Purple Cone Flowers

Plants for sun

The "Purple Cone Flowers" or Echinacea are closely related to Rudbeckia (which include the black- eyed Susan). They are native to North America - growing generally in dry areas like grasslands and stony out-croppings and in  open forested areas. These plants are great  for the perennial border,  blooming early to late summer, with large showy flowers. The daisy like flowers, are pink or pink-purple or white, with one species even yellow. Plants are drought tolerant with most species having a taproot or short compact rhizomes.  Stems and foliage usually stiffly hairy giving the plants a raspy sandpaper like feel when rubbed.  In the wild many of the species and forms hybridize and this makes precise identification difficult. NEVER dig a wild Cone flower, you might be removing a endangered species or form. 

There are seven to nine species, with two species listed so far on the Federal endangered species list.

E. angustifolia = from the prairies of north central U.S. and Canada. This plant has long lax petals 4-8 cm long that hang down from a round central cone. The petals are thin and rose purple to pale whitish purple in color. The flower petals are up to six inches in size. This plant grows to 4 feet in height and 18 inches wide with a nice erect form. E. angustifolia is not much used in the garden but should make a nice addition to the wild meadow or grassland. Used also for medicinal purposes too. Zones 4-9

E. pallida = This plant is like E. angustifolia except that it is larger growing up to 3-4 feet tall in size and 24 inches wide. This plant is native from central to south central U.S. from Minnesota to Montana to Texas.  It has the same long hanging petals that are 2-4 cm long and pink to pale purple in color.  Leaves are almost linear to lanceolate. This plant is great for the naturalizing or the sunny border, it is showy and different. It looks good in a vase and growing in the border, were the flowering stalk rises above any foliage. Plants are found in dry prairies and dry rock outcroppings and thickets. Plants have a taproot so resent being moved when large. Bloom from May to August. Zones 4-8

E. paradoxa var. paradoxa = This is the odd ball of the group with yellow flowers. This plant is from the Ozark Mountains of Kansas and Arkansas to Missouri and north Texas. It grows in a very narrow habitat restricted in the wild to dry prairie knobs. Plants are upright growing with large showy yellow flowers. Highly recommended for prairie and border plantings. (See E. atrorubens below)

E. paradoxa  var. neglecta = From  south central Oklahoma comes this form of E. paradoxa with long dropping rays (petals)  of pinkish white, pink and light lavender pink. Plants are confused with E. pallida.

The garden purple cone flower

E. purpurea = This is the garden purple cone flower. Native from Virginia to Iowa south to Georgia and Louisiana. It is found in open woods and on prairies. It grows to one meter in height and has long stiff stems with one large cone with showy purple ray flowers. The flower has long rays that reflex downward somewhat with a cone that is hard and prickly. This is a much valued perennial for the garden loved by butterflies and people.
Great for cutting and drying. The dried center cones make a very long lasting dried flower, collect them in the late fall when the plants seeds are ripe.
There are a number of forms that are showier than the species and these include:

'Amado' = Grows 36 inches tall and has pure white flowers, Makes a good show in combination with 'Bravado'. Very nice white form.

Bravado' = With 4-41/2 inches flowers with more horizontal growing petals and a more rounder shape to the flower than other forms. Rose-red flower color with darker centered cones. Seed raised

‘Bright Star' = Purple red flowers with lightly lax petals. Three to four feet tall. Also called 'Starlight' or 'Star Bright'. Seed raised

'Cygnet' = Here is a short growing, white flowering form of 'Purple Cone flower'. Plants are 15-24 inches tall. A nice development in size, making these plants even more useful in the garden. Blooming the first year if sown early.

'Finale White' = Creamy white flowers are 4" wide.  Plants grow 2 feet tall

'Kim's Knee High ' PPAF - This is a smaller version of cone flower, growing 12-15" tall and having clear pink-purple flowers with relaxed petals.  Works well in smaller areas. Plant with Liatris 'Kobold'.

'Kim's Mop Head' -  Here is a very nice white flowering for that grows 12-16 inches tall.  The plants I have-have nice upright petals but I have seen pictures were the flowers are like 'Kim's Knee high' in that they drop down ward.  this is a very good selection for a smaller garden or the front of the boarder.

'Leuchstern' = Probably the same plants as 'Bright Star'.  Upright growing three feet tall plants with 4" wide flowers of purple, petals are flat then become lightly lax.  Seed raised

'Magnus '  = With larger flowers to 7 inches and darker orange cones, deep purple in color and nice outward growing petals. Seed raised

'Primadonna Deep Rose ' =  Plants produce large 5 to 6 inch wide flowers in a nice shade of lavender rose. The daisy-like flowers have a showy central disk. The flowers are produced on vigorous 32-36 inch tall plants with good branching. Does very well in well drained soils in full sun. Even grows nicely under dry conditions but will not produce as large of a plant or as many flowers.

'Razzmatazz' = This double type flower variety originated in Holland in the fields of a cutflower grower. The normal petals are not large but the cone flowers have mutated to form small petals them selves. The cones thus are full of small petals surronded by normal petals around the out side. The color is a light pinkish-purple.

'Robert Bloom' = With very showy dark centered orange cones and petals a dark mauve crimson

'Ruby Giant'  =  Here is a form that is tissue cultured with large flowers  from 5 to 7 inches wide and good upright petals.
Very nice for specimen and mass plantings, giving you stands of uniform, large flowers. The plant grow3 feet tall and 1 1/2 to 2 feet wide, with an upright, clumping habit and long, strong flowering stems making them useful for cutting. The petalcolor is a darkt ruby-pink with dark center cones.The flowers are also fragrant.

