Tag Archives: echinacea

7 Reasons to Grow Echinacea

Choosing plants for your garden can be challenging. There are so many incredible flowers, herbs, and vegetables to choose from. While everyone should make a garden that is uniquely theirs, one plant that I think deserves a spot in every garden is echinacea.

Echinacea is beautiful.

This one is a bit of a no-brainer, but echinacea is a gorgeous addition to the garden! They look lovely, added to cottage or potager-style gardens.

We carry four varieties of echinacea:

  • Echinacea Pallida (Pale Purple Coneflower)
    Drooping flower petals are 1½-3½ in. long and may range in color from pink, purple, or white, but are typically rosy purple, with a purple-brown flower disc. Long, narrow leaves.
  • Echinacea Angustifolia (Narrow-Leaved Coneflower)
    The plants are the smallest of the echinaceas (8-18 in.) and the spreading pink ray petals are the shortest (¾-13⁄8 in. long). The leaves are long and narrow.
  • Echinacea Paradoxa (Yellow Coneflower)
    The most exceptional of the echinaceas because the petals are yellow rather than purple, hence the name E. paradoxa. Leaves are long and narrow.
  • Echinacea Purpurea (Purple Coneflower)
    The flowers are 3-4 in. across with pink-orange cone-shaped centers and purple-pink rays. 

Echinacea is a native plant.

Selecting native species for your garden, whenever possible, is an excellent idea. Native species like echinacea tend to be low-maintenance. They’ve evolved to handle the climate conditions and pest and disease pressure found here in the Eastern United States. They also help provide food and habitat for native species.

Echinacea attracts butterflies.

As a native flower, echinacea is an excellent food source for native insects. You’ll frequently see native butterflies like yellow swallowtails and great spangled fritillaries visiting echinacea blooms.

Beneficial insects like bees and predatory beetles may also overwinter in dead foliage and stems. It’s best to avoid trimming back dead material until the temperature is consistently over 50°F in the spring.

Echinacea attracts birds.

Along with helping native insects, echinacea also helps native birds. You may spot goldfinches and other seed-eating birds visiting the flower seed heads in late summer and early fall.

Echinacea is a hardy perennial.

It’s easy to fall in love with flowers that bloom year after year. Echinacea will bloom for about two months each summer with little care and maintenance. It’s a great plant for busy gardeners. Also, echinacea will self sow and spread on its own. It isn’t so vigorous that it will take over your garden, but once you have it growing, it’s easy to transplant to other sections of your garden or share with friends.

Echinacea is drought-tolerant.

Echinacea has extensive root systems, and most varieties have a long taproot. These roots make them incredibly drought tolerant. If you live in an area experiencing more droughts or don’t get around to watering as often as you should, echinacea is a great choice.

Be sure echinacea gets enough water while the seed is germinating and it’s first getting established.

Echinacea is a potent medicinal herb.

You may have noticed that echinacea is frequently listed as an ingredient in “cold and flu” tea blends from your local grocery store. This is because studies have indicated that echinacea has immunostimulant, bacteriostatic, and anti-viral activity. It’s believed that echinacea can help your immune system respond and shorten the length of your cold or flu.

It can be used in teas and tinctures or infused in salves. A great thing about echinacea is that the entire plant is medicinal, including the roots, leaves, and flowers.

Additional Herbalism & Garden Resources

Garden Bloggers Fling 2016: Minneapolis

Two weekends ago I had the great fun of attending the annual Garden Bloggers Fling, held this time in Minneapolis. Turns out Minneapolis is a haven of beautiful gardens.

Community vegetable garden in Minneapolis
Sprawling community vegetable garden in Minneapolis

I was especially impressed by how many pollinator-focused gardens I saw. All over the place, in small neighbourhood yards, along roads, there was milkweed and Echinacea and beebalm and rudbeckia, pollinator heaven.

Minneapolis pollinator garden 2I love photographing the insects themselves, and often find myself stalking them quietly, trying to get close enough for a decent shot without a fancy zoom lens. It makes me feel like a pollinator paparazza.

pink beebalm with bee

Check out the hot pink of this beebalm! It can range from soft lavender to darker purple, red, and as you see, firey pink. Beebalm, a member of the mint family, is a great source of nectar to bees, like the big bumblebee I caught feeding here, as well as butterflies and hummingbirds. It’s a sun-loving, edible perennial, also good for a tea that is soothing to coughs. You can find beebalm as part of our Welcome to the Garden Pollinator Mix.

A delightful mix of beebalm shades.
A delightful mix of beebalm shades.

An annual that I saw less of than many other pollinator-attracting flowers is cleome, or spider flower. Cleome is tall, strikingly pretty, and easy to grow, reseeding itself readily. It attracts birds, bees, and butterflies, but also a critter one might not remember when thinking about pollinators – bats.

cleome

Cleome can come in various pinks, white, or a variegated mixture, like the Queen Mix we carry.

red admiral on echinacea

More pollinator chasing! This is a Red Admiral butterfly feasting on the nectar of an Echinacea blossom, of which I saw a great many all over Minneapolis. The adult butterflies actually prefer tree sap, rotting fruit, and bird droppings, but will settle for flowers. If you’re trying to attract and care for them in your garden, remember to feed the caterpillars too – they like stinging nettle, tall wild nettle, wood nettle, and false nettle.

But perhaps the coolest pollinator-related thing I saw had no flowers or pollinators in it at all. It was the not-yet-open Tashjian Bee and Pollinator Discovery Center at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. We were privileged to get a sneak preview of this beautiful new building which will house exhibits related to bees and other pollinators and whose primary purpose will be education about the tremendous importance of bees in our food chain and how we can be involved in supporting them. The Discover Center is scheduled to open in September with the main building and exhibits, as well as learning labs where the view through a microscope can be projected onto overhead screens for all to see and kids can participate in various bee-related learning activities. The longer range vision for the 28 acres of land around the Center, if they can get the funding, is to plant demonstration food gardens of varying scales, from backyard size to large farm size, which employ pollinator-friendly cultivation practices.

Read more about the Bee Discovery Center here.

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Are you local to our neck of the woods in Louisa County, VA? We’re hosting our annual Farm Open House and Tomato Tasting on August 20th. Come tour our farm, taste more than 50 varieties of tomatoes, as well as herbs, and have a chance to buy directly from our seed picking room. Email me with an RSVP that says which date you’ll come in order to be entered in a prize drawing! gryphon AT southernexposure.com