Echinacea, a simple daisy-like flower that can really add late summer vibrance to your garden when there is typically a lull in your beds and borders as far as colour and interest goes. When you delve into the workings of these hardy little gems, yet again we see a glimpse of the wonder of mother nature. The dark centre cone of the flower head is in fact made up of a mass of tiny flowers full of nectar, the petals are sterile (technically ‘florets’), a kind of neon sign to attract the passing bees and butterflies.
When to plant established Echinacea plants
Get these in the ground in September to allow them time to establish a good root system before the colder weather sets in. They love good, fertile soil which you can ensure with a healthy dose of compost before planting. If you plan to raise some from seed, getting them in the ground by March gives them a good chance of flowering in the first year. They generally flower late in the season, throughout August and can go well into the autumn, giving you striking seed heads as the colour drops away until the birds start to help themselves.
Perennial or annual?
There is some debate about this, strictly speaking they are a perennial but often people will find they seem to disappear from their borders. There are a few reasons why that might be so; Echinacea sometimes dislikes company. An antisocial plant by nature, they thrive well on their own but can suffer if overcrowded. They need a period of cold to go dormant in the winter, then a mild spring to get going so our mild, wet winters may cause them to rot somewhat and become half the plant they used to be.
How to grow your Echinacea
Plant them in an area of your garden that has fertile, free draining soil and full sun. Take care not to over mulch the crowns in winter and deadhead them regularly throughout the summer to encourage flowers into the early autumn.
They prefer to be well left alone once planted but if you do need to move or divide them, do it in the spring but ensure that they stay well watered in fertile, free draining soil.
Originally, Echinacea only came in white and deep pink but over recent years many hybrids have been developed producing a stunning array of colours, even a couple of scented varieties. Here are a few to get you going;
Echinacea purpurea ‘Fatal Attraction’ – A sturdy cultivar with near-black stems to 70cm, and intense purple-pink flowers with rather narrow, pointed rays held flat or slightly up-curved around an orange-brown disc
Echinacea ‘Summer Cloud’ – A summer-flowering cultivar that bears a prominent central cone and a surrounding horizontal ring of reddish-pink ray florets on dark stems. Height to around 70cm
Echinacea purpurea ‘Rubinglow’ – An upright perennial to 70cm tall with green, hairy, toothed leaves. From midsummer to autumn, flowers comprising deep pink, horizontal ray florets surrounding a prominent orange-brown cone are borne on rigid stems.
Orange and Red
Echinacea ‘Tiki Torch’ – A clump-forming perennial, to around 80cm tall and 45cm spread. The flowerheads have bright orange ray florets, slightly darker at their base, surrounding a prominent orange-red centre cone.
Echinacea ‘Tomato Soup’ – A strikingly-coloured cultivar. Large, bright red flowers that fade to orange are borne from June to September. Reaches approximately 80cm in height.
White and Green
Echinacea purpurea ‘Fragrant Angel’ – A relatively compact, upright cultivar to 75cm tall. Its well-branched flower stems carry scented, daisy-like flowerheads comprising white, horizontal and overlapping ray florets surrounding an orange-yellow cone.
Echinacea purpurea ‘White Swan’ – A compact perennial of upright growth, with solitary, white flower-heads with dull yellow central discs.
Echinacea purpurea ‘Green Jewel’ – An upright, herbaceous perennial of fairly compact habit, growing to 70cm tall, with green, oval leaves. Flowerheads, up to 12cm in diameter, are borne from summer into autumn on sturdy, well-branched stems and comprise light green ray florets, held slightly above the horizontal, surrounding a central darker green cone.
Please get in touch if you have any questions or need any help in the garden. Email here or ring on 01483 275920