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Bright, upright plants, coneflowers are a North American perennial in the Daisy family (Asteraceae). Specifically, the plant is native to the eastern United States, from Iowa and Ohio south to Louisiana and Georgia. They grow 2 to 4 feet in height with dark green foliage. They are fast growers and self-sow their seeds profusely. These midsummer bloomers can flower from midsummer through fall frost! If you wish to keep the coneflowers in pots through winter, wait until the plant growth begins to slow in fall, then prune your plants back to soil level, and then move the pots to an area with low-to-moderate, indirect light where the temperature will stay between 40 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Check the soil every couple of weeks and water lightly when the top 3 inches are dry.
This is only applicable for common Purple Coneflower, Echinacea purpurea and its hybrids, as they have a fibrous root system. The central root mass of a coneflower will grow in size each year, eventually growing up to 2’ diameter. Once the coneflower root mass approaches this size it should be divided to keep the plant attractive and vigorous. The problem is the central part of the root mass will die, and you will have a void in the center of the plant the following growing season. Coneflowers produce multiple daisy-like flowers on tall stems that reach 4’ in height. The plant itself at full size will reach 2’-3’ in diameter / spacing. The leaves are lance-shaped, serrated, and large being 6” long by several inches wide in most varieties. Most Coneflower species have taproots and do not transplant easily. However, common Purple Coneflower, Echinacea purpurea has fibrous roots and can be divided easily.
Purple coneflowers are not fussy and will endure most conditions. However, give them rich, well-drained soil and plenty of sunshine and plants will thrive. Generous amounts of organic compost or aged animal manure mixed into the ground prior to planting will vastly improve the health of plants (watch Flower Gardening from the Ground Up – video). Coneflowers will tolerate heat and drought.Purple coneflower will produce lots of seed but you must get there before the birds. When the blooms dry out, cut them off and hang upside down in bundles. The seeds are contained in the heads between the spikes. Once the heads are dry and crisp they can be lightly hand-crushed, with gloves on for protection, and the seed winnowed from the chaff. Read our article on saving heirloom flower seeds here.While the seeds of coneflowers don’t require this dormancy-breaking period of cold temperatures in order to germinate like many other perennials do, you will see a great improvement in the germination rates by treating the seeds with a cold-moist stratification. Coneflower seeds exposed to 40 degrees F for about two months show dramatically improved germination rates. (Source: triblive.com)