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Coneflower, a Low Maintenance Plant

Echinacea, or purple coneflower, once grew in my garden. Birds, bees and butterflies love it, and I like its traditional cottage garden look and its interesting history. Native Americans and early settlers used it extensively for medicinal purposes. Reports say it reduces fever and arthritis symptoms and helps to prevent migraines. Parts of the plant are known to boost the immune system, and it is sold today in capsules, tablets, powder, gels, and creams. I have experimented, and the mature leaves, although a bit fuzzy, do not have a bad taste. Young, smooth leaves, however, are bitter!

I was happy to grow it in my garden, because it is a low-maintenance plant that is usually pest and disease free. So I was disappointed a few years ago when all my plants developed a virus, causing yellow splotches on the leaves and deformed foliage and flowers. Eventually I pulled the plants up and crossed coneflower off my list.

Not so fast! Last week I was walking in my garden when I noticed an unfamiliar purple splotch in my front garden. I checked it out and found a stand of coneflowers, disease free and blooming freely! Though coneflowers are said to be sun lovers, this is in a partially shaded area, at least fifty yards from the location of the original plants.

Echinacea blooms June till fall in zones 4-9. It will survive drought and will grow in medium to poor soil. There are modern cultivars that bloom in many shades of pink, purple, orange, yellow, and even green. Some have double decker flowers, with a second row of petals sprouting from the cone. Now that coneflower has shown me where it wants to grow, I am tempted to purchase some of these great new varieties. But I love the original purple ones, and I am glad they are happy in my garden. 

Maintenance? Obviously, it didn't need me at all!

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Reader Comments (16)

I love surprises like this in the garden. How lovely that your coneflowers not only returned, but that they're happy and healthy too! I hope they make lots of disease-resistant seed this year, so that you have even more of them surprising you next summer.

June 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCurbstone Valley Farm

Such a nice surprise to have pop up in your garden!

I've always had difficulty gettin them to mature plants as the slugs/snails get them, so I've always had to keep them in pots close to the house. This year is my first attempt at having them in the ground and so far they've survived!

I do love Coneflowers, and great to hear they help against migraines, as quite a sufferer I could really do with drinking some echinacea tea!

June 22, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterliz

I LOVE echinacea, that's one of the flowers I'm really excited to see. I think the regular ones I always do the best in my yard, reseeding all over. I have several that are different colors, fragrant and double decker, but the plain ones are still my favorite.
That's a pretty great surprise you found, maybe a bird brought it to you?

June 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCatherine

Deb, I use to have echinacea in my garden, but alas they are no more. It turns out that they are a woodchuck favorite food. One day several years ago, I stopped over to chat with my neighbors for about 20 minutes while we were all out working in our gardens. The neighbor was lamenting the fact that the woodchuck had eaten all her echinacea and I was counting my blessings that mine hadn't been touched. When I returned home, I discovered that while I was commiserating with the neighbor, the woodchuck had been busy eating every one of my echniaceas down to the ground!

June 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJean

I had it in the garden a long time ago and it died out. I've since replaced it. It is a plant that I don't want to be without.

June 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPhillip

What delightful serendipity! I just started growing coneflower last season and I love it - for the same reasons you do.

June 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGInny

Congratulations! It proved that sometimes it's doing better on its own! Those seeds found their own spot!
I came to like these plants only recently. Light green is my favorite.

June 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTatyana

Plants want to pick where they grow, not necessarily where we put them. I'm glad yours found a new life in a new spot. My coneflowers are not doing so well --- something is eating the petals. The stems and foliage and centers of the flowers are fine but the petal straps are plucked off, leaving just the center and some ragged edging. Deformed like that they look paltry, not much to look at. Not sure what is doing this.

I hope your little volunteer transplants thrive!

June 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLaurrie

It's funny I caught this post today Deb...I found purple coneflowers in places I hadn't seen them before. Although I've only been in my home for just over a year, these came up where they hadn't been before. A very happy surprise. My sunny NY gardens were full of purple coneflowers and I'm hoping to move them around here into a sunny place in my very shady yard.

June 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterEve

Ooh, Deb, I knew where you were going as soon as you said it in the past tense. We had the same affliction and ripped all of ours out a few years ago. We started a new patch in another place in the garden and noticed some mutant green flowers there as well. On to another space and careful weeding. It seems the insects carry the Aster Yellows from certain weeds that are impossible to irradicate here, goldenrod being one of them. May yours stay healthy!

June 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFrances

What a great and very welcome surprise. Always a very good thing!

Dear Deborah, I have always had echinaceas in my garden and would not wish to be without them. I have grown 'White Swan' for years but am entranced by the newer green flowered cultivars.

I do love it when surprise appearances are put in by plants that one has written off, sometimes years before. And, how often, I find, that they plant themselves in the perfect position.

June 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterEdith Hope

This is one of those plants that I have always wanted, but for some reason, have never added to my yard. It will be on my list for next year for sure.

June 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJeff

Oh so Lovely..excellent article..loved this post!

I am a big fan of echinacea and all its qualities! Gorgeous photos....just beautiful!

Mine have not yet bloomed..cant wait!
Happy Gardening..and have a fabulous day!
Happy Summer

June 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKiki

Let the plants decide! I think that is great. I am more and more fascinated by the idea of serendipity in the garden and leave all sorts of things all over the place which I would have removed years ago. I now love finding seedlings. Always have the fond idea that I will round up and sort out. Who knows!
Great plant and great point.
Best Wishes

June 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRobert Webber

I love surprises!!! May they thrive for you in their own found place!

June 28, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBarbara

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