One of my favourite plants. These plants are tall, have lovely daisy like flowers and with most varieties the petals drop back from the orangey coloured cone in quite a dramatic way. They do not need staking and make terrific cut flowers.
Originally from the American Prairies they are perfect for the now much appreciated 'Prairie - style' planting and look superb with many different grasses, see Prairie grasses. Usually seen in purple or white they are now being introduced in increasing numbers in some lovely, glowing orange colours.
Echinacea purpurea and Echinacea purpurea 'Magnus' are good purple/pink varieties. Echinacea purpurea 'White Swan' is a lovely white variety where the creamy white petals sit sharply back from the orange centre. More recently some orangey shades have been introduced of which Echinacea Sunset is one of the best. The orange varieties seem more susceptible to 'disappearing' than purple varieties and giving them extra sharp drainage seems to help.
Echinacea growing guide
Echinacea need to be planted in full sun in soil not too wet but they do not tolerate drought. They are fully hardy and depending on the variety flower between June and September. Looks best planted in large drifts and look perfect planted with grasses such as Miscanthus varieties or Pennisetums.
To propogate, lift and divide large clumps in autumn or spring and enrich the planting holes with well rotted compost. Keep well watered until completely established and in very dry periods continue to water. You can also take cuttings in spring or sow seed .
Once you have echinacea propogate regularly as they do seem prone to just disappearing even when they seemed perfectly healthy the year before and are a long-lived perennial when happy. Many flower from seed in the first year and so you could consider them an annual but if they last a few extra years then that's a bonus!
Add compost in spring and autumn but be careful not to cover the crowns. They do not like being damp and soggy over winter though they are happy with cold.
Echinacea also make great cut flowers and are worth growing in your cutting garden if you have one.