Coneflowers provide summer color year after year

Richard Bogren, Owings, Allen D.  |  6/24/2015 11:31:27 PM

Bravado is a popular variety of coneflower with dark purple flowers. (Photo by Allen Owings, LSU AgCenter)

Fasciated flowers are common on coneflowers and are fascinating and puzzling to gardeners. (Photo by Allen Owings, LSU AgCenter)

One of the newer Echinacea varieties performing well in Louisiana landscape is Sombrero Adobe Orange. (Photo by Allen Owings, LSU AgCenter)

News Release Distributed 06/24/15

By Allen Owings
LSU AgCenter horticulturist

HAMMOND, La. – One of the most popular non-woody perennials in Louisiana is the purple coneflower. The scientific name of this plant is Echinacea purpurea. It is native to an area from the Midwest into the southeastern United States.

Coneflowers have long been favorites with gardeners across the South. You can use them in a perennial planting with buddleia, rudbeckias, salvia, coreopsis, lantanas, Shasta daisies, verbenas or other hardy favorites. Butterflies love purple coneflowers, too.

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.

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

Flower petals in coneflowers have typically been in the soft lavender to purple color ranges. Now white forms are available. Magnus, a popular variety, was named the 1998 Perennial Plant of the Year by the Perennial Plant Association. This selection has vibrant, rose-purple flowers. Other popular varieties include Bravado, with 4- to 5-inch fragrant flowers and White Swan, a white-flowering form.

With hybridization of the 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 varieties Twilight (rose-red flowers), Harvest Moon (earthy-gold flowers), Sundown (russet-orange flowers), Sunrise (citron-yellow flowers) and Sunset (orange flowers) comprise the series collection. These varieties have been available at garden centers in Louisiana the past three years, but they are not as reliably perennial as we prefer.

The seed-propagated PowWow series was new several years ago. PowWow Wild Berry is an All-America Selection winner from 2011. In addition, a white version is called PowWow White. These have performed very well in LSU AgCenter landscape trials.

Also new from Darwin Perennials are the vegetatively propagated Sombrero series (Salsa Red and Abode Orange have been favorites in LSU AgCenter trials) and the double-flower series Doublescoop. A new All-America Selection winner from 2013 is Cheyenne Spirit. This variety has a blend of seven different flower colors.

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 garden centers in 4-inch pots or quart or one-gallon containers. We recommend a light application of a slow-release fertilizer at planting and once or twice annually thereafter. Mulch with pine straw or a similar material and remove old flowers to encourage quick re-bloom.

One problem you may see with coneflowers is fasciation, which results in odd shaped flowers with crested or contorted blooms. Fasciation could be the result of insect feeding or hormone imbalances in the plants that caused an uncontrolled division of cells. In addition to purple coneflowers, you can see fasciation on sunflowers, rudbeckia and gaillardia.

If recommended practices are followed, purple coneflowers can be reliable short-lived perennial in Louisiana landscapes. Availability is good at garden centers from spring through fall.

You can see more about work being done in landscape horticulture by visiting the LSU AgCenter Hammond Research Station website. Also, like us on Facebook. You can find an abundance of landscape information for both home gardeners and industry professionals at both sites.

Rick Bogren

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