Dictionary of Flowers: Echinacea (Coneflower)

Classic pink Echinecea (Coneflower). Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of Maria Grazia Montagnari and Flickr

Classic pink Echinecea (Coneflower). Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of Maria Grazia Montagnari and Flickr

  • Echinacea, Short Varieties
  • Common name: coneflower
  • Family: Asteraceae
  • Category: perennial in USDA zones 3-8, depending on species and varieties
  • Height: 12” to 36”
  • Width: 12” to 30”
  • Sun
  • Blooms: midsummer to fall
  • Attracts: bees, butterflies and birds
  • Growth habit: clump forming. Used as filler or thriller in container combinations
  • Maintenance: easy
  • Soil: average to fertile, well drained. Water regularly if grown in containers. Drought tolerant
  • Garden uses: containers, mixed border, cutting garden, wildflower garden
  • Diseases: root rot, mildew, wilt
  • Pests: thrips, Japanese beetles

Echinacea is a true workhorse in the summer garden.

Easy to grow, native to the US, new varieties are released every year, most of them hybrids of the species 'purpurea', the one most used for ornamental purposes.

Their pink to white daisy- like flowers have a dark cone shaped center, thus their common name. The new hybrids' flower colors can be peach, yellow, orange, and red. Some have pompom like centers. 

Coneflowers grow well in reasonably fertile soil with good drainage in full sun. Some can tolerate part sun, but they don't bloom as much.

They require dry soil after they are established. Right after planting and during the first year in the garden, water regularly to promote good root system development.

They might require division after a few years, in spring in cold areas or fall in warm winter zones. Lift the clump and use a knife to divide the clump into two or three large sections. Replant immediately either in pots or on the ground.

Deadheading promotes new blooms, but leaving a few flowers at the end of the gardening season provides visual interest in late fall and winter and will attract birds to the garden (they eat the seeds).

Coneflower attracts butterflies to the garden.

Echinecea will attract insects and butterflies. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of David Midgley and Flickr

Echinecea will attract insects and butterflies. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of David Midgley and Flickr

Easily available for purchase as plants in nurseries, echinacea can also be grown from seed. It requires a period of stratification, so if sowing indoors, plant seed on moist starting mix, barely covering them.

Cover the flats with clear plastic and place in the refrigerator for four weeks. Bring out and keep at around 70F. Germination takes place in ten to fifteen days.

Place in a sunny position or under grow lights until ready to set out in the garden, after danger of frost has passed.

They can also be sown directly in the garden, as soon as the soil can be worked. Cover seed and water well. Because of the period of cold stratification required, they are easy to wintersow




One is wonderful, many are better. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of Velodenz and Flickr

One is wonderful, many are better. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of Velodenz and Flickr

The main problem with coneflower is soil that doesn't drain well, promoting root rot. Powdery mildew can be treated with an antifungal remedy.

Pests like Japanese beetles can attack echinacea. Eliminate them with a systemic insecticide or insecticidal dust. It is deer resistant, but protect seedlings from rabbits.

Short varieties suitable for containers:

  • Echinacea 'Little Magnus' - dwarf plant with large flowers. Grows up to eighteen inches tall, pink blooms with horizontal petals
  • Echinacea 'Kim's Knee High' - pink blooming short variety, up to two feet high. Petals droop down
  • Echinacea 'Elton Knight' - magenta flowers on plants that can reach two feet tall
  • Echinacea 'After Midnight'  - dark magenta flowers with very dark cone center. Grows up to eighteen inches
Busy bees on Echinacea. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of Paul McCoubrie and Flickr

Busy bees on Echinacea. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of Paul McCoubrie and Flickr

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