New to growing purple coneflowers (echinacea purpurea)? This essential guide covers everything you need to know about purple coneflower care, from planting and watering to maximizing blooms.

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.

Purple coneflowers, with their vibrant daisy-like blooms and spiky centers, are a classic addition to any summer garden. Not only are they beautiful, but these hardy perennials attract butterflies and other beneficial pollinators.

With a little know-how, growing lush and healthy purple coneflowers is surprisingly easy. In this essential guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about purple coneflower care, from choosing the perfect spot to tips for long-lasting blooms.

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vibrant purple coneflowers in a flower garden

Understanding the Basics: What are 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

Top 5 Reasons Why Purple Coneflowers Are a Must-Have in Your Garden

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

Comprehensive Guide to 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.

How to Plant Purple Coneflowers for Optimal Growth

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 Tips for Thriving Purple Coneflowers

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: Dos and Don’ts

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 for More Blooms

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.

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.

Step-by-Step Guide to Dividing Purple Coneflowers

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.

Here’s how to do it:

Dividing coneflowers (Echinacea) is best done in early spring or early fall when the plant is not actively blooming and temperatures are cooler. Start by watering the coneflower a day before you plan to divide it to reduce transplant shock and make digging easier.

Using a garden fork or shovel, carefully dig around the plant, starting about 6-8 inches away from the base to avoid damaging the roots. Gently lift the plant out of the ground, keeping as much of the root system intact as possible. Shake off excess soil to expose the roots, or use a hose to wash away the soil if necessary.

Look for natural divisions in the root ball, usually where stems are growing, and use a sharp knife or garden spade to cut the root ball into smaller sections. Each section should have several stems and a healthy portion of roots.

Prepare the new planting sites by choosing locations with well-drained soil and full sun to partial shade, and dig holes that are slightly larger than the root sections. Plant each division in a hole, backfill with soil, and water thoroughly. Adding compost or mulch around the newly planted divisions can help retain moisture and provide nutrients.

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

Common Pests and Diseases Affecting Purple Coneflowers

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.

close up of coneflowers and achillea

Enjoying Purple Coneflowers in Arrangements and Bouquets

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.

Best Companion Plants for Purple Coneflowers

There are so many great companion planting ideas for purple coneflowers! Purple coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea) pair beautifully with other sun-loving perennials to create vibrant, dynamic garden displays.

Consider planting them alongside bee balm, liatris, and coreopsis to enhance pollinator activity and bring a harmonious mix of colors to your garden.

Ornamental grasses like switchgrass or feather reed grass provide striking texture and contrast. For a cottage garden vibe, add daisies, black-eyed Susans, and phlox, creating a colorful, layered landscape that’s both eye-catching and wildlife-friendly.

But here are some of my favorites easy-care blooms to plant with purple coneflowers.

A vibrant garden scene with tall red flowers and clusters of pink blooms in the foreground, surrounded by lush greenery.
Achillea and coneflowers

Creating Stunning Arrangements with Purple Coneflowers

Purple coneflowers are not just garden favorites—they also make stunning cut flowers for arrangements. To create eye-catching bouquets, pair them with other summer blooms like sunflowers, zinnias, globe thistle, yarrow, and rudbeckia for a vibrant display. Add ornamental grasses for texture and structure, or include delicate fillers like baby’s breath for a whimsical touch.

For a cohesive cottage garden feel, mix in cosmos, bee balm, or phlox. Cut the stems in the morning for optimal freshness, and arrange them in your favorite vase to bring the beauty of your garden indoors.

Tips for Stunning Arrangements:

  • Color Palette: Coordinate complementary colors for a harmonious look.
  • Texture Mix: Include grasses or foliage to add depth and texture.
  • Filler Flowers: Incorporate smaller blooms like feverfew or baby’s breath for added volume.

Enjoy experimenting with different combinations to create your perfect summer bouquet!

close up of echinops with blue flowers together with echinacea and rose flowers in cottage garden
Globe Thistle with Echinacea

Purple Coneflower FAQ: Answers to Common Questions

Purple coneflowers are a beautiful and hardy perennial, but gardeners often have questions about their care, propagation, and growth habits. In this FAQ section, I’ll address the most common inquiries, from whether purple coneflowers are truly deer-resistant to the best planting practices and more. By understanding these key insights, you’ll be well on your way to cultivating a thriving coneflower garden that blooms year after year.

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
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. They indeed 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.

Can You Grow Purple Coneflower in Pots?

Yes! In fact, growing purple coneflower in pots are a popular option for gardeners who have limited space or want to add a burst of color to outdoor living spaces where planting in the ground is not feasible.

Choose a container with a diameter of at least 12 to 16 inches and a depth of at least 12 to 18 inches depending on the size of the plant you purchase. Make sure the container has drainage holes to allow excess water to escape and prevent waterlogging.

Use a well-draining potting mix. Plant one coneflower plant per container and maintain them in full sun with at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight per day. Rotate the container periodically to ensure even sunlight exposure on all sides of the plant.

Containers dry out faster than the ground, so it’s important to water them regularly, checking the soil moisture level with your finger or a moisture meter. Avoid overwatering, as soggy soil can lead to root rot. Allow the top inch of soil to dry out slightly between watering. To make things simpler, I like to set my containers on a drip irrigation system with a timer so it’s set and forget.

Fertilize purple coneflowers in containers with a balanced slow-release fertilizer formulated for flowering plants and follow the package instructions for application rates and frequency.

While you can grow them as an annual if you want them to return yearly, plant coneflower varieties that are at least two zones higher than your current hardiness zone.

purple coneflowers

Should You Deadhead Purple Coneflowers

Yes, deadheading purple coneflowers can help to promote healthier growth, prolong the bloom time, and prevent self-seeding. Deadheading is a simple and easy maintenance task that can make a big difference in the appearance and health of your coneflower plants.

Final Thoughts About Growing Purple Coneflower

Growing purple coneflower (Echinacea) is a fantastic way to add vibrant color and attract pollinators to your garden. This resilient and low-maintenance perennial thrives in well-drained soil and full sun, making it an ideal choice for both novice and experienced gardeners.

By providing adequate spacing, watering during dry spells, and deadheading spent blooms, you can enjoy a stunning display of purple coneflowers throughout the growing season. Whether planted in garden beds, borders, or wildflower meadows, purple coneflower will enhance the beauty and biodiversity of your outdoor space.

Ready to bring the beauty of purple coneflowers to your garden? Head to your local nursery or browse online plant stores to find the perfect plants for your landscape. Start growing your own vibrant coneflowers today and enjoy their long-lasting blooms and wildlife benefits!

If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please let me know in the comments below. I’d love to hear! And feel free to share this post with anyone you think would find it helpful too.

For more information about growing purple coneflower, please see this article from Michigan State University Cooperative Extension.

To drill down on more beginner gardening techniques and tips, please read these posts:

Happy Gardening!

Stacy Ling
Monarch butterfly on echinacea flower in Butterfly Garden
purple coneflowers
coneflowers
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!