Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea): Wild and Amazing

Coneflowers, or echinacea, are natural wildflowers of America that are adored by songbirds, bees, and butterflies. Echinacea purpurea, sometimes known as Purple Coneflower, is a well-liked perennial that produces an abundance of huge, daisy-like purple coneflowers that measure 5 inches (12 cm) across during the summer. The striking, long-lasting flowers are carried on sturdy, upright stalks covered in rough, dark green, lance-shaped leaves. They have a dark brown, spiky center cone surrounded by purple, drooping rays. Their abundance of nectar draws hummingbirds and butterflies. Birds that eat seeds will visit the blackened cones if the flower heads are left on in the fall.

Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)
Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)

Echinacea purpurea is a great addition to a garden; it is vigorous and low maintenance, drought, heat, and humidity tolerant, and it looks great when massed in perennial borders or flower arrangements. Its blossoms are used to create a fashionable herbal tea that is said to support immune system strength.

Interesting Science Videos

Taxonomic Classification of Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)

Taxonomic RankClassification
KingdomPlantae
PhylumAngiosperms
ClassDicotyledoneae
OrderAsterales
FamilyAsteraceae
GenusEchinacea
SpeciesEchinacea purpurea

Habitat and Distribution of Purple Coneflower

  • Echinacea purpurea originates in northeast Texas, Missouri, and Michigan and spreads eastward throughout the Great Plains bioregion. Purple coneflowers thrive in rocky prairies and open, forested areas. 
  • Purple coneflowers usually grow beside roadsides, in meadows, and open woodlands.
  • They are frequently found in locations with full sun to light shade and prefer well-drained soils.
  • It is well known that these plants can withstand a variety of soil conditions, such as sandy, loam, and clay soils.

Anatomy and Morphology of Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)

  • The plant has rigid stems that are upright, stoutly branched, and glabrous. The leaves are oblong to ovate lanceolate, with an acute apex and serrated edges.
  • Basal Lower stem leaves have decreasing petioles as one rises up.
  • The petioles are short and somewhat winged.
  • The leaves have a dark green top surface and few white trichomes.
  • The blooms form inflorescences that range from crateriform to hemispherical and end in peduncles.
  • The corollas are dark purple, pinkish, or reddish, and can be linear, elliptic, or obovate.
  • The center cone is thorny. The ray florets are tall and droop down.
  • Cypselae fruits are three or four-angled, tan or bicolored, and have a dark brown band distally.
  • As the bloom matures, the center cone (achene) becomes increasingly pointed and thorny, resulting in yellowish brown seeds that germinate unevenly after 10-21 days.
Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)
Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)
[Image source: http://dx.doi.org/10.5586/asbp.3556]

How to Grow and Care Purple Coneflower

Light: Coneflowers require direct sunlight and cannot tolerate partial shade. If placed in too much shade, they become lanky and flop. Plants are also more susceptible to foliar diseases, such as powdery mildew, when grown in the shadow.

Soil and Water: Coneflowers are not picky about soil type; they can thrive in sandy, rocky, and clay soil with a neutral pH (6.5 to 7.0). They dislike wet feet, therefore proper drainage is essential. Purple coneflower, which grows native to grass prairies, prefers well-drained soil. Established plants endure drought well, though they will blossom more if watered often during dry spells.

Temperature and humidity: Coneflowers can tolerate a broad variety of temperatures, from subzero winters in zone 3 to hot summers in zone 9. Summers that are hot and dry are not problematic. However, high humidity is not desirable.

Fertilizer: If the coneflowers are planted on soil that has been treated with organic matter, fertilizer should be limited to dusting a couple of handfuls of compost around each plant in the spring. Excessive fertilizing might result in leggy plants.

Pruning: Once the plants have done blooming, remove the spent blossoms to encourage another wave of blooms.

How To Propagate Purple Coneflower

Purple coneflower and other Echinacea species are most typically reproduced in the home garden through root division. They are also easily cultivated from seeds. Those who appreciate a challenge in gardening may want to experiment with root cuttings.
Purple coneflowers produced from seed may not flower in the first year, but some do. Plants propagated from root cuttings usually bloom in their first year.

Whatever way you use, adding more of these long-blooming garden stars to your yard is well worth the effort. It is really easy to cultivate; all it need is full sunlight and well-drained soil.

