Purple Cone Flower, Echinacea pupurea, is an absolute gem in the garden! It produces stunning, long-lasting pinkish purple flowers atop long, sturdy stems from summer through late fall. This native prairie plant prefers well- draining soil and full sun, although it is adaptable to many other soil conditions and can take some shade. During our hot summers, while other plants are struggling or going dormant, purple coneflowers persist and provide plenty of food for hungry pollinators.
This plant packs a major punch with its ecological benefits. Like other members of the Asteracea, or daisy family, it has disc flowers in the center that are each full of nectar and very attractive to many species of butterflies and bees. It also serves as the host plant for multiple butterflies and moths and the seeds are an important food source for birds and mice in the fall.
With their long, thick stems, and long-lasting blooms, Echinacea make wonderful cut flowers for bouquets. Echinacea also has ethnobotanical uses, as it has been used by Native Americans to treat several ailments for as many as 400 years. It is shown to have antiviral and antifungal properties and the leaves, stems, and roots are used to make supplements that can boost the immune system.
(By guest contributor: Dany Millikin, Director of Education, Houston Botanic Garden)