Growing Purple Coneflowers

Latest Update 11th May 2016.

Purple Coneflower
  • Binomial Name:                                      Echinacea purpurea.
  • Family:                                                   Asteraceae. 
  • Classification:                                         Herbaceous perennial.
  • Garden bed type:                                     Drip line irrigated. 
  • Recommended soil pH:                            5.5 - 6.5.  
  • Plant Spacings (centres):                         600mm.
  • Climate:                                                  Warm Temperate.
  • Geography:                                             Southern Hemisphere. 
Notes.
  • The photo shows 2 purple coneflower plants grown from seed earlier this year in a propagator and planted out as seedlings in an Ecobed.  They have grown well in their first season, and I will cut them back in spring before replanting them in one of my drip line irrigated garden beds.
  • They are a handsome plant and drought tolerant.  
  • Pollinating insects such as honey and native bees love them, and they will be useful additions to my herb and fruit beds.
  • They should be cut to the ground if they wilt badly in excessively dry conditions.
  • Regular deadheading will promote growth of new flowers.
  • I spray all my plants regularly with aerated compost tea to protect them from airborne pests and feed them through their foliage.
Growing Conditions:
  • Full sun. 
  • Drought Tolerant.
  • Prefers rich organic soil. 
  • Minimise soil disturbances to maintain a natural soil structure.  
Feed the Soil.  
  • In September, remove old mulch, fallen leaves and other decaying organic material from around the plants.  Dispose of it all in the compost heap.   
  • Apply a 60mm top dressing of home made compost and cover with fresh straw mulch.
Growing Instructions  
  • They can be propagated from cuttings taken from a mature plant's root system.
  • Make sure these root cuttings have plenty of fine roots attached. 
  • Plant them in the Eco propagator and water them in well.
  • Once the cuttings have started to grow foliage, move some of the mulch in a prepared bed to one side and dig holes twice as big as each plant's root ball.
  • Place a plant in each hole, back fill with compost and water them in well. 
  • They must be kept well watered as they mature during the first summer, but the drip irrigation will take over after that.
  • As soon as flowers die back, deadhead them to promote growth of more flowers.
  • If a plant becomes severely distressed or damaged due to drought or extremely hot, windy weather, cut the plant's foliage down to the ground.  It will recover and renew its foliage when milder conditions return. 
  • Spray the foliage every month with aerated compost tea to help feed the plant and help resist pests and diseases.
Organic Pest Control.
  • Purple coneflowers are usually pest and disease resistant, but if they are effected, these measures may help :- 
  • Caterpillars.  
    • When mixed with water, Bacillus thuringiensis becomes a potent (organically certified) killer of butterfly caterpillars.  It is sprayed onto the plants leaves, and when ingested, kills them by releasing toxins into their gut.  They stop feeding and die within a few days. 
  • Aphids (greenfly). 
    • I usually just rub them out when I find them with my fingers, but if there are lots of them, I remove them with a jet of tap water.
  • Slugs and Snails.
    • Snails love the shelter of a coneflower.  They tend to feed on fallen leaves and other debris more than the plants themselves, and I don't really regard them as a pest.
    • However, from time to time I lay organically approved iron chelate baits to keep them under control and protect surrounding plants.
  • Powdery mildew. 
    • A monthly foliar spray of aerated compost tea protects my plants from Powdery Mildew.
    • Alternatively a solution of 1 part cows milk to 9 parts water makes a reasonably effective organic pesticide against powdery mildew.  However, it needs to be applied early before this fungi gets well established, and frequently to keep it in check.
  • General:
    • Regular foliar sprays of aerated compost tea boost the natural defences of my plants by colonising the leaf surfaces with beneficial microbes.  These microbes defend the plant against airborne pests and diseases.
    • Similarly, proper soil preparation including regular applications of home made compost boosts the community of beneficial microbes, which defend the plants roots against plant pathogens.