Propagate coneflowers with root cuttings

  • Gently lift the soil around the plant’s base to expose the roots.
  • Trim off portions of root that are at least as thick as a pencil. Cut them into 3 inch-long pieces.
  • Return your original plant to its home.
  • Plant each root cutting in a 4-inch pot filled with compost, coir, or perlite. A combination of moist sand, compost, and perlite can also suffice. If you already have a preferred combination for rooting other cuttings, that is ideal.\
  • Cover with about a half-inch of potting material and wet the soil. Put the pots in a warm location. Label them so you do not forget.
  • New shoots may take up to six weeks to emerge from the surface. Once they do, keep growing your young coneflowers until they’re big enough to plant out.
  • If the season does not allow for outside planting, you may elect to upgrade to a 6-inch pot and grow them larger.

Grow Echinacea from Seeds

  • Echinacea is easy to grow from seed, and seed firms provide a wide variety of varieties. If you already have a natural variety of coneflowers in your garden, you can try preserving its seeds as well.
  • Prepare the seed trays. Use any seed starting mix that is well-drained. If in doubt, use some perlite.
  • Sow one to two seeds each cell. Using a blunt pencil, leave a minor mark on the surface to determine if you dropped a tiny seed or not.
  • Echinacea seeds require sunshine to sprout, so do not hide them. A light covering is ideal.
  • Mist the surface, cover with a humidity dome or plastic wrap, and store in a bright, warm environment.

Propagate Purple Coneflower Plants by Division

This is the simplest and most usual approach for propagating coneflower plants. Echinacea purpurea has a large, fibrous root system that is easily dug up and divided; in fact, it should be divided every few years to avoid becoming root-bound and decreasing.

  • Gently dig around the base of the plant to release the root system. Try to preserve it as a single unbroken ball. Get as deep as your spade can go.
  • Carefully extract the root ball from the hole.
  • Cut the root ball in half with a soil knife, large old kitchen knife, garden spade, or machete, leaving a decent number of sprouts on each piece. If your root ball is huge, you may be able to divide it in thirds.
  • Transplant these new plant-root pieces to their new location in the garden, using the same depth as previously.
  • Give your new coneflowers plenty of attention over the first few months. They were drought-tolerant until they were dug up with a fully formed root system. However, they will require some assistance until they are established.

Potting and Repotting Purple Coneflower

  • Make sure the soil in the new area is well prepared with compost, well-drained, and amended if necessary.
  • To allow the purple coneflower’s roots to grow, dig a hole that is at least twice the width of the root ball and somewhat deeper.
  • Gently remove the purple coneflower from its original place
  • Place the purple coneflower plant in the center of the hole, with the top of the root ball level with the surrounding dirt or slightly higher.
  • Backfill the hole with the removed dirt, gently firming it around the root ball to eliminate air pockets.
  • Water the purple coneflower thoroughly to settle the soil and provide proper root-to-soil contact.
  • If necessary, add a stake or support for the purple coneflower to ensure that it grows erect and sturdy.

Chemical Composition and Active Components of Purple Coneflower

Active CompoundChemical ClassificationUses
EchinacosideGlycosideImmune system support, anti-inflammatory properties
EchinaceinAlkamideAntiviral, antibacterial properties
Rosmarinic acidPhenolic compoundAntioxidant, anti-inflammatory properties
Cichoric acidPhenolic compoundAntioxidant, immune system support, anti-inflammatory properties
Sesquiterpene lactonesTerpenoidsAnti-inflammatory, immunomodulatory properties
PolysaccharidesCarbohydratesImmune system support, antiviral properties
Essential oilsTerpenoidsAntimicrobial properties, respiratory support
AlkamidesAlkylamidesImmune system support, anti-inflammatory properties
IsobutylamidesAlkylamidesImmune system support, anti-inflammatory properties
FlavonoidsPolyphenolsAntioxidant, anti-inflammatory properties, cardiovascular support
PolyacetylenesAlkenesAntimicrobial, anti-inflammatory properties
Chlorogenic acidPhenolic compoundAntioxidant, anti-inflammatory properties

Benefits/Uses of Purple Coneflower

Echinacea plants contain a variety of bioactive chemicals, including: Alkamides (also called alkylamides), Glycoproteins, Polysaccharides, Antioxidants. These chemicals are thought to give a variety of health benefits: Anti-inflammatory, immunomodulatory (altering the immune system), Anxiolytic (anxiety reducer), Antimicrobial.

