7 Reasons Why You Should Grow Echinacea (Purple Coneflowers)

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Everyone should grow echinacea or purple coneflowers in their flower beds or herb gardens. Here are 7 reasons why.

1. It's a native plant

The most important reason Echinacea belongs in every garden is that it is a native plant. Native plants are critical to the health and wellbeing of wildlife which depend on native plants for food and shelter. The foreign, or exotic, plants that we have introduced into our yards are not suited to our wildlife. Insects and birds will desert a yard filled with beautiful exotics because there is nowhere for them to shelter and nothing to eat. Foreign plants often have no “enemies” here and nothing to stop them from spreading and crowding out our native plants. Think kudzu in the South and purple loosestrife here in the Northeast.

2. It's drought tolerant

Echinacea is drought-tolerant. There are two species, Echinacea augustifolia with narrow petals which is native to our dry prairies and Echinacea purpurea the familiar purple flower which has a wide growing area from the Midwest to Florida. Both kinds have either a long taproot which can reach water far underground or rhizomes with roots that spread out looking for moisture. Neither kind likes “wet feet” so plant them in well-drained soil or a raised bed and don’t water them unless they get very dry.

3. It has a long blooming season

Unlike most perennials which only bloom for about two weeks each year, Echinacea has a long blooming season, stretching from early summer (June here in NJ) to late summer (August here in NJ). To get color for that long with other plants, you either have to have annuals which you must buy each year or a mix of perennials that bloom during different times of the summer. Annuals have to be deadheaded to keep them blooming all summer, a tedious chore. A mixed perennial border will only have a few plants in bloom at any one time.

4. It can grow in partial shade

Got shade? No problem. Echinacea can grow in sun or part shade. They prefer sun and grow best in sun, but if you have a shady yard like I do, you can still grow them. Just make sure that your Echinacea gets at least three to six hours of sun each day, preferably in the morning and early afternoon.

5. It's attracts butterflies

If you have a butterfly garden, Echinacea is a must have. It is a nectar plant for butterflies. In fact, it is one of the best nectar plants attracting swallowtails, black swallowtails, clouded sulphurs, banded hairstreaks, great spangled fritillaries, red spotted admirals, painted ladies, American ladies, West indigo duskywings, Horace’s duskywings, sachems, and little glasswings.

6. It's easy to grow from seed

Echinacea is easy to grow from seed. For many years, I was one of those gardeners who conscientiously weeded and deadheaded each day and then did a thorough cleanup in the fall. I always wondered why everyone else seemed to have clumps and clumps of Echinacea and I only had one plant that was given to me by a friend. Then one fall, I was too busy to keep up with my gardens and left the dead flower heads on my plant. The following spring, I found tiny seedlings. Lesson learned! Messy gardens mean more plants.

7. It attracts goldfinches

Do you know who else likes Echinacea seeds? Goldfinches. Once I started leaving the dead cones on my Echinacea plants, goldfinches appeared like magic. They are startlingly yellow, have the prettiest songs and adore Echinacea seeds. They perch, seemingly precariously, on the dead flowerheads and patiently pick out the seeds from the cones. In fact, if you want to save seed for yourself, make sure you get to the cones before the goldfinches do!

It will be fall soon and the perfect time to plant perennials. Consider adding Echinacea to your garden or if you already have it in your garden, try some different varieties. Next summer, you’ll be enjoying months of flowers and lots of garden visitors.

Check out The Dirt Farmer’s hub on growing Echinacea. It’s one of the best how-to’s I’ve seen.

© 2012 Caren White

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Comments 12 comments

mvillecat profile image

mvillecat 4 years ago from Milledgeville, Georgia

Purple coneflowers are one of my favorite flowers to grow. I voted up.


OldRoses profile image

OldRoses 4 years ago from Franklin Park, NJ Author

Thanks! They are one of my favorites also.


Mama Kim 8 profile image

Mama Kim 8 4 years ago

They're so pretty, I'd grow them for that reason alone! Although is says they grow from mid west- east. I'm West coast and in a wetland area... I'm not sure they'd grow as well here. Maybe in pots? voted up and useful!


OldRoses profile image

OldRoses 4 years ago from Franklin Park, NJ Author

You're right. They will not grow in a wetland. They like to be dry so a continer or raised bed would be best.


Olde Cashmere profile image

Olde Cashmere 4 years ago from Michigan, United States

Beautiful flowers and this was a great article OldRoses. Voting up and rating useful and awesome :)


OldRoses profile image

OldRoses 4 years ago from Franklin Park, NJ Author

Thanks for the great review and rating.


The Dirt Farmer profile image

The Dirt Farmer 4 years ago from Maryland

Your "messy garden lesson" made me laugh. And I'm looking forward to seeing the goldfinches too, those seed snatchers! Next to the cardinals and bluebirds we get around here, they are the prettiest, brightest little creatures. Enjoyed it! (And thanks for the plug!) --Jill


OldRoses profile image

OldRoses 4 years ago from Franklin Park, NJ Author

You're welcome, Jill!

--Caren


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 4 years ago from Southern Tier New York State

I totally and heartily agree that native plants are absolutely necessary to any garden. I love my echinacea, and always collect a few seeds to scatter into other areas of the yard. I now have many coneflowers that are always covered with bees, butterflies and hummers.

My native 'weeds' are just another part of the garden that attracts so many beneficial insects, lots of chickadees, titmice and finches, etc. In fact, just yesterday I spotted a ruby throat working at the native white asters that are in flower right now.

I like all your ideas about gardening. Very well done! Voted Up across the board and shared.


OldRoses profile image

OldRoses 4 years ago from Franklin Park, NJ Author

I adore "weeds". So many of them have pretty flowers so I let them grow in my gardens. When people ask me why I have weeds in my garden, I remind them that all of the flowers we enjoy in our gardens were originally weeds. I envy you having a hummer. I've never had any luck attracting them to my yard.


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 4 years ago from Southern Tier New York State

I am surprised that a lucky hummer hasn't found your gardens yet! You certainly have the right flowers. I have found that my red weigela bushes and the orange butterfly weed are visited many times daily when they are in bloom. Also, I have lots of wild jewelweeds that bloom toward the end of July right up through the frost. They are absolute hummer magnets!


OldRoses profile image

OldRoses 4 years ago from Franklin Park, NJ Author

I'm thinking maybe it was my location. I've moved to a new home in a new town and will try my luck again next year.

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