Purple coneflowers provide summer-long blooms

Richard Bogren, Huffstickler, Kyle, Gill, Daniel J., Owings, Allen D.  |  1/4/2011 1:08:27 AM

News Release Distributed 08/27/10

By LSU AgCenter Horticulturists Dan Gill, Kyle Huffstickler and Allen Owings

One of the most popular herbaceous perennials in Louisiana is the purple coneflower. The scientific name is Echinacea purpurea. It is native from the Midwest into the Southeastern United States.

Purple coneflowers are drought-tolerant, tough and long-lived. Flowering usually starts in late April or early May, and most coneflowers re-bloom through summer and fall.

Flower petals in coneflowers typically have been in the soft lavender to purple color ranges. Now white forms are available.

Magnus is a popular variety that was named Perennial Plant of the Year in 1998 by the Perennial Plant Association. It has vibrant, rose-purple flowers. Bravado is a variety with 4-to 5-inch fragrant flowers. White Swan is a white-flowering form. A new seed-propagated series of coneflowers, the Pow Wow variety, will be available starting in 2011.

With hybridization of coneflower species, a whole new group of coneflowers, called the Big Sky series, has added to the color range. Big Sky coneflowers come in shades of oranges, reds and yellows. These plants originated from Itsaul Plants in Georgia and are being marketed by the Novalis Plants that Work program. The series collection is composed of the varieties Twilight (rose-red flowers), Harvest Moon (earthy gold flowers), Sundown (russet-orange flowers), Sunrise (citron yellow flowers) and Sunset (orange flowers).

While these varieties have been available at garden centers in Louisiana the past three years, they aren’t as reliably perennial as we would like.

You can do several things to help coneflowers perform ideally. These plants prefer a mostly sunny location with well-drained soil. You can buy coneflowers at the garden center in 4-inch pots, quarts or gallon containers. We recommend a light application of a slow-release fertilizer at planting and once or twice annually thereafter. Mulch them with pine straw or a similar material. Removing old flowers encourages faster re-bloom.

Coneflowers are reliably perennial in Louisiana. They have long been favorites with gardeners across the South. Use them in a perennial bed with buddleia, rudbeckias, salvia, coreopsis, lantanas, Shasta daisies, verbenas or other hardy favorites. Butterflies love purple coneflowers also.

If you’re looking for a plant to enhance your landscape, the new selections of this old garden plant are making it highly desired for Louisiana.

Visit LaHouse in Baton Rouge to see sustainable landscape practices in action. The home and landscape resource center is near the intersection of Burbank Drive and Nicholson Drive (Louisiana Highway 30) in Baton Rouge, across the street from the LSU baseball stadium. For more information, go to www.louisianahouse.org and www.lsuagcenter.com/lyn.

Rick Bogren
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