Health Benefits of Purple Coneflower

Common cold: Echinacea is probably best known for its use in treating the common cold.

Despite its popularity, research results have been varied, and there is no conclusive proof that echinacea helps patients with colds. A 2014 analysis examined more than 20 research with over 4,000 participants on various types of echinacea to determine whether any were beneficial for the common cold. Researchers discovered that echinacea was more successful than a placebo (an deliberately inefficient medication provided to a control group) in curing a cold. However, no echinacea species were shown to be particularly effective in the treatment or prevention of the common cold.

Skin Conditions: Echinacea may be beneficial for some skin diseases, such as eczema and pruritus. In one such in vitro trial (conducted in a lab rather than on actual individuals), an extract of Echinacea purpurea was proven to lessen eczema symptoms. Researchers believed that the echinacea extract had anti-inflammatory properties that warranted further investigation.

In a short human experiment, Echinacea purpurea emulsions and shampoos were investigated for their possible advantages against pruritus (itchy skin).

Adult participants used echinacea extract-based emulsions or shampoos for four weeks. All kinds of topical echinacea significantly reduced pruritus and other characteristics, such as skin dryness.

Pain and Inflammation: Echinacea has been used for ages to relieve pain and inflammation. A thorough review published in 2021 found that echinacea may reduce proinflammatory cytokines (substances released by immune cells) while increasing anti-inflammatory cytokines.

This may be especially helpful during a cytokine storm, which occurs when proinflammatory cytokines are quickly released as a result of an illness. Echinacea may also help alleviate discomfort, which is frequently associated with inflammation.

Anxiety: Another reported advantage of echinacea is its anxiolytic (antianxiety) properties.

According to the findings, anxiety scores improved significantly in the echinacea group when compared to the placebo group, particularly in people who had high anxiety at the start of the trial.

Side Effects of Purple coneflower

Many people continue to use echinacea despite the fact that there are no established health advantages. It ranks among the top ten herbal supplements in the United States.

Echinacea is available in a variety of strengths and forms, and it is not regulated in the same way that medicines are. These considerations make it difficult to determine an appropriate dose. If you decide to take echinacea, follow the advice on the label and don’t take more than recommended.

Most people experience no negative effects from using echinacea, as long as they do not exceed the suggested dosage. However, as with any plant, echinacea is not for everyone. If you have a medical condition, take medications, or have allergies, see your doctor before consuming echinacea.

The most prevalent echinacea adverse effects are gastrointestinal in nature. Echinacea has the following common side effects:

  • Stomach ache
  • Diarrhea and constipation.
  • Skin rash and allergic reactions.
  • Nausea
  • In rare situations, echinacea use may cause a severe allergic reaction.

Do not use echinacea if you:

  • Are allergic to chrysanthemums, daisies, marigolds, or ragweed? Echinacea might induce a rash or a serious allergic reaction.
  • Are pregnant because the safety of this plant has not been established in pregnant women.
  • Have cervical or breast cancer, as echinacea may interact with some chemotherapy medicines for these illnesses.
  • Take immunosuppressants if you have an autoimmune disease or need to recover from an organ transplant. Echinacea may interact with these medications.

