Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) is a pretty shrub for sunny flower beds and also an insect magnet. Here’s the correct way to plant and care for this shrub.
- Growth type
- Perennial plant
- Growth height (from)
- from 80 cm to 100 cm
- Growth width (from)
- from 40 cm to 50 cm
- Growth characteristics
- Flower color
- Flowering time (month)
- July to September
- Flower shape
- Tongue blossoms
- Flower characteristics
- lightly fragrant
- slightly filled
- Leaf color
- page format
- Fruit color
- Fruit shape
- Fissile Fruit
- Fruit characteristics
- long lasting
- sunny to semi-shade
- Soil type
- gravelly to loamy
- Soil Moisture
- moderately dry to fresh
- ph value
- weakly alkaline to weakly acidic
- Lime compatibility
- Nutrient requirements
- rich in humus
- Decorative or utility value
- Flower Decoration
- medicinal plant
- Nectar or pollen plant
- Winter Hardness
- Climate zones according to USDA
- areas of life
- Single position
- Group planting
- Garden style
- Pharmacy Garden
- cottage garden
- Flower garden
- Prairie Garden
- Pot garden
The Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), also known as the Hedgehog Coneflower, is a very popular garden shrub from the daisy (Asteraceae) family, which originates from the North American prairies. The native Americans have long considered the wild shrub as an anti-septic healing plant, and it is used in many cold remedies today.
In 1696, the shrub was brought to England for the first time and described by the botanist Leonard Plukenet (1642–1706) as "Chrysanthenum americanum", as he discovered it had similarities with garden chrysanthemums. Carl von Linné gave the species the name Rudbeckia purpurea in 1753, thereby assigning it to the genus Rudbeckia. It was only in 1794 that the genus was given its current name Echinacea by Conrad Moench (1744–1805). In the meantime, Rudbeckia and Echinacea have been assigned to two different botanical genera. The Purple Coneflowers have not officially been closely related to the Yellow Coneflower (Rudbeckia) for several years, although the plants appear very similar at a first glance. However, the extent of the relationship between the two shrubs remains a heated topic among botanists. However, clear differences can be determined if we compare the two shrubs with one another.
The description “Hedgehog Coneflower” is an indication of the spikey texture of the flower heads. The botanical name Echinacea is derived from the Greek word "echinos", which also means “spiny one”. There are now numerous vibrantly colorful breeds of Echinacea purpurea.
The Purple Coneflower forms upright clumps. Bristly stems shoot upright from a strong tap root, with numerous vertical growing lateral roots. The shrub grows 32 to 39 inches tall.
The plant parts above the soil freeze in the winter, however, the Echinacea purpurea reliably grows new shoots in the spring.
The basal leaves are ovate, serrated, coarsely hairy, dark green and up to 6 inches long. The stem leaves are somewhat smaller.
The 2.36 to 4.72 inch wide, daisy-like flower heads with purplish-pink colored ray florets and a highly cone-shaped, brownish-red center, known as the cone, appear between July and September. However, there are now also varieties with white, yellow and orange-red flowers. The flowers magically attract butterflies and bees.
Echinacea purpurea formsgrayish-white seedpods, known as achenes, which reach up to 0.04 inches long.
The striking bush requires a sunny location. It can also manage in semi-shade, however, in such locations it will put out fewer flowers.
The Purple Coneflower thrives best in nutrient-rich, permeable and lighter soils.
The plant is relatively short-living, which is why it should be cut back to a hand’s width straight after flowering and divided every few years.
Once the shrub has found its footing, it is relatively easy-care. It requires regular deadheading. Cutting back directly after flowering extends the lifespan. It also thrives well with the addition of compost in the spring and occasional dose of nettle liquid manure.
After a few years, the Echinacea purpurea flowers less and does not create offshoots so readily. A rejuvenation measure through dividing helps here: Dig up the rootstock, divide it and replant the parts. This is best done every four to five years in the spring.
Echinacea purpurea looks very beautiful in sunny borders, for example in combination with asters, Goldenrod, decorative grasses or Rudbeckien. The nectar-rich shrub, which attracts numerous butterflies and bees, also performs well in free areas close to nature. The long peduncles make for impressive cut flowers.
Echinacea Purpurea as a Healing Plant
The Purple Coneflower has long been used by the Native inhabitants of North America as an anti-septic agent against inflammations. The shrub has also been known for many years in Europe for its effect as a natural healing agent: The above ground plant parts contain substances such as alkamides, essential oils and caffeic acid derivates and have a positive effect on the immune system. It contains substances which can also be used to help respiratory and urinary tract infections. Echinacea remedies are generally available in tablet or liquid form from a chemist for use on slow-healing wounds, psoriasis or herpes.
The Purple Coneflower, which traditionally flowers crimson, should be given a new name these days, as its old one no longer does it justice: It has long been available in white and the new varieties from the USA even have sulfur yellow to vibrant red flowers.
Gardening enthusiasts in America are particularly keen on the new crosses of Echinacea paradoxa and Echinacea purpurea with illustrious names such as ‘Sunrise’, ‘Sunset’ and ‘Harvest Moon’. These are winter-hardy and flower profusely, they have sensational new color tones, from light yellow to vibrant red.
The ‘Sunset’ variety, for example, has radiant, salmon orange petals around a copper-colored center. Some of the petals unfurl in this variety do not unfurl. This gives the flower a star-shaped appearance.
Equally vibrant in orange-red is the pompom-like double-flowered Echinacea ‘Hot Papaya’. The flowers appear as early as June and even give off a slight fragrance. The large flowers of the ‘Tiki Torch’ variety radiate like burning torches in pure orange. The variety ‘Tomato Soup’ is a vibrant tomato red, it was awarded 2 out of 3 stars in the “Staudensichtung”.
‘Green Envy’ is an unusual sight among Purple Coneflowers. The white-green petals change color from the center to the tips from pink to a delicate red shade. This color gradient and their stable stems makes them particularly suitable as cut flowers. The variety ‘Sunrise’ has up to 4.72 inch large flowers in a delicate light yellow with a green dome. It is also fragrant. ‘Green Jewel’ unfurls its sepal-shaped, light green petals around a dark green center. However, these beauties don’t come cheap as breeders have to protect all the innovations in their range. Therefore, garden centers have to pay very high license fees, which they pass on to the end customer.
It is generally possible to sow seeds of this species. The varieties of Echinacea purpurea are best propagated through dividing in the spring.
Diseases and Pests
Echinacea purpurea is generally resistant to diseases and pests.