Echinaceas have long been a favorite of many gardeners. Years ago, the cheerful daisy-like pink or white blooms would appear in mid to late summer. The seedheads, if left up over the winter, would provide food for the birds in our chilliest months. Perhaps the reason some people like them so much is how low maintenance they are. Echinacea purpurea is one of the original native purple coneflowers, which grew in prairies, meaning it doesn’t need a lot of deadheading, and is drought tolerant even in full sun. The newer hybrids are often derived from this plant, and they inherit the drought tolerance and low maintenance qualities that make the native a favorite for gardeners.
Due to some innovations the last few years, coneflowers aren’t just pink or white. You can come to the garden center and have your pick of dwarf, double flowers, orange, yellow, bright pink and even green. A very popular variety the last two seasons is ‘Hot Papaya’. (see picture at left) The double orange flowers start blooming in July and continue through August. ‘Hot Papaya’ is a taller variety and will reach about 3′ in height and width, so make sure it has some room to grow.
Echinacea ‘Harvest Moon’ has been quite popular the last few years also. The yellow petals are darker than ‘Sunrise’, and the blooms are a bit larger. ‘Harvest Moon’s’ flowers are slightly fragrant and open in late July. The seedheads can be left up through the winter to feed the birds, and cut down in spring. Slightly shorter than ‘Hot Papaya’, it still makes a bold statement in the background of any sunny garden.
A white coneflower that’s older, but has maintained a customer favorite nonetheless, is ‘White Swan’. Spreading 3 feet out and growing to a height 36-40 inches, this stately perennial makes a nice match with ‘Hot Papaya’ or other bold colored perennials. The cones can be left up through winter to feed the birds.
If you prefer the purple coneflower but don’t want a native prairie selection, try ‘Magnus’. Its flowers are slightly larger than the E. purpurea variety, but it still attracts butterflies and is drought tolerant. There are a few dwarf varieties on the market as well. ‘Pixie Meadowbrite’ fits well in the front of the border and blooms for months. ‘Little Annie’ is a smaller plant all around- dwarf in height as well as the flowers. Both dwarf varieties will attract butterflies and can be left up all winter to feed birds.
Coneflowers mix well with many sun-loving perennials. Some of our favorite combination plants with Echinacea include Calamagrostis ‘Karl Foerster’, Perovskia (Russian Sage), Rudbeckia (Black-eyed Susan) and Sedum ‘Autumn Fire’. All will bloom around the same time and will be an eye-stopping combination in any landscape. Stop in today to see which variety you can add to your garden. Garden center hours are Monday through Saturday 8-6, and Sunday 10-4.