Pests/Diseases on Purple Coneflower

Pest/DiseaseDescription [Cause/Symptoms]Prevention
AnthracnoseCaused by various fungi in the Colletotrichum genus. Dark spots on leaves, yellowing, eventual leaf death.Apply copper fungicide like Bonide. Maintain good garden hygiene, spacing, and air circulation.
AphidsSucking pests that leave behind honeydew, may spread diseases.Monitor for severe symptoms. Use cold water blasts to wash them off. Employ beneficial insects or controls.
Aster YellowsCaused by phytoplasmas spread by leafhoppers. Abnormal growth, yellowing, stunted flowers.Remove infected plants promptly. Use row covers to deter leafhoppers. Apply Beauveria bassiana products.
DeerYoung plants vulnerable to deer browsing. Older plants typically resistant.Protect young plants with barriers or repellents.
Eriophyid MitesTiny mites causing distorted flower heads and tufts, often mistaken for aster yellows.Regularly snip off infected heads. Clear debris and cut plants back in fall to control overwintering.
Fusarium WiltCaused by Fusarium oxysporum fungus. Symptoms include wilting, dark patches on leaves.Use biofungicides like Mycostop. Maintain proper soil drainage and avoid overwatering.
Japanese BeetlesMetallic green beetles that chew on foliage, causing holes.Handpick and drown beetles. Introduce beneficial nematodes to control larvae.
Leaf SpotsCaused by fungi like Alternaria, Botrytis. Dark spots, necrosis, lesions.Water at soil level, avoid crowding plants. Use fungicides like Mycostop or copper-based sprays.
LeafhoppersSpread aster yellows. Pale green insects with clear wings, causing stippling.Clean garden debris to deter overwintering. Use row covers or introduce beneficial bugs like assassin bugs.
Powdery MildewCaused by Erysiphe cichoracearum fungus. White powdery growth on leaves.Improve air circulation, avoid overhead watering. Treat with fungicides if necessary.
Stem RotCaused by Sclerotinia sclerotiorum fungus or excessive soil moisture.Improve drainage, reduce watering frequency. Trim plants to improve air circulation. Use copper fungicides.
Alternaria leaf spotSmall dark brown to black leaf spots become oblong and develop lighter-colored centers as they enlarge. Spots on young plants are often along the midrib.Water in a manner that keeps moisture off the leaves and stems. Apply a fungicide to protect plants.
Aster yellowsFlowers remain green. Leaf-like structures form in place of some flower parts and tight clusters of such flowers may form. In the spring, foliage may be bright yellow.Remove infected plants. Remove weeds in the area and other aster-related plants that have similar symptoms.
Septoria leaf spotPurplish-brown spots develop on the leaves, often completely covering older leaves.Water in a manner that keeps moisture off the leaves and stems.
White smutYellow spots form on the leaves and become brown with age.Several plants in the aster family are susceptible and should be examined for symptoms. Apply a fungicide to protect plants.

Interesting Facts About Purple Coneflower

  • The name Echinacea derives from the Greek word ekhinos, which means “hedgehodge or sea urchin” and refers to the spiky center.
  • Coneflower is more than just one species; it includes Echinacea purpurea, Echinacea angustifolia, and Echinacea pallida. Each species has its own distinct features and benefits.
  • Coneflower has a rich history, and Native American cultures have used it for different purposes, including medicinal cures and spiritual rituals.
  • Coneflower seeds are both attractive and tasty. They can be used in dishes including salads, soups, and baked products. Additionally, birds frequently seek out the seeds as a food source.
  • One advantage of planting coneflower in your garden is that it is deer-resistant. Coneflower’s mildly bitter flavor deters deer from grazing, making it a reliable choice for gardening in deer-populated areas.
  • In certain cultures, the coneflower represents power and resilience. Its ability to grow in harsh environments, as well as its medical benefits, have gained it a reputation as a symbol of perseverance and bravery.

