Plant profile: Echinacea, a cornicopia of coneflowers

I’d call this a jubilation of purple (and not-so-purple) purple coneflowers (Echinacea), wouldn’t you?

From mid-July into September, purple coneflowers (Echinacea) are among the bright stars of the garden. Long-lasting and fairly easy to grow, on well-drained soil in full sun or light to part shade, they are a great flower for beginning gardeners. What’s more, bees and butterflies love them.

Many species of Echinacea are native to different areas of North America. However, most of those you’ll find in garden centres are nativars, or selected cultivars derived from the native parents.

[Ed: Argh, now that I’ve shared the URL everywhere, I see my typo: Should be cornucopia!]

The cones of the ordinary Echinacea purpurea look lit from within when catching the sunlight
Echinacea ‘Meringue’ is one of the growing number of double forms in almost every colour but true blue
Possibly E. ‘Tomato Soup’, this glowing red coneflower one of many hot-colour choices now available
Some purple coneflowers droop, others fan out to the side. This might be E. ‘Magnus’, the first to be a stand-up guy
Other Echinacea petals even reach up. This one could be E. ‘White Swan’ or perhaps more likely E. ‘Jade’
And some Echinaceas seem to mimic other flowers. This dahlia or mum lookalike is possibly E. ‘Pink Poodle’
Purple coneflowers play nice with other late-summer flowers such as phlox, black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia) and, off to the left in the background, culver’s root (Veronicastrum). You can add just a few.
Or, you can have a field day with them. In a whole field.
The droopy, narrow petals of Ontario’s native pale purple coneflowers (E. pallida) remind me of old-fashioned ballet skirts.

Yvonne Cunnington’s meadow (above) was planted with help from Wildflower Farm, from whom you can purchase seeds for a number of species, including our pale purple coneflower (E. pallida).

Although easy to grow, Echinacea can fall prey to diseases, and among the most disfiguring is aster yellows caused by a bacterium-like organism called phytoplasma spread by leafhoppers. Read more on this and other problems here from the Alberta ministry of agriculture. If you see it on your plants, dig them up and destroy them, don’t compost.

But don’t let the possibility of disease prevent you from giving these lovelies a try.

This distorted flower head might be the result of Echinacea rosette mite (Eriophyidae)


  1. Fantastic post, Helen. I am not sure that is 'Tomato Soup' above, the petals don't look right, but of course there are getting to be so darn many of them, it's hard to keep up. I believe the whitish one with the green cone IS 'Jade', which has strongly green central cones. I never met one I didn't love, once I learned to nurture them properly. Good winter drainage is crucial. They are doing very well for me now that I'm in Wolfville. 🙂

    1. Thanks, Jodi. The only IDs I'm sure of, the first because it was labelled and the second because I was told, are 'Meringue' and E. pallida — happy to defer to anyone with more accurate knowledge.

  2. I finally got a good display from my plant this year, I couldn't believe the scent off them as well as the super long flowering 🙂

  3. Dilute one tablespoon of vinegar in one gallon of water and use to treat fungal infection on any type of plant. It can also help treat black spot on aspen trees and on roses.

    1. I know this works well for powdery mildew. Unsure it would be as effective for some of the heftier fungi. However, it's an inexpensive experiment to try.

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