Plant Profile: Echinacea purpurea

Gatekeeper butterfly on Echinacea purpurea in my sunny single terrace bed

I've been growing Echinacea - aka coneflower - almost as long as I've been at VP Gardens. It replaced the Pyrethrum I grew from seed when it gave up the ghost a couple of years into the garden. I still wanted a dusky, daisy-like flower for that spot and finding Echinacea is loved by bees clinched the deal.

As I was on a tight budget, I bought a couple of those basic bare rooted Echinacea found at various stores and garden centres in the spring. This is usually marked up as Echinacea purpurea, though some outlets offer the more select E 'Magnus' instead. I fully expected my plants to come to nothing, but to confound me they're still going strong nearly 15 years later.

This year I've replaced a lot of the planting in the double terrace beds across from the single terrace bed where I have my Echinacea. I like to repeat a texture, colour or bloom if I can across various spots in the garden, so I thought a different cultivar would be a good way to link these beds together.

I've gone for E. 'Little Magnus' this time, 2 foot high instead of the more usual 3-4 feet which I've planted under a massive Salvia 'Hadspen'. This means it's in semi-shade instead of the full sun available across the way. No matter, it's thriving in its new home and has found plenty of ways to peep out through the Salvia's leaves. It's been in flower since the end of June and I expect it to keep going until late September, possibly October if I'm lucky.

Echinacea originates from the USA and is a classic component of prairie planting alongside the likes of Rudbeckia, Veronicastrum and various grasses. However, it's a versatile plant and fits in nicely with all kinds of styles and blooms. I've combined it with Salvia 'Caradonna', Monarda 'Fireball', Knautia 'Red Knight' and Erigeron. They're knitting quite together quite nicely after just 3 months.
Further cultivation notes:

Other colours are available - the most well-known is E. 'White Swan', which unfortunately didn't thrive in my garden. This was probably me putting it in the wrong place (too shady), rather than the plant being at fault.

As you can see there are zingy yellow and orange colours available; other colours include light-ish greens and a tomato red.

Echinacea purpurea is generally trouble free here in the UK, though I did find this rather nice example of fasciation recently.

Hardiness ratings are RHS 7 (very hardy); USDA Zones 3-9. It thrives in most soils.

It can be grown from seed, or from root cuttings taken in the spring. I've not tried dividing it as it bulks up slowly. Some sites say the best time for this is autumn or spring, though others don't recommend it as they say this is a plant which doesn't like to be disturbed.

Bees and butterflies love Echinacea, as long as it's the single flower version. Double flowers are sterile or keep their nectar out of reach.

It's not edible, but is available as a preventative for colds and 'flu (though it's not clinically proven re its effectiveness). It's a safe plant for the garden if you have pets.

I've heard it makes a great cut flower as long as it's placed into water straight away. I like drying the cones in the autumn for arrangements with e.g. scabious and allium seedheads.

Further references:
  • Plants for a Future database entry
  • Wikipedia general entry for Echinacea (sadly no general reference found on the RHS website)
  • This article from The Telegraph suggests Echinacea are a short-lived perennial and summarises the best way to ensure yours keep going. Perhaps my 13 year-old plant is the exception that proves the rule?
There is a national collection of Echinacea held near Ludlow.
Plant Profiles is sponsored by Whitehall Garden Centre.

Note to readers:
Sponsorship goes towards my blogging costs; the words are my own :)
There are no cookies or affiliate links associated with this post.


  1. Your last photo is what I am wanting to achieve in one of my beds. Does the monarda ger mildew. I think I;d need Magnus but I hadn't thought of knautia i thanks for that

  2. Hi Sue - I deliberately chose a mildew resistant Monarda. It's doing well so far, unlike the Verbena bonariensis nearby so fingers crossed it stays that way.

  3. My Echinacea vanished over the winter, I bought 3 but none survived, I think I'llgrow from seed in the future. Yours look beautiful, especially with the Knautia and Monarda, very pretty.

    1. That's a shame Pauline, especially as we had such a mild winter. I mulch mine in the Autumn, so perhaps that's why mine has kept going for so long. Good luck with the seed sowing - I have a packet to give to my friend Karen when I visit her soon.

  4. Great info. My garden's unfortunately too shady (and crowded) for echinaceas. The last batch I fell in love with, in a lovely creamy yellow, took their colour too seriously and succumbed to aster yellows. :^(

    1. My ripping out the terrace beds means I could squeeze in more Echinacea Helen, otherwise I would have had the same overcrowding issue as you.
      I had to look up aster yellows - it's a disease we don't have over here, thank goodness. I've amended the text to reflect that. If anyone's wondering what aster yellows is, here's its Wikipedia entry:

  5. I always look forward to my echinacea blooming every year and have grown a few more plants from seed this year. I can't quite remember but I think my first echinacea was a supermarket plant. I've never divided it and would so hate to lose it that I daren't move it! It never gets mulched - although I might do now ;) - but it's sited next to a low wall in full sun. And, btw, I'm SO copying your monarda, erigeron, knautia combo, perhaps with some sanguisorba thrown in. :D C x

    1. I like the sound of your sanguisorba addition Caro, especially if it's the big fluffy flowered one. My plant combo was partly intentional and partly over enthusiastic plant buying needing a good home ;)

  6. One of my favorite native plants although we have issues here with a disease they are susceptible too...holding it off for now. I plant mine with similar plants that you show above especially monarda another native hummer, butterflies and bees love...actually they all love echinacea too.

    1. Luckily echinacea seems to be relatively trouble-free on this side of the pond Donna. I do envy you your hummingbirds though - I saw loads in Portland and my garden's monarda, echinacea and crocosmia do look a bit bare without some of them visiting them!

  7. Excellent post! Why don't we have any in our garden I ask myself...

    1. Thanks Colleen - I hope the post inspires you to get some :)

  8. An enjoyable post and lovely pictures. They're a flower that I not grown before but may well do next year.
    Flighty xx

    1. I'm surprised Flighty as you're good at growing wildlife friendly flowers. Give this one a go! You can also grow them from seed.


Post a Comment

I love hearing from you and welcome thoughtful conversations :)

Comments aiming to link back and give credence to commercial websites will be composted!

Your essential reads

Review: Riverford Recipe Box with guest chef Sarah Raven

How not to look after your Pilea peperomioides

Down to Earth with Monty Don

Ulting Wick: drier than Jerusalem? One of the Secret Gardens of East Anglia

Here comes the judge

#mygardenrightnow: there's still plenty going on!

Garden Bloggers' Blooms Day: Persicaria 'Fat Domino'

A clean break

#mygardenrightnow: the autumn edition

Are you looking at me?