Evolution of an American Native

Purple coneflower

Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) is one of our most dependable native, flowering perennials. Its tall, long stemmed, purple flowers with arching petal-like rays and domed, yellow to orange centers, are a mainstay in summer flower gardens across the country. The popularity of the purple coneflower has led to exciting new hybrids (many crossed with other species of native coneflowers) and selections that offer an array of colors and flowers that are great choices for your summer flower garden.

Coneflowers come in every shade of pinkish-purple and reddish-purple and the rays can be broad, fine textured, arching or daisy-like. White flowering varieties include ‘White Swan,’  ‘Prairie Pillars Fragrant Angel’ and ‘PowWow White’. ‘Butterfly Golden Skipper’ and ‘Prairie Pillars Leilani’ are bright yellow coneflowers and ‘Prairie Pillars Flame Thrower’ has narrow, orange red rays. ‘Salsa Red’ is a beautiful bright red. The flowers can have interesting shapes with tufted cones like those of  ‘Secret Passion’ and ‘Secret Affair’ and long rays like ‘Big Sky Solar Flare’ and ‘Hot Papaya’. ‘Magnus’ has rosy purple blooms up to seven inches across.

Coneflowers bloom from early summer into fall and grow best in full sun. They are easily grown from seed or transplants and make great cut flowers. Varieties are generally 2-1/2 to 4 feet tall but there are also dwarf forms like ‘Kim’s Knee High’ that barely get over a foot high. Coneflowers are tough and can take some drought, but grow best with regular water.

Deadhead to keep blooms coming. Butterflies love the flowers; birds love the seed heads.