Echinacea in the Garden

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Saving seed and Planting Echinacea

Echinacea purpureaOne of my favorite perennials are Echinacea, commonly referred to as coneflowers.  They range in all sizes and colors, but the one most people associate with Echinacea are the purple flowers.  The large daisy-like flowers sit atop long stems.  Fortunately  for me, these are heat and drought tolerant, which is exactly what we need these days!  We had a drought for the last several years and most of the soil around the house is back-filled sand from when my house was built.  The “house soil” is poor and drains a little too well.

Saving Echinacea seedsEchinacea plants have deep tap roots, which would explain their ability to withstand drought conditions.  They are capable of growing in full sun, but can thrive just as well in light shade.   While division of the dense clumps of rooted plants is possible, division of the clumps leads to poor flower production on bushy plants.  Echinacea flower throughout the summer.

I found out the hard way about Echinacea seed heads. Those innocent daisy-like seed heads are actually very tough and pointy balls.  Ouch!  I thought could just crumble the seed heads in my hand and extract the seeds.  Apparently not.

Net bag for seed collection over Echinacea flowerIf you wish to save seeds for next year, simply wait until the flower has died back completely.  Then you can either just cut it or put a little net bag over it to catch the seeds.  I asked a friend of mine to do just that and save the seeds for me.  I was concerned that the seeds would blow away in the wind, before she got to them.  Well, originally she thought she puts the bags on too late.  It turns out, the seeds only come out after being shaken quite vigorously or turned upside down.  Once the seed heads were turned upside down all of the seeds fell right out into the little net bags.  I also just read that you have to get to the seeds before the birds get them. Even more reason for the little net bags …pics coming…Comast is down  🙁

Echinacea purpureaEchinacea are excellent for attracting butterflies and bees and add color to a well landscaped garden.  The plants typically range from 3-4’ and take about 90-120 days until maturity if you plant them from seed.  They take up a fair bit of space to be sure to leave 1-2’ apart.  Blooms are usually observed from July through September, and is tolerant to a light frost.  It’s possible to extend the blooming period by deadheading the flower heads once the flower is done blooming.

While Echinacea is an excellent landscape addition, it also serves as a medicinal plant.  It’s thought to boost the immune system and is most often used for treatment of colds and the flu.