Are you growing echinacea purpurea in your flower garden yet? If not, you should! Learn about purple coneflower care and how to enjoy the flowers with these simple tips.

One of the first perennials I planted in our garden was purple coneflowers. Their blooms are gorgeous and they are easy-care, low-maintenance plants to boot.

Some grow them as medicinal plants, but I grow them as cottage garden flowers and will sometimes cut the blooms to enjoy in an arrangement.

Learn how to grow and care for purple coneflowers with these simple tips.

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About Purple Coneflowers

Purple coneflowers, also known as echinacea purpurea, are herbaceous flowering native plants from eastern and central North America. It belongs to the daisy family (Asteraceae) and is a popular garden plant, known for its attractive, bright purple flowers and medicinal properties.

Hardy to zones 3-8, the purple coneflower generally grows to a height of 2 to 4 feet on tall stems depending on the variety. Its distinctive flowers have a cone-shaped center that is surrounded by petals that droop downward. The flowers bloom in early summer and attract bees, butterflies, and other pollinators.

While it prefers to be planted in full to part sun in well-drained, moist loamy soil, it can adapt to a variety of soil types once established.

Echinacea flowers also make great cut flowers for bouquets and look beautiful in any flower garden setting. There are several varieties of coneflower to enjoy. And it almost seems like new varieties come out yearly.

Purple coneflower plants have been used for their medicinal properties to treat a variety of ailments, including colds, flu, and other infections. It is believed to boost the immune system and is often taken in supplement form or herbal teas to promote overall health and wellness.

Overall, the purple coneflower is a beautiful and beneficial plant that is easy to grow and care for. So if you are looking for a stately flower that will brighten up a border and give you all the cottage garden feels?

You need to plant some echinacea purpurea.

close up of echinacea in my cottage garden -15 Mistakes New Gardeners Should Avoid

Purple Coneflower Care

Purple coneflowers are a popular perennial that produces beautiful, daisy-like flowers in shades of pink, purple, and white.

Here are some tips on how to grow and care for these gorgeous plants.

Planting

Purple coneflowers require at least six hours of sun each day to thrive but can handle spots with partial shade too depending on your hardiness zone and if they are well-established. When planting, choose a location with moist, loamy, well-drained soil that has neutral acidity.

Watering

Water newly planted purple coneflowers regularly until they become established. But keep an eye on them because it’s important not to overwater them. How much you water will depend on the weather in your climate.

Since I typically plant mine in spring or fall, I let nature do its thing because we get enough rain here and the temperatures are cooler.

When they are established, reduce watering thoroughly to roughly once or twice a week depending on the weather in your climate.

They are fairly drought-tolerant once established but may require more watering during periods of extreme heat or dryness.

purple coneflowers

Fertilizing

Purple coneflowers do not need to be fertilized. Instead, focus on providing the plant with good-quality soil.

Amend the soil with compost, and leaf mold, then top it off with some fresh mulch. Over-fertilization can lead to leggy growth, fewer blooms, and invite pest and disease problems.

Because they are native to the US, they don’t need to be coddled and overly-cared. Plant them in the proper location, help them get established and these perennials can take care of themselves.

Deadheading

Purple coneflowers are great self-seeders and can naturalize in an area with ease.

Deadheading spent flowers regularly will encourage the plant to produce more blooms, look tidy and prevent self-seeding. This means you’ll be cutting flower heads that are no longer blooming.

It is a good idea to leave some of the flower heads for the birds to enjoy the seed. I deadhead mine more during summer to keep the plant looking neat and then typically leave my echinacea alone as we head into fall so the remaining seed heads feed the birds and self-sow.

Echinacea purpurea close up

Dividing

It is a good idea to divide purple coneflowers every few years. Because over time, purple coneflowers can become crowded and lose their vigor.

My echinacea has grown so well and self-seeded so much, it has taken over a larger space in my garden than I wanted.

So dividing the plants every 3-ish years can help rejuvenate them, keep them from overcrowding other plants, and promote healthier growth.

echinacea, bee balm and liatris in cottage garden in early summer garden tour with green garden fence

Pest and Disease Problems

In general, purple coneflowers are relatively pest and disease free. They are susceptible to aphids, Japanese beetles, and other pests. And can also be affected by fungal diseases such as powdery mildew.

Purple coneflowers are considered to be deer resistant. But I have only found the flowers to be so because of their orange spikey centers.

I’ve seen deer eat the foliage base of my echinacea before it bloomed. So if you live in an area where deer are a problem, protect the foliage base with a deer repellent like this or like this.

