Echinacea Plants: Growing, Care and Uses

Echinacea is a gorgeous perennial flower that blooms from July into early autumn. If you are thinking about planning your garden to have beautiful fall blooms or want to attract butterflies to your garden, Echinacea is the plant you want.

echinacea flowers

Also known as the purple coneflower, Echinacea is a member of the daisy family. There are many varieties that can produce vibrant blooms in purple, pink, white, yellow, and more.

Native to North America, the plant can be found in the wild from Louisiana to Michigan. You will usually find it growing in open fields and meadows, as the plant likes a good bit of sunshine.

Orange monarch butterfly insect on a summer garden of pink coneflowers

Echinacea is also a great plant to have if you want to attract butterflies to your garden, as well as other beneficial insects such as bees.

How Long Does it Take to Grow Echinacea?

One thing to note about Echinacea is the plant can take 2 years to fully mature when grown from seed, which means it is a flower that takes some patience!

If you are lucky enough to be able to get some Echinacea plants from a friend, the best time to transplant Echinacea is in late September after the plant has bloomed.

My neighbor thought I was crazy when I planted some very dead-looking Echinacea in our planter box in the front yard a few years ago in the fall. Who plants dead flowers at the end of summer? But the next year made it all worth it – and my neighbor loved being able to see them from her porch!

The plant grows to be about 2-3 feet tall and the flower heads are around 4 to 5 inches, which makes this an ideal plant to use as an ornamental border in your garden.

Medicinal Uses for Echinacea

Tea from Echinacea in glass teapot on board with cloth

Aside from being beautiful, there are many herbal uses for Echinacea. If you ever thought about growing your own tea, Echinacea is a fantastic plant for a tea garden.

Echinacea is most well-known for its immune-enhancing properties in fighting against colds and the flu, but many other medicinal uses can be found.

Some of the medicinal properties of Echinacea:

  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Antibiotic
  • Antiseptic
  • Depurative
  • Diaphoretic

All parts of the Echinacea plant can be used herbally for a number of purposes, from the roots to the stem to the flowers themselves. The tapering, cylindrical, somewhat spiral roots have an aromatic scent.

Because Echinacea is a member of the daisy family, you will want to carefully consider whether you may have allergies to the daisy family before using Echinacea herbally. Consulting with a certified herbalist will help ensure that it is used safely and responsibly.

Echinacea is also a great plant to help keep mosquitoes away. Check out our list of plants that repel mosquitos away here.

Echinacea Cultivars and Types

Purple echinacea flowers

There are several varieties of Echinacea that you can grow, with the most popular being Echinacea Purpurea.

Echinacea Purpurea is most likely the one you will in garden centers and nurseries. Here are some of the common names for the different cultivars of Echniacea Purpurea:

  • Purple Coneflower
  • White Coneflower
  • Avalanche Coneflower
  • Bright Star Coneflower
  • Coconut Lime Coneflower
  • Cotton Candy Coneflower
  • Elton Knight Coneflower
  • Fatal Attraction Coneflower
  • Fragrant Angel Coneflower
  • Green Envy Coneflower
  • Kim’s Knee High Coneflower
  • Kim’s Mop Head Coneflower
  • Kim’s Red Knee High Coneflower
  • The King Coneflower
  • Lilliput Coneflower
  • Little Giant Coneflower
  • Magnus Coneflower
  • Meringue Coneflower
  • Milkshake Coneflower
  • Pink Double Delight Coneflower
  • Pink Poodle Coneflower
  • Purity Coneflower
  • Razzmatazz Coneflower
  • Ruby Giant Coneflower
  • Sparkler Coneflower
  • Vintage Wine Coneflower
  • Virgin Coneflower

In addition to these Echinacea Purpurea cultivars, there are a few other species of Echinacea that are popular to choose from:

  • Echinacea angustifolia (Narrow Leaf Coneflower)
  • Echinacea laevigata (Smooth Purple Coneflower)
  • Echinacea pallida (Narrow Petal Coneflower)
  • Echinacea paradoxa (Yellow Coneflower)
  • Echinacea simulata (Wavy-leaf Purple Coneflower)
  • Echinacea tennesseensis (Tennessee Coneflower)

The good news is that the planting process and care for each of these different cultivars are very similar. In this article, we’ll be sharing how to grow Echinacea Purpurea since it is the most common, but the same process applies to most of the other varieties.

how to grow echinacea

How to Grow Echinacea

Echinacea is relatively simple to grow and doesn’t need a lot of attention – you simply need patience!

