Coneflowers and Cultivated Cousins

Coneflowers (Echinacea purpura) are common in flowerbeds and public spaces in this region. People find that the perennial Echinacea grows well yearly, has few diseases or pests, and requires modest maintenance once established. 

As the coneflower is native here, its appearance is authentic with other successfully growing plants on the Northern Plains. 

Like other native plants, Echinacea is a part of the food web and attracts pollinators. Here are native coneflowers meeting the sun on a cool morning ahead of the day’s insects.

Native plants have detractors too. Open-pollinated plants can spread unwanted seeds in other parts of the yard. Diversity of flower color and size, leaf color, and size of the plant are reasons plant breeders develop new cultivars of the native plant for gardeners. This ‘Pow Wow’ Echinacea is an example.

The vibrant hue draws the eye when pairing the ‘Pow Wow’ coneflower with other plants of similar flower color. Joe Pye weed grows well in this bed and the herbaceous perennial re-grows each spring as a backdrop to these cone flowers. The coneflowers can be grown from seed and transplanted.

White Echinacea cultivars fit well with other flowerbed colors. The white flower color attracts bees and other pollinators so that they may visit these plants.

Cultivars provide more diversity for a plant like the hardy coneflower. Unfortunately, when plant breeders develop a cultivar, a trait of the native plant is sometimes lost and not discovered for years. Some botanical gardens like Mount Cuba Center in Delaware study pollinators and native plants in their ecoregion and the concerns about cultivars. An article in the July/August 2022 Horticulture magazine discusses these issues. 

On a summer day, we enjoy the coneflower diversity. Thank you for visiting our weekly Plant Exchange Blog. 

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