Purple Coneflower: A Lasting Classic American Wildflower
Don’t give mom flowers this year that will only last a few days when you could give her flowers to last up to 40 years or more! While some of the most commercial wildflowers such as larkspur, cosmos, zinnia, or sunflower are timeless annuals, let’s never forget the always fashionable and classic American wildflower, purple coneflower!
Known as echinacea when consumed herbally such as in teas, tinctures, and dried supplements, purple coneflower is an all-American wildflower native to the rocky woodlands and clearings of the eastern and central United States. Purple coneflower still flourishes wildly throughout the eastern states in a variety of poor, shallow, and rocky soils and promises to thrive in similar gardens or grow spaces. While there are roughly 40 different species of echinacea that mom would adore in the garden, we always recommend Echinacea purpurea (purple coneflower) for its tenacity, lifespan, and ability to have its roots divided to immediately create more flowering echinacea plants for decades to come.
While nearly all species of echinacea grow a deep carrot-like taproot, it is only Echinacea purpurea (purple coneflower) that produces thick and wadded fibrous roots that, not only can be divided for replanting, but should be divided to keep domestic purple coneflower healthy and productive. Purple coneflower naturally propagated in the wild has its own means of survival for multiple decades of growth, but purple coneflower kept in the home garden will actually benefit from being completely uprooted every 3-4 years and having its entire root base cut and quartered (or halved) for replanting. Because purple coneflower has such a matted and fibrous root system, the divided plants aren’t at all stressed by damage to the roots and even welcome the thinning. The roots are so developed on each of the plants that they’ll likely take to the soil within hours of planting. Gardeners familiar with pruning understand the importance of ridding perennials of their excess vegetation to help guarantee years of productive growth. Purple coneflower promises the same perennial lifespan as lavender, rosemary, or asparagus provided its roots are divided and replanted every 3-4 years.
Like most wildflowers, echinacea prefers full sun and the average, dry, and poor soils of its native prairies and fields but is tolerant and adaptable to nearly any garden once established. Purple coneflower is a perennial that doesn’t flower in its first year because it is firmly rooting itself for decades of growth. Anyone who’s ever grown asparagus knows you can’t harvest until the 3rd year but, ask any of them, the wait is always worth it for 20 years of subsequent harvesting!
Remember, mom is better than just one day of expensive and short-lived flowers. Go ahead show her this year you love her by planting some echinacea for decades worth of beauty, blooms, and herbal tea. Check out our Echinacea Growing Guide for more detailed tips!
- David Bernal