Heirloom Echinacea- Perennial
(Tip: Use a paper or plastic bag and rubber band over drying blooms to catch seeds)
“Purple Coneflower” or “Echinacea” is one of the most famous and familiar of all North American native wildflowers. Bold and beautiful, the Echinacea plant is prized equally it seems for its healing herbal qualities as well its majestic beauty. Originally native to a wide band stretching from Michigan south to Louisiana, then west to Texas and Oklahoma, but currently uncommon in the wild. Widely cultivated. Does well in pots. It is the root that is believed to contain most of the plant’s medicinal value, although the herb is also used. It is regarded as the most chemically active plant, possessing anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal properties. Traditional/folk uses include a blood purifier, fevers, acne, and to treat infections and sores. Cultivation: Sow seed in the early spring in flats outdoors or in the greenhouse, and transplant seedlings out to the garden or field in mid-spring (middle of May in our area). Starting earlier, and transplanting twice into progressively bigger containers will result in a much better rooted transplant, which will probably flower in the first year. It is fairly easy to seed this plant directly in the garden or field. Sow the seed shallowly in the early to mid-spring. Keep moist. Once the plants are up, you must stay on top of the weeds, and thin to 1 foot spacing after the second set of leaves has formed. It likes full sun, plenty of water, and rich, limey soil. This is the species best suited to varied growing conditions, whether coastal or mountain, east or west. It is easy to grow, and produces on the average 1/2 pound of fresh root by the dormant period following the second year of growth. Plant 1 foot apart. Flowers 3 to 4 feet tall. Planting: Sow outdoors 1/2″ deep when a light frost is still possible. Seeds will germinate in 10-20 days.
Coneflower prefers full sun to light shade and well-drained average soil. Tolerates heat and drought. Flowers reliably the first year from seed if sown early.
Coneflowers will produce lots of seed but you must beat the birds. When the blooms dry out, cut them off and hang upside down in bunches. The seeds are contained in the heads between the spikes. Once the heads are dry and crisp, they can be lightly hand-crushed, with gloves on for protection, and the seed winnowed from the chaff.