Echinacea has a very special place in my heart and my garden. There’s so much to love about these gorgeous spiky flowers. They are drought tolerant and won’t complain about poor soil. They are extremely low maintenance once established and produce a ton of eye candy that brings an added pop of color to the garden. Echinacea make wonderful cut flowers, attractive pollinator plants, are an important food source for birds in the winter, and they have medicinal properties to help us build our immunity.
Three Cheers for Coneflowers!!
I have been using both of these tools tirelessly through the season, and I can see why both have been recognized by the Arthritis Society as accessible tools that are ideal for people with arthritis or limited hand strength (or anyone who is suffering from pruning fatigue in general!).The PowerGear2® Pruner was awarded the Arthritis Friendly Award and the SoftGrip® Micro-Tip® Pruning Snips have been awarded the Arthritis Foundation’s Ease of Use Commendation. Doing a lot of pruning can be exhausting for my hands as I have Fibromyalgia and residual weakness from the peripheral neuropathy that accompanied my disability issues 10 years ago. Both of these tools help make the job a lot easier, which I’m thrilled about because pruning is one of my favorite jobs in the garden!
Coneflowers in the Garden
Coneflowers are very low maintenance once they are established. Here are a few things you can do to get them started off right.
Pick a location with the brightest light that you have. Echinacea loves bright light and thrives in full sun. The plants will tolerate partial sun as well and still produce plenty of flowers. I have a lot of shade in my garden and I try to pop in as many coneflowers as I can anyway. They still bloom in the shade but are less floriferous and can tend to flop over.
Echinacea are also very easy going when it comes to watering. Water them well to establish new plants in the garden and encourage deep roots. Once established, they won’t need any supplemental watering unless you are in periods of extreme drought.
Coneflowers don’t need any special fertilizers throughout the year. Plant them with some well-rotted compost and then add compost again in the spring. Follow your normal soil building strategies and you won’t have to add any supplemental nutrition for the plants.
Echinacea grow a long taproot which helps them suck up water from deep down in the soil and give them that hardiness. This taproot also means that they aren’t a good perennial to divide. Allow the plants to clump and if you want to plant more start them from seed, cuttings, or grab a new transplant.
Strategic Coneflower Pruning
These low-maintenance plants don’t need pruning throughout the year, but you can prune them to increase blooms and extend bloom time.
Echinacea are already quite a long-blooming plant starting in midsummer and going all the way into the mid fall in my Zone 7 garden. If you’re lucky enough to have a large space with a collection of plants, you can really extend the bloom time by cutting back some of the plants in midsummer.
Cutting back the plants delays blooming so you can either cut back all your plants for a late summer and fall display, or only cut back some of the plants and stagger the bloom times for an even longer season. This is where the Fiskars PowerGear2® Pruner comes in quite handy. The power gear action makes it easy to cut back even the thickest of stems with very little effort.
You can also deadhead Echinacea to increase the size of the newer blooms. If you follow the stem down to the first set of leaves you might see flower buds forming.
This is a perfect time to go in and remove the flower above. Cut the stem right above the new flower growth and you can add the bloom to a flower arrangement. Cutting off the older flowers encourages the plant to put energy into producing the newer flowers rather than producing seeds on the old flower. I keep my Fiskars SoftGrip® Micro-Tip® Pruning Snips handy with me at all times so that I can quickly and easily snip off the stems and save them as cut flowers. I also use them to harvest edible flowers, which you can see here.
When the second wave of flowers blooms, I keep those in place for fall and winter as the birds LOVE to snack on the seeds. The seed heads dry with a spiky cone above a tall stem. I dry the cut flowers for their seed heads to use in crafts and leave the rest in the garden for winter interest.
There are so many hybrid varieties of Echinacea now available. This ornamental seems to be a favorite of breeders as new coneflowers are popping up every year. New varieties are being introduced every year that have new or brighter colors, taller or smaller plants, different growing habits, more prolific blooming, and double blooms.
Here are a few new varieties to look out for in garden centers next year. I was able to see these in person this year through tours and garden trials and I really love how they have performed.
Evolution ™ Fiesta Coneflower – spicy coral petals that fade to a more romantic muted tone as they age. From Monrovia.
Evolution ™ Green Eye Coneflower – an enchanting green cone surrounded by pink petals. From Monrovia.
Echinacea Sombrero® Sangrita has vibrant red-orange petals and a burgundy flower stem from Darwin Perennials. Note: in my garden, the color came out much more orange than red.
Echinacea Sombrero® Granada Gold has a bright yellow color that doesn’t fade and a yellow cone that holds some of its hue when dried, making it really nice for dried flower arrangements. From Darwin Perennials.
Medicinal Uses for Echinacea
Echinacea has been used medicinally throughout the ages. The following information is from Rosemary Gladstar’s Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health.
Echinacea pallida and E. angustifolia are primarily wild Echinacea that can be found on the edges of wooded areas. The most common and easy-to-grow Echinacea for gardens is E. purpurea. These three varieties are most commonly used as medicinal plants. The roots, leaves, and flowers all have healing properties. Echinacea is a powerful immune-system booster that has no side effects and is safe for children, the elderly, and everyone in between.
To use Echinacea as a medicinal plant from your garden, ensure that you are growing an organic plant that has not been sprayed or treated with pesticides or herbicides. The leaves and flowers can be infused into tea and dried for the winter months. And the entire plant can be used to make a tincture that’s handy to have around in cold-and-flu season. Take frequently in small doses at the first sign of a virus but stop taking it once you get better as its effectiveness wanes if it’s used too frequently.
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