Spotlight On: Coneflower, Best Friend Of Butterflies And Back Yards

By June 22, 2020 Plant Spotlight
cone flower

What’a tall and hardy and purple all over? The coneflower, of course! Or at least the purple coneflower, to be precise – if you prefer, you can choose these popular perennials in rich shades from red and orange to pink and yellow.

The coneflower is surely one of the most recognizable summer blooms, with its spiky cone center and petals that give it the appearance of a daisy turned inside out. Even if you can’t pick it out in a landscape, you almost certainly recognize it by its formal name: Echinacea.

Next to Witch Hazel, it’s one of the most prolifically repurposed garden plants. Its history as an herbal remedy in the United States dates back to Native Americans, who used the flower for everything from toothache relief to snake bite treatments.

Today, it’s widely available in a variety of forms, from teas and creams to juice and supplements, and is used to relieve a range of ailments. But by far our favorite use for this flower is as a wonderfully vibrant addition to your summer garden.

In this Spotlight series, we’re highlighting seasonal plants that bring something special to your landscape, whether through color, texture, scent, ability to attract wildlife, or four-season interest. Today we’re talking coneflowers, a summer favorite that hits so many high points that no garden should be without them.

butterfly coneflowerA Favorite Of People And Pollinators

If you want a butterfly garden, coneflowers are a must-have. It is a native North American plant, which means it’s ideally suited to the environment and the wildlife to be found here.

It grows along just about all of the east coast and can also be found in the midwest in places including Colorado, Wisconsin, and even Texas. Thanks to this diverse growing area, it’s one of the best nectar-producing plants for attracting a wide variety of butterflies. Garden gems like the Swallowtail, Painted Lady, Horace’s Duskywing, and Monarch butterfly can’t resist this beauty any more than we can!

Even after the flowers fade, the coneflower is a wildlife magnet. Birds will flock to eat the ripe seeds, bringing Cardinals, Blue Jays, Pine Siskins, and the gorgeous but elusive Goldfinch – the official state bird of New Jersey – happily to your yard.

On the flip side, they won’t entice deer! So you can plant these confidently, knowing that they won’t become dinner for deer – or a snack for rabbits, for that matter.

And coneflowers are gorgeous in their own right, standing regally anywhere from 2 to 4 feet high and blooming brightly all summer long, from June to September here in New Jersey.

As perennials, they will return year after year. Just leave the cone heads on the stems as fall sets in, and not only will they make an ongoing feat for birds, but they can reseed themselves in your garden. What’s even more fun is that the offspring seedlings may even be different colors from their parents!

colorful coneflowersCare & Maintenance

The coneflower is a favorite for many reasons, including how ridiculously easy it is to grow and care for. As a native plant, it is readily adapted to average garden soil, growing just as well in rocky, clay, sandy, or fertile soils.

It will never become invasive, no matter how many seedlings you allow to spring up. They can grow in full sun or partial shade, and do best with once- or twice-per-week watering, although they are also quite drought tolerant.

They thrive in heat, making them wonderful summertime companions even if you lack the faintest green thumb. Be sure to avoid wet or soggy ground, which is just about the only really detrimental environment.

They don’t suffer from fungal diseases and are generally pest-free. And don’t bother about fertilizer, either. Give them a good mulching in spring, and these flowers are about as “hands off” as you can get.

Coneflowers are easy to seed indoors, and can even be grown from stem cuttings. In a pinch, you can grow these in a container as long as you’re careful to water appropriately. But these beauties are so hardy and adaptable that it’s hard to imagine a reason not to include them in your garden.

golden orange coneflowerWhy We Love It

Fun fact: “echinos” is the Greek word for hedgehog, which makes perfect sense when you look at the distinctive center cones of Echinacea.

Its etymology is just one of myriad charming things about this flower. It’s an iconic prairie flower, beloved in naturalistic landscapes. Its long-lasting blooms, ease of care, and central role as a wildlife attraction make it one of the most common garden flowers, for very good reason. If ever there was a flower to love, this is it!

In addition to providing a full season of enjoyment, these make great cut flowers, too. They go beautifully from garden to tabletop, even playing a supporting role in romantic wedding bouquets. Leave the cones to dry after petals drop in the fall, and the stems make wonderful accent pieces and filler in floral arrangements.

They’re tough, they’re striking, they’re playful, and it’s hard to look across a garden or field full of these without smiling. If you’re already in love with coneflower and want to find out how they can make a perfect addition to your landscape, contact us for a consultation. We’ll show you just how versatile and friendly these flowers can be.