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Sunday, July 21, 2024 at 12:54 PM

Edith — on Echinacea

Edith — on Echinacea
by Edith Isidoro-Mills — Many people are more familiar with Echinacea as an herb used to fight the common cold but actually it’s a great flowering perennial with a long blooming period that starts in July and can last into early fall.There are a number of species of Echinacea and all are native to the United States from the Great Plains to the east coast.  The most commonly utilized Echinacea in landscaping are Echinacea purpurea (Purple Prairie Coneflower), Echinacea paradoxa(Yellow Coneflower), and Echinacea pallida (Pale Coneflower).Purple Prairie Coneflower is probably the most readily available and in recent years plant breeders have released a number of varieties of this Echinacea species.  In its native form it is a large daisy like flower with pink rays that curve down toward the stem.  Sticking up in the center of this ring of pink rays is an orange cone-like structure that produces most of the seed.  Variations of Purple Prairie Coneflower not found naturally but available at many nurseries and garden centers include white, orange, and red Prairie Coneflowers.  There are also varieties that have rays that don’t curve down toward the stem.Purple Prairie Coneflower is touted as being very drought and heat tolerant.  My experience with this plant in Churchill County is that it is very heat tolerant but without regular watering in our hot dry summers it can look ratty and water stressed.  However, with regular watering Purple Prairie Coneflower will do well here and tolerates our alkaline soils.As with all perennials the best time to plant Purple Prairie Coneflower is spring or fall.  Successful establishment of this perennial can be achieved from either seed or nursery stock.  Most of the more recently released varieties of Purple Prairie Coneflower are only available as nursery stock.Purple Prairie Coneflower has a tendency to naturalize both vegetative and by seed.  If you plant one of the hybrid varieties eventually your patch of this flower will revert back to the pink rays and orange center variation.Many publications say Purple Prairie Coneflower can reach a height of 3 to 4 feet but in Churchill County expect it to reach 1 ½  to 2 feet in height.  In a flowerbed it fits best either in the back row or the center of the flowerbed.  It does well in sunny locations.  However, some afternoon shade will not hurt Purple Prairie Coneflower and may even improve its drought tolerance in our climate.Purple Prairie Coneflower also makes a nice cut flower but make sure to give it good support in a vase because the large orange center can be a little top heavy.     Never miss the local news — read more on The Fallon Post home page. If you enjoy The Fallon Post, please support our effort to provide local, independent news and make a contribution today.  Your contribution makes possible this online news source for all things Fallon.