Coneflower Asteraceae (Compositae) Perennials
These are tough, colorful perennials from central and eastern North America. Daisylike flowers, usually with narrow, arching rays, have brownish orange, dome-shaped centers and are held on straight stems above clumps of bristly foliage. Flowers are often lightly fragrant. Generally bloom over a long period in summer (may start in spring in mildwinter climates). Flowering may continue until frost.
Use on the outskirts of gardens or in wide borders with other robust perennials. They are also excellent in containers. Generally do not need staking. They perform well in summer heat (though not in the hottest desert areas, where they are mainly spring blooming). Good cut flowers.
Clumps spread slowly, become crowded after 3 or 4 years. Fleshy rootstocks can be difficult to separate; divide carefully, making sure each division has a shoot and roots. Plantings can also be increased by taking root cuttings, seeding, or transplanting self-sown seedlings.
Native to central North America. Prairie wildflower to 3–4 ft. high, 2 ft. wide. Flowers to 2 in. wide, with pink to rosy purple rays drooping from a purple-brown cone. Narrow, bristly leaves to 6 in. long.
Complex crosses have produced hybrid coneflowers that are popular for their vigor and extended color range. ‘Green Envy’ has fragrant, lime green blooms that pick up magenta-purple near the cone as they age. The green cone also fades to purple. It grows 2–3 ft. high. ‘Tomato Soup’ has bright red flowers up to 6 in. wide on 2-ft.-high plants. ‘Tiki Torch’ has bright orange to rose blooms on a 2–2 1/2-ft.-tall plant.
Echinacea hybrids, Big Sky series
Plants in the Big Sky series grow to 2–3 ft. high and 2 ft. wide; choices include butter yellow ‘Sunrise’, bright orange ‘Sunset’, and reddish orange ‘Sundown’ (‘Evan Saul’).
Echinacea hybrids, Meadowbright series
Plants in the Meadowbrite series grow 1 1/2–3 ft. tall and wide. ‘Mango Meadowbrite’ (2–3 ft. tall and wide) has orange-yellow petals surrounding orange-brown centers. ‘Orange Meadowbrite’ (‘Art’s Pride’) grows about the same size, bears reddish orange flowers. ‘Pixie Meadowbrite’ (only about 1 1/2 ft. tall and a bit wider) has pink, nondrooping petals surrounding a yellow-brown center.
Native to eastern North America. Grows to 3–5 ft. high, 2 ft. wide. Erect plant with narrow, lance-shaped leaves. Mauve pink flowers with slender, drooping rays appear in late summer to fall.
Native to the Ozarks. Grows to 2–3 ft. high, 2 ft. wide. Drooping yellow to orange-yellow rays surround a brown cone. Flowers are about 2 in. wide. Smooth, lance-shaped leaves to 8 in. long.
Bristly, oblong, 3–4-in.-long leaves form a 2-ft. wide, dense foliage clump from which rise sparsely leafed flowering stems 3–4 ft. tall. Showy, 4-in. flowers have drooping, rosy purple rays and a central orange-brown cone that resembles a beehive. If faded flowers are left in place, bristly seed heads hang on into winter; seeds are favored by finches. Many fine varieties are available.
Produces fully double pink flowers that resemble zinnias.