Best Soil for Echinancea

The purple coneflower likes well-drained soil, so it is important to mix in plenty of sand and compost to help with drainage. It grows like a weed and does well with even poor soil, although it will do better when given good soil as a base.

Afternoon sun on deep pink coneflowers.

How Much Sun Does Echinacea Need?

Echinacea loves the sunshine and will do best in full or partial sun. They do well if they only receive morning or afternoon sun, but it’s important to make sure they get at least 4 hours of direct sun each day.

How Often to Water Echinacea

Echinacea is a drought-tolerant plant. You don’t need to water Echinacea very often once the plant is fully grown, but you will need to water them regularly as seedlings.

Usually, the watering schedule for new plants begins by watering every day for a week, then every other day for another week, then 2-3 times per week for another week, then once a week for two weeks. After that, you only need to water if the soil is especially dry, such as during a drought.

After the first year, you really won’t need to water these plants at all. Mature plants can go 6 weeks or longer without watering.

Echinacea flowers (Echinacea purpurea) against green background

Starting Echinacea From Seed

Growing from seed is the cheapest way to grow purple coneflowers and germination typically only takes between 10-20 days. You can either sow them directly in the surface of the soil or you can start them in pots indoors in a warm and sunny spot.

When you plant your Echinacea, you’ll want to make sure they are spaced far apart enough to have room to grow. Most cultivars will include this information on seed packets – for most plants, this means spacing them about 16-22 inches apart.

Once germination takes place, the plants will grow pretty quickly and they should be about 18 to 24 inches tall by the end of the season. You will probably not get many flowers if any, the first year, but they will definitely bloom fully by year two.

It’s important that you regularly weed your garden where the Echinacea is planted, as they will do a lot better if they don’t have to compete with the weeds for sunlight and nutrients in the soil.

Transplanting Echinacea

If you want to get a jump start on having beautiful flowers in your garden, it can be helpful to start with a mature plant. I was very lucky in being able to get my Echinacea from a friend, but most garden centers will also sell mature plants that have already developed flowers.

The best time to transplant Echinacea is in mid-September, just about when the flowers are finished blooming for the season. Again, as I said before – people will think you are crazy for planting dead flowers at the end of summer, but they will grow back beautifully the next season!

Echinacea develops pretty deep roots, so you need to use some care when transplanting them. Be sure that after transplanting you water them regularly – at least every day for the first 3-4 days and then every other day for about a week. Stop watering them if there is any threat of frost in the forecast.

Yellow Echinacea.

Dividing Echinacea

Echinacea flowers grow in clumps, and so every four or five years you will want to divide them up. The best time to split a large plant into two is in mid-September after the flowers bloomed.

This is a great way to share your flowers with friends, or you can even enjoy adding more of them to your garden as borders and such.

To divide them, it’s usually easiest to dig the plant up and cut the root ball in half with a garden shovel. Then add new soil and replant the original plant and transplant the other half to a new location.

One way to do this is to dig up the entire plant, cut the root ball in half, and add new soil to the original hole to replant the original plant and relocate the part you divided off.

Make sure you give yourself enough time at the end of the season for the plant to re-establish itself before the frost begins.

Troubleshooting Pests and Diseases

Echinacea is relatively disease resistant, although it can develop cucumber mosaic virus which causes yellow spots on the leaves if the plant is infested with aphids.

If you suspect aphids, you can wash them off with water and insecticidal soap, or you can spray them with a product such as Neem Oil.

How to Harvest Echinacea

Purple coneflowers reaching for the sky

The best time to harvest flowers from your Echinacea plant is in mid-July while they are in full bloom. It is best to pick the flowers in the early morning and process them as soon as possible. You can use them in tinctures or you can dry them to use in tea.

Related Post: How to Dry Herbs

If you wish to harvest the roots of your plant, it is very important that the plant is well established – at least three or four years old.

You will want to harvest them after the first frost of the autumn/winter season. Be sure that you do not harvest too many of the roots as this could cause the plant to die.

Once you’ve harvested the roots, it’s important to make sure they are cleaned and then dried either with a dehydrator or in a well-ventilated area in full sun.

Echinacea is one of my favorite plants and it is so beautiful when it blooms. It takes some patience to grow it, but it is well worth the effort!

Do you have any tips to share about growing Echinacea? Questions about your plants? We’d love to hear your comments below!

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