Echinacea - Beautiful and Powerful

Echinacea, commonly referred to as coneflowers, is a genus of herbaceous flowering plants in the daisy family.  They grow in moist to dry prairies and open wooded areas in eastern and central North America.  These popular perennials make excellent additions to gardens due to their showy flowers, the longevity for which they bloom (the entire summer!), and their appeal to butterflies, bees and birds.  

These drought tolerant bright plants can reach heights of up to 4 feet (140cm).  The echinacea purpurea has been used as an herbal medicine for centuries to treat common colds, coughs, and other infections, based on the notion that it stimulates the immune system.  Please consult your physician before taking echinacea to ensure it doesn’t interfere with any current medications you are taking and to consider any possible side effects.  

These lovelies stand tall and erect from stems that have hairy, rough textured leaves arranged alternately.  Depending on the species, the leaves vary in shape from elliptic to ovate decreasing in size as they progress up the stems.  They grow quickly, profusely self-sowing their seed.  Their raised cone-like centers have earned them the moniker:  coneflowers.  Butterflies find these centers irresistible.  Songbirds are attracted to the seed heads after blooming.

Coneflowers flourish in well-drained soil and full sun and should be planted in spring or early summer.  Plant them 1 to 3 feet apart and put a thin layer of compost around them, followed by a 2” layer of mulch.  This will keep them happy, healthy, moist and weed-free.  If you wish to encourage delayed blooming for enjoyment in the fall, you can do so by cutting the plants back by 1 foot when they come into bloom.  After the flowers have gone to seed in late winter you can cut the plants to the ground.  

Check your echinacea frequently for garden pests such as Japanese beetles, aphids and leaf hoppers.  Keeping your garden free of weeds and other garden debris will help keep these pests at bay.  If you do notice an issue you can treat it with neem oil spray.  To further reduce the risk of diseases such as anthracnose, powdery mildew and aster yellows, water your plants using soaker hoses or drip irrigation and steer clear of overhead watering.  Utilize proper spacing when planting your echinacea to ensure good air circulation among your plants.   Following these simple steps will keep these beautiful, sturdy plants blooming for many seasons to come.

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