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!