To keep plants healthy and minimize problems, avoid overwatering and overcrowding. And do not overfertilize them.

Where Japanese beetles are concerned, skip the pheromone traps that actually attract more to your garden and focus on your lawn’s health instead.

It’s important to address your lawn organically with a milky spore and change the grass seed over to tall fescue if that type of grass seed does well in your climate. This will help prevent the beetles from laying eggs in your lawn and disrupt their lifecycle in your garden.

How to Enjoy the Flowers

Purple coneflowers produce beautiful flowers that last a very long time and are a favorite of bees, butterflies, and other pollinators.

Plus, they make good-cut flowers for use in bouquets.

So don’t be shy about cutting a few blooms for use in flower arrangements. Or leave them on the plant to enjoy in your garden.

I grow other types of flowers intended for cutting, so I usually leave mine in the garden.

close up of coneflowers and achillea

5 Reasons to Grow Purple Coneflowers

Purple coneflowers are wonderful additions to any flower garden. Here are 5 reasons you should grow them.

  • They have attractive and vibrant flowers that give all the cottage garden feels to any garden.
  • Purple coneflowers are easy to grow and require minimal maintenance. Once established, they are drought-tolerant and can adapt to a variety of soil types, making them a great choice for novice gardeners or those with busy schedules.
  • It attracts pollinators. The nectar-rich flowers of purple coneflower are a magnet for bees, butterflies, and other pollinators.
  • Purple coneflowers are deer-resistant flowers. Deer occasionally browse on the foliage so plant other deer-repelling plants in front of them or spray the base foliage with repellent.
  • Purple coneflowers are perennial plants with a long blooming season. And because it returns year after year with proper care, you can save time and money compared to annual plants that need to be replanted each season.
close up of echinacea plants in the garden

Do Purple Coneflowers Come Back Every Year

Yes! Purple coneflowers are perennials and will come back year after year with the proper care.

It is important to grow them in the proper hardiness zone and soil conditions, plant them in full sun, and keep them hydrated as they establish so they will reward you with fresh beautiful blooms each year.

Additionally, you can help to ensure their longevity by deadheading spent flowers regularly, maintaining good quality soil, and dividing plants every few years to prevent overcrowding and promote healthy growth.

Butterfly enjoying nectar from this echinacea flower - Butterfly Garden

Do Purple Coneflowers Spread?

Yes, they spread well!

Purple coneflowers have a tendency to spread and form clumps over time. This is because they propagate by both seed and rhizome (underground stem) production.

As the plants mature, they produce more and more rhizomes, which can lead to the formation of a dense clump.

However, this spreading habit can be managed by dividing the plants every few years, which not only helps to control their growth but also promotes healthy growth and flowering.

Additionally, deadheading the spent flowers can prevent self-seeding and help to contain the spread of the plants.

close up of kismet raspberry coneflowers and creme caramel coreopsis in small cottage garden

When Should I Plant Purple Coneflowers

The best time to plant purple coneflowers is in the spring or fall, depending on your climate and growing conditions. Avoid planting in the heat of summer as it will be more difficult to establish plants.

To save money on plants and help establish them more easily, I purchase smaller baby plants in spring from the nursery as opposed to full-grown plants. They cost less and are easier to establish as younger plants.

Another money-saving tip is to purchase plants in late fall when nurseries are selling their stock off at a major discount. So you’ll get more bang for your dollar that way. It’s also easier for plants to establish in late fall through winter because they won’t experience the drought stress from summer heat.

As long as the ground can be worked, you can plant.

Backyard cottage garden in front of garden shed -cut flower garden in my gardening zone 6a backyard border. This is my favorite cottage garden in the landscape in front of the garden shed
5 Quick Ways to Grow a Cottage Garden

Where Should I Plant Purple Coneflowers?

Echinacea purpurea prefer a sunny location with moist loamy, well-draining soil in a location that receives full sun for most of the day. As I mentioned earlier, they can handle partial shade too but grow and bloom best in full sun.

Avoid planting them in areas with heavy clay soil, or in locations where water tends to accumulate. Because they do not like wet feet.

Plant them in an area with good air circulation without overcrowding from other plants. Good air circulation helps prevent fungal diseases, which can be a problem for purple coneflowers if they are not grown in the right conditions.

Purple coneflowers look amazing in mixed borders and cottage gardens, where they can be planted alongside other perennials and annuals to create a diverse and colorful display.