'Ruby Star' = Bright carmin red, this is an improved selection of 'Magnus' Petels are held out more horizontal.with its stronger, more intense, carmine-red colored color. The flowers are located on sturdy stems, with the same refined, horizontal petal arrangement as 'Magnus'. An excellent selection for cut flowers and border plants.

'The King' = Lax petals of pinkish-crimson and orange brown center disks.

'White Luster' = Creamy white flowers with lax petals and orange brown center disks, a tall plant to 3.5 feet.

'White Swan'  = Has white flowers on many branched stems, 4-1/2 inches across with large orange cones with the petals more or less dropping down. Seed raised

'White Swan' x ‘Bright Star' = Produces plants that have a variation in color from purple to pink to white. The plants have larger cones with nice orange coloring and a more branched habitat- mine I would say bloom twice as much as other purple forms. So far this has been the showiest cross for me, with many flowers open at the same time clustered in a nice dense pattern atop the 3-4 foot plants. Seed raised.

E. tennesseenis = Upright growing plant with linear leaves and four inch flowers that have greenish-pink disks. Dark-mauve petals, single flowers on 24-36 inches plants. Not a strong grower, but nice looking plants in the wild flower garden rare.  The flower heads are distinctive in that the disk rays form a cup instead of drooping or holding vertical to the cone.  This species is listed as endangered species and was thought for a while to be extinct until populations were found in Tennessee. There are hybrid forms offered in the seed trade.  Zones 3-9. More information on this species.

Cultivation of Echinacea:

Grow in deep well-drained soil - they like sandy humus rich soils and are short lived on heavy clay soils. Full sun to light shade, easy to over winter. Cut back stems after flowering to encourage more flowers and to prevent self-seeding.


Wild harvesting- Never do it!!

In the past there was a belief that the roots had some medical benefits but current  research  in the last few years has indicated that there is no benefits in relation to sickness, though plants may contain chemicals that retard skin infections when used locally.  In blind tests,  the taking of  Echinacea orally had no effect on duration or symptoms of those suffering with colds.  The Consumption of Echinacea  may increase white blood cell counts, most likely do to the body fighting off one of the many chemicals in these plants,  the increase in white blood cells is short lived and the continued  intake of Echinacea has no lasting effect.  So safety does not seem to be an issue.

Plants attract bumble bees. Leaf minors are a nuisance but not a serious problem. Powdery Mildew in hot humid climates or were the summers have been wet and hot. Gray molds occasionally and bacterial spots. The only real insect problems are  Vine Weevils, which will feed on the root stock and root aphids.   The largest problem is Aster yellows, a virus,  which produce stunted plants with grotesquely formed flower heads.  The flowers will be all green with cactus looking points forming a semi globe. The disease is spread by aphids and other insects.
Plants are eaten by woodchucks, which will eat all the leaves, leaving only a stem with a few flower buds on them in June.  Plants self sow freely.



Easy from seed, sow at 55-70 degrees Fahrenheit in spring. Germination in 10-20 days.
Refrigeration for a week helps germination, light is also good for germination but some respond to darkness ( E. purpurea will germinate much better if the seeds arein darkness), so if no seeds have started to germinate in ten days move to darkness for a few days.  Sow on the surface and after seeds germinate cover lightly to about 1/8 of an inch.  For me germination starts in three days and is erratic for the next month. The other species can be slow growing the first year, they willput out one to a few small leaves and then spend the rest of the yeargrowing a deep tap root. 

Plants or E. pupurea  grow fast and are not difficult to transplant out. In early spring or fall divisions can be made- if you have a very nice form and you want to increase it-cut the plant off at the soil level after flowering and it will produce many small offsets from the crown.  Dig it up and pull off and pot up or replant.
Plants will Flower some times from an early sowing the first year- best flower production the third year.
Cut off seed heads to prevent self sowing. Seeds produced in quantities of about 7,000 seeds per once.


Will attract butterflies and birds. The birds like to eat the seeds in the winter, they will perch them selves on the dry cone and take the seeds right out.  These plants were used to make the infamous "snake oil" of the past- it was used as poultices for blood poisoning and snakebites. It was used as a mouthwash for gum and tooth problems.  The true seed is enclosed in a quadrangular shaped fruit called an achene.
For more information Here

Other species.

Echinacea atrorubens - Very much like E. pallida with purple or yellowish? Flowers.  Plants are found in Prairies and dry open woodlands in Mo to Arkansas and Oklahoma and Texas. Plants bloom in May-June.  This plant was lumped in with E. paradoxa with the yellow forms being E. atrorubens var. paradoxa and the purple colored forms from the west being called E. atrorubens var. atrorubens.

Echinacea laevigata  More information on this species.
Echinacea sanguinea=  From eastern Texas and western Louisiana north into Arkansas and southeastern
Oklahoma. Plants are not winter hardy in the north.

Echinacea simulata - "WAVY-LEAF PURPLE  CONEFLOWER"  This species is listed as locally  rare in Tennessee,  Native from Central Missouri to Tennessee and to Northern Georgia.  Its rang over laps E. pallida and this makes this species difficult to identify correctly, they are very similar in general appearance.  Flower color is variable from soft washed-out pink to deep purplish magenta.  Some populations are also very fragrant.  At this time not commonly available in the Hort trade but I am sure many plants an seeds have been sold under E. pallida. I have no information on its hybrid potential but this would be a good species to use in breeding. 

Here is a more technical description of the different species and there distribution.  HERE

Please do not dig plants out of the wild!!!!!!! Is the Purple Cornflower going extinct?

If you wish to grow Purple cone flowers as a commercial crop- check out this site. Here .

To see the list of plants we have to sell this year mail order HERE

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