One of the staples of summer perennials is Coneflower. The coneflowers are very drought tolerant and adapted to very hot conditions that we see in the summer. These plants bloom well through the summer months and continue through to the fall. This is why coneflower is a great choice for the July plant of the month.
Purple Coneflower, Echinacea purpurea, is one of the many different species of coneflowers readily available at local nurseries and garden centers. It is a herbaceous perennial, meaning that it comes back from the roots every year. Coneflower leaves are dark green, oval shaped with serrate or toothed margins and they become smaller and more lanceolate shaped at the top of the plant. The leaves are coarse in texture. The plants grow up to 3 feet tall and wide. The flowers on a purple coneflower are a purple aster or daisy type of flower with an orange center. The flowers bloom throughout the summer into late summer.
There are many different species and varieties of coneflower to choose from for many colors and growing habits. Echinacea pallida is the pale coneflower that is a pale purple-pink color with droopy flowers. Some varieties of the purple coneflower include the 'PowWow' series that are found in brighter colors than the straight species. Another great choice is 'Fragrant Angel' which is a white flowered coneflower. There are also the 'Cone-fections' choices in pink and white as a double-flowering variety.
Coneflowers are very resilient plants. They will tolerate most any growing conditions. They prefer full sun and average to well-drained soils. They will tolerate dry conditions so they are a great choice for a dry, warm location in your landscape. They can be used as a specimen plant, placed together in a grouping in a garden, or planted throughout a prairie location. It is often found in wildflower and prairie seed mixes.
Coneflowers don't face many disease and insect problems, the most damaging problem they deal with is aster yellows. Aster yellows is a virus spread by a leafhopper that can cause deformation in the leaves and flowers of the plants. It can cause witches brooms, green or discolored flowers, distorted flowers, and other problems. When aster yellows appears in your plant, the only management practice is to remove it before it spreads to other aster plants in your landscape.
Echinacea is used widely today as an herbal remedy, according to the USDA NRCS. It is used as a painkiller and to help fight infections and reduce the length and severity of a common cold. The USDA NRCS also states that Echinacea was used by the Plains Indians and was followed in use by the early settlers for nearly every kind of sickness. It can be taken as a tablet, juice, and tea.
Coneflowers are a great addition to any landscape setting, on an acreage or otherwise. This plant can be found in most any color to fit your landscaping needs. It can be found in prairie planting seed mixes and as containerized plants to put into landscapes. Purple Coneflower is an adaptable plant has great uses for most any growing conditions and therefore could be added to your landscape. So, the next time you are looking for a great new perennial, look to Purple Coneflower.