Because purple coneflowers attract bees, butterflies, and other pollinators, they are a great choice for pollinator gardens. Plant them in large groupings alongside other nectar-rich flowers to attract more pollinators to your gardens.

close up of echinacea in the front yard cottage garden in New Jersey - 15 common mistakes new gardeners should avoid

Do you Cut Back Purple Coneflowers in the Fall

The decision to cut back echinacea purpurea in the fall is largely a matter of personal preference. Here are some things to consider.

Appearance

Leaving the dead flower stalks and foliage in place over the winter can create visual interest and provide habitat for birds and other wildlife.

Some gardeners prefer to leave the plants standing until spring.

I love how the plants look when snow covered. And since they help birds and other wildlife too? I typically leave mine until spring.

echinacea close up

Disease Prevention

Cutting back the plants in the fall can help to prevent the spread of fungal diseases such as powdery mildew, which can overwinter on the plant material.

Removing the dead foliage and flower stalks can help to reduce the likelihood of these diseases returning the following year.

If you had a problem like this during the growing season, I recommend cutting them back in fall. Remove all of the dead and diseased foliage and do not compost it.

Spring Cleanup

Leaving the dead foliage in place can make spring cleanup more difficult, as the new growth can get tangled up in the old plant material.

To combat this problem in spring, I get out there much sooner in spring before new growth gets entangled in the old growth and cut the plant back then.

But cutting back the plants in the fall can make it easier to prepare the beds for new growth in the spring.

purple coneflowers

Are Purple Coneflowers Deer Resistant?

While echinacea plants land on many deer-resistant lists, I have only had that experience with the flowers, not the foliage.

It is true they avoid eating the flower heads, but deer have mowed down the foliage at the base of plants early in the season in my gardens. The plant still flowered but it looked strange.

So I treat my coneflower plants with deer repellent in early spring as plants break ground and fill out their foliage.

Should You Deadhead Purple Coneflowers

Yes, deadheading purple coneflowers can help to promote healthier growth, prolong the bloom time, and prevent self-seeding.

Here’s how to deadhead your purple coneflowers.

  • Allow the flowers to fade on the plant. As they begin to dry out, they will start to produce seeds. Deadheading the flowers at this stage will prevent the plant from using energy to produce seeds and instead focus on vegetative growth.
  • Using a pair of clean, sharp pruning shears, cut the stem just below the flower head. Make the cut at a 45-degree angle to prevent water from pooling on the cut surface.
  • Collect the spent flower heads and dispose of them in the trash or compost bin. If you leave them on the ground, they may still produce seeds and lead to self-seeding.

Deadheading is a simple and easy maintenance task that can make a big difference in the appearance and health of your plants.

Monarch butterfly on echinacea flower in Butterfly Garden

More About Purple Coneflowers

Do you grow purple coneflowers too? Have you experimented with other varieties of echinacea too? I would love to know more in the comments below.

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purple coneflowers

Want to Learn How to Grow Flowers With Ease?

If you’ve always wanted to grow flowers but struggled with where to start or how to create something beautiful, I got you. I wrote a book that shares all the things you need to know to grow a beautiful and easy-care flower garden.

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the bricks 'n blooms guide to a beautiful and easy-care flower garden

What’s in the Bricks ‘n Blooms Guide?

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My book publishes on February 6, 2024, but you can preorder now and get a special pre-order bonus chapter you can’t get when the preorder period closes.

Preorder your copy here and get a free, downloadable guide that shares bonus information with tips and unique garden designs to get year-round color in your landscape. Offer ends 2/5/24.

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Garden Supplies I Use

Since I’ve been gardening for well over twenty-five years, I’m often asked about the garden supplies and tools that I use most. From pruners to deer repellents, here are some of my favorites that I use in no particular order.

dahlia kogane fubuki in the potager garden

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purple coneflowers
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Enjoy a beautiful day! xo

Stacy Ling

Want to learn more about me?

I’m a master gardener who’s been gardening and growing things for over 25 years and author of the best-selling book, The Bricks ‘n Blooms Guide to a Beautiful and Easy-Care Flower Garden. With a deep passion for gardening, I enjoy helping others find their inner green thumb with all things plants and flowers, as well as finding ways to bring the outdoors inside their homes.

Get the inside scoop about my background as a master gardener, education, and experience, as well as why I started blogging here.

stacy ling cutting dahlias in her garden
Home and Garden Blogger Stacy Ling cutting zinnia flowers in her cottage garden with wood picket fence in front of garden shed

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4 Comments

  1. Stacy,
    Thank you for sharing your knowledge with us. I love cornflowers but don’t have a lot of luck with them. Pinned.

  2. Purple coneflowers are on of my favorite perennials in the cottage garden. I love how beautiful yours look, Stacy. Great tips!