35 Amazing Varieties of Coneflower

Variety NameSpecial Characteristics
AvalancheWhite blooms with green centers, deer-resistant, blooms June-August
Cheyenne SpiritMulticolored blooms, fast growth, blooms June-August
DaydreamSoft yellow flowers, blooms May-October
Double Scoop CranberryDouble-petaled, clear red blooms, blooms July-September
FirebirdGlowing non-fading color, shuttlecock blooms, blooms midsummer-fall
Flame ThrowerBicolor yellow and orange petals, blooms midsummer-fall
GreenlineChartreuse green flowers, blooms June-August
Hot PapayaBrilliant gold to flame orange flowers, blooms early-midsummer
LeilaniBright yellow flowers, blooms July-October with deadheading
PowWow Wild BerryPinkish-purple flowers, continuous blooming, blooms June-August
Secret PassionFully double and lush blossoms, fragrant and fade-resistant, blooms throughout summer
Tomato SoupVibrant red flowers, large blooms, blooms June-August
Intense OrangeMulti-tone shades from deep orange to rich pumpkin, blooms summer-frost
SunrisePale yellow flowers changing to gold, very fragrant, blooms all summer
Green EnvyGreen ray petals with magenta halo, slightly shorter bloom season, blooms mid-late summer
RazzmatazzPatented double coneflower with bright pink blooms, blooms June-August
DoubledeckerUnique double-layer bloom, long bloom period from late spring to late summer
Kim’s Knee HighSmallest coneflower variety, clear pink flowers, blooms June-August
BravadoLarge blooms in various pink shades, robust plant, outward-facing petals
Fragrant AngelLarge white daisy-like flowers with strong fragrance, blooms all summer
Harvest MoonDeep golden yellow petals with orange cones, heat-tolerant, blooms all summer
Mango MeadowbriteUnique tangerine-orange blooms, blooms mid-summer to mid-fall
Orange MeadowbriteUnique deep orange petals with coppery-orange cones, blooms June-August
Pixie MeadowbriteDwarf variety with dense masses of purple flowers, blooms late spring-late summer
Butterfly KissesCompact double flowers with pink petals and raspberry center, blooms June-August
Green JewelBright green ray petals with dark green center cones, blooms late spring-late summer
Ferris WheelPale cream petals turning to lemon with reddish center cone, blooms late summer-fall
Milk ShakeDouble vanilla-white blooms with elongated florets, blooms June-August
Pink PoodleBright fluffy double pink blooms resembling zinnias, blooms early-late summer
MarmaladeFluffy marmalade-orange heads with droopy rays, sporadic flowering, blooms summer-early fall
White SwanLarge daisy-like white blooms with coppery-orange cones, blooms June-August
Solar FlareLarge magenta-red petals with chocolate center and dark purple stem, blooms June-August
SombreroRich orange-red petals with single whorl flowers, blooms late spring-late summer
Primadonna Deep RoseDeep pink daisy-like blooms with slightly droopy rays, blooms late spring-late summer
Magnus SuperiorRosy-violet rays with deeper lavender and larger copper center cones, blooms late spring-late summer

Video on Complete Care Guide to Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)

YouTube video

References

  • Percival SS. Use of echinacea in medicine. Biochem Pharmacol. 2000 Jul 15;60(2):155-8. doi: 10.1016/s0006-2952(99)00413-x. PMID: 10825459.
  • https://www.myhomepark.com/blog//why-are-purple-coneflowers-echinacea-purpurea-important
  • https://www.verywellhealth.com/echinacea-benefits-side-effects-and-more-7503379
  • Manayi A, Vazirian M, Saeidnia S. Echinacea purpurea: Pharmacology, phytochemistry and analysis methods. Pharmacogn Rev. 2015 Jan-Jun;9(17):63-72. doi: 10.4103/0973-7847.156353. PMID: 26009695; PMCID: PMC4441164.
  • https://gardenerspath.com/how-to/disease-and-pests/coneflower-diseases-pests/
  • Petkova, N.; Petrova, A.; Ivanov, I.; Hambarlyiska, I.; Tumbarski, Y.; Dincheva, I.; Ognyanov, M.; Denev, P. Chemical Composition of Different Extracts from Echinacea purpurea (L.) Moench Roots and Evaluation of Their Antimicrobial Activity. ChemEngineering 20237, 94. https://doi.org/10.3390/chemengineering7050094
  • https://facts.net/nature/plants/14-intriguing-facts-about-coneflower/
  • Petrova A, Ognyanov M, Petkova N, Denev P. Phytochemical Characterization of Purple Coneflower Roots (Echinacea purpurea (L.) Moench.) and Their Extracts. Molecules. 2023 May 8;28(9):3956. doi: 10.3390/molecules28093956. PMID: 37175366; PMCID: PMC10180171.
  • https://www.thespruce.com/top-coneflower-varieties-1315807
  • https://www.thespruce.com/echinacea-purple-coneflowers-1402840

About Author

Photo of author

Jyoti Bashyal

Jyoti Bashyal, a graduate of the Central Department of Chemistry, is an avid explorer of the molecular realm. Fueled by her fascination with chemical reactions and natural compounds, she navigates her field's complexities with precision and passion. Outside the lab, Jyoti is dedicated to making science accessible to all. She aspires to deepen audiences' understanding of the wonders of various scientific subjects and their impact on the world by sharing them with a wide range of readers through her writing.

Leave a Comment