering can cause pests. Treat the plant with insecticide soap if this occurs. 

To overwinter, prune the plant to soil level. It will be hardy to Zone 5 if protected by burying the container and mulching around the ground and the pot. Check moisture levels and when a depth of 3” of topsoil is dry water lightly.

Propagating Echinacea

The optimum periods to divide and transplant Echinacea are mid-March to April and mid-September to October. If the soil is heavy or does not drain properly, add a lot of well-rotted compost to the area and dig it in well.

To propagate from seed, start seeds indoors in late winter and set out seedlings, or start with purchased plants. Echinacea often does not bloom reliably until its second year in the garden.

Echinacea is a hardy perennial that survives very cold winters. Plants become dormant in winter and re-emerge in spring.

Pruning Echinacea

Deadhead coneflowers throughout the summer and early fall when the flowers wither or dry up. Cut them off from about 1/4 inch above the closest flower buds with pruning shears.

Companion Plants

Companion plant suggestions include Consider Achillea, Black Eyed Susans, Monarda, and catmint. In a garden, it would make a nice complement to grey headed coneflower. Also with herbs and vegetables, including eggplant, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, chillies, peppers, and tomatoes.

Pet Safety

Fortunately, this beautiful, medicinal plant is safe and non-toxic to cats and dogs. However, it can cause mild stomach upset should your pet happen to eat a large amount. On occasion, older pets or those with compromised health conditions, such as liver, kidney or stomach ailments, may experience toxicity that is more severe than a younger, healthier pet. 

Medicinal

Prairie First Nations used coneflower for many different medicinal purposes, including the treatment of headaches, toothaches, and swollen glands, as well as for insect bites and stings. Settlers adopted the plant as a remedy for a wide range of ills, both for themselves and for their livestock.

Other

One problem worth noting is “aster yellows,” which is a virus-like disease caused by a phytoplasma. It causes deformed flowers and yellow leaves with green veins. The organism is spread leafhoppers and can also be spread on pruners during deadheading. There’s no cure, so if you notice a plant is infected, throw it away immediately. Other problems to watch out for are leaf miners, powdery mildew, bacterial spots, gray mold, vine weevils, and Japanese beetles.

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