Gardening Articles: Flowers :: Perennials

Coneflower

by Holly Shimizu


Echinacea's prickly cone sits crownlike surrounded by purple petals.

Few plants have created more of a sensation among gardeners and herbalists in recent years than coneflower (Echinacea). Numerous studies, primarily from Germany, suggest that use of this herb does indeed bolster immune systems. Health claims aside, gardeners wax eloquent over the plant's vigor and hardiness, and its long, midsummer-into-fall bloom season. Birds and butterflies also seek out the flowers.

The plant's botanical name comes from the Greek echinos, meaning "hedgehog," a reference to its sharp, pointed flower bracts. "Coneflower" is a reference to the flowers' raised or conical centers.

All nine species of coneflowers are native to North America, but only the four listed here are available commercially. All are widely adaptable, so they will likely thrive in your garden. Except where noted, all are cold hardy to -35°F (USDA Hardiness Zone 3). By the same token, coneflowers thrive in southern and mild regions, through zone 9 in both the East and West.

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