GGW Plant Pick of The Month- Echinacea

– Posted in: Garden Plants
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Echinacea purpurea 'Rubinglow' at the Lurie Garden in Chicago, IL

This winter I finalized a 10,000 square foot design for clients who reside in a rural setting in central Illinois. Their recently renovated Prairie Style home has lovely views of nearby timber and a vast meadow. The site and home lend themselves to a more naturalistic garden.

Coneflowers (Echinacea spp.) are in abundance in the design. As I’ve been submitting plant orders for the upcoming installation, they seemed an appropriate choice for May’s GGW Plant Pick of The Month.

Although there are nine species of coneflower, all native to central or eastern North America, purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) is the most commonly sold species at nurseries. Numerous cultivars have been developed for flower size and color, and plant size.

Several of my favorite Echinacea purpurea cultivars include:  

  • ‘Coconut Lime’ is the first double-flowered white coneflower. This cultivar has a relatively compact habit, only 24-30″ tall, with 20+ blooms per plant. It bloomed all summer from June-early September. ‘Coconut Lime’ pairs well with Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia) and purple love grass (Eragrostis spectabilis).Echinacea purpurea 'Coconut Lime' with Perovskia atriplicifolia (background)
  • ‘Kim’s Knee High’ is the first dwarf purple coneflower, only 24″ tall with strongly reflexed pink petals. I enjoy ‘Kim’s Knee High’ adjacent to meadow sage (Salvia ‘May Night’), thousand flowered aster (Calamintha nepeta subsp. nepeta), thread-leaf bluestar (Amsonia hubrichtii), catmint (Nepeta ‘Walker’s Low’).
  • ‘Ruby Giant’ has sturdy stems with multiple branches sporting 5-7″ wide flowers. The 30-36″ tall plants bloom from late June to frost. Perfect paired with switch grass (Panicum virgatum ‘Shenandoah’), rattlesnake master (Eryngium yuccifolium), sneezeweed (Helenium autumnale).
  • I am anxious to trial Arie Blom’s latest introduction, ‘Hot Papaya’. Flowers are typically uniform in color and said not to fade. Blooms appear from June-August on 30″ tall plants.

    Echinacea purpurea 'Hot Papaya' (Image courtesy of Coneflower.com)

    (Image courtesy of Coneflower.com)

Two other species of Echinacea I use on occasion are the pale purple coneflower (E. pallida) and  the yellow coneflower (E. paradoxa). Both species combine particularly well with prairie dropseed (Sporobolus heterolepis).

Echinacea paradoxa (Image courtesy of Heronswood)

Echinacea paradoxa (Image courtesy of Heronswood)

Concerning cultural requirements, coneflowers are tolerant of most growing conditions but prefer well drained soil and full sun. Once established they are drought tolerant.

Do you have a favorite Echinacea purpurea cultivar or successful planting combinations including coneflowers you’d like to share? If so, simply post your comments below and link to your own site where you’ve posted photos of coneflowers and comments about your experiences working with the plant.

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Adam Woodruff

Adam Woodruff

Adam Woodruff has practiced garden design since 1995. He trained as a Botanist at Eastern Illinois University. Woodruff attributes his unique design aesthetic, naturalism with a twist, to early college exposures to a diverse range of plants and environments (collecting trips in local prairies, field excursions to bogs in Canada and treks through forests of the Northeast). He also maintained the campus greenhouse, where he fell in love with tropicals. In recent years, influences on his designs include travels abroad to Europe, Asia and the Yucatan peninsula as well as observation of the work of great plantsmen such as Piet Oudolf and Roy Diblik. Woodruff’s designs often combine grasses, prairie natives and perennials with lush tropical foliage and seasonal blooms. This harmonious blending of plant material that is not conventionally grouped together is the ‘twist’ that makes his style unique.
Adam Woodruff

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