Echinacea or coneflower is a perennial native flower staple in this Northern Plains region (USDA 4b-5a) for its beauty, long bloom season, hardiness in dry periods, ability to overwinter, and pollinator attraction. A bit more growing information about Echinacea may be useful.
In the past decade, more cultivars of Echinacea have been developed to give gardeners many choices of flower color and plant height. While color is a compelling feature of the plant, its other characteristics are also important. Sometimes gardeners are disappointed in the hardiness or lack of pollinator attraction in a cultivar, for example.
Mount Cuba Center is a botanical garden with the mission to “inspire an appreciation for the beauty and value of native plants” near Wilmington, DE (USDA 6b-7a). The center ran trials of 75 species and cultivars of Echinacea to evaluate them on habit, vigor, floral display, and disease resistance. Plants were evaluated on a five-point scale weekly in the growing season.
The three-year trial allowed for a variety of weather conditions. Plants were grown in clay loam soil about 6.5 pH, in full sun. If trial plants died the first year, they were replaced to account for poor establishment or individual plant quality. Plants received minimal care. Supplemental water was provided the first year to establish them and during drought. They chose this treatment to be similar to the way most landscapes are tended.
A Pollinator Watch Team gathered data for two years of the trial to determine which trial Echinacea attracted pollinators, adding an extra .3 point to their tally.
The best performing Echinacea included in the Mount Cuba trial are E. purpurea ‘Pica Bella’, E. ‘Sensation Pink’, E. ‘Santa Fe’, E. ‘TNECHKR’ (KISMET® Raspberry), E. ‘Snow Cone’, E. ‘POST301’ (Postman), E. ‘Glowing Dream’, E. ‘Purple Emperor’, E. purpurea ‘Fragrant Angel’, E. ‘TNECHKIO’ (KISMET® Intense Orange), E. ‘Balsomcor’ (SOMBRERO® Hot Coral), and E. ‘Julia’.
The American Gardener magazine reported on this study in their March/April 2021 issue. The report provided by Mount Cuba, with color photos of the best performing Echinacea and their features, may be found at the link below. Please note that the best performers that also attracted pollinators have a butterfly icon in the plant title.
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