Looking for an outstanding perennial that can withstand heat, drought and still be beautiful Summer through Fall? Coneflowers (Echinacea) are a long time favorite for as long as I can remember. When I first started planted Echinacea in my garden purple was the only color to be found and now the array of colors are almost endless. Yellows, oranges, purples, pinks, magenta, green, whites…Some are even fragrant. WOW! The flowers are long lasting as well.
Coneflowers grow in zones 3-8. Deer don’t seem to bother coneflowers, but rabbits can be pesky. Self seeding is common with the common purple coneflower, while the hybrid varieties spread better by roots. Give your coneflowers plenty of sun or they can become spindly and produce small flowers. Plant in a well-drained spot. If you soil has a tendency to become waterlogged, plant your coneflowers high, giving them a better chance to drain. Coneflowers don’t like their roots wet for extended periods of time. Wet roots equals root rot with echinacea. Here’s a bit of good news! Coneflowers don’t need rich soil to do well. In fact a very small amount of fertilizer in early summer just before they set out blossoms is all they need for the season. Echinacea makes a great statement when planted in groups of five or seven (always odd numbers) or in drifts. Deadhead spent flower to keep new ones forming. Late fall I usually leave the last of the flowers/seed-heads for the birds to feast off of during sparse winter months. They are great for wildlife gardens due to the seed heads they produce. Cut back the dead foliage (from frost) after birds have harvested all the seeds to one inch above the ground. Echinacea can be drought tolerant once the roots get established. This usually take a couple of years, so don’t forget to care for you investment until then! While they are low maintenance…this do not mean not maintenance!
Some of my favorite coneflowers are; Flame Thrower. It has a bright, big beautiful flower that really makes a statement. Hot Papaya for its unusual fluffy center and brilliant pink color. Cheyenne Spirit for its fabulous array of colors that can form on one plant. Yellow, deep orange, bright orange and other autumn shades.
Great companion plants for echinacea are grasses, bee balms, anise hyssop or rudbeckias. These all look great together and have the same water and fertilizer needs making your job easier!