Richard C. Bogren, Huffstickler, Kyle, Gill, Daniel J., Owings, Allen D.
One of the most popular non-woody perennials in Louisiana is the purple coneflower. The scientific name of this plant is Echinacea purpurea. It is native to an area from the Midwest into the southeastern United States.
Coneflowers have long been favorites with gardeners across the South. You can use them in a perennial planting with buddleia, rudbeckias, salvia, coreopsis, lantanas, Shasta daisies, verbenas or other hardy favorites. Butterflies love purple coneflowers, too.
Purple coneflowers are drought-tolerant, tough and long-lived. Flowering usually starts in late April or early May, and most coneflowers re-bloom through summer and fall.
If you’re looking for a plant to enhance your landscape, new selections of this old garden plant are making it highly desirable for our Louisiana landscapes.
Flower petals in coneflowers have typically been in the soft lavender to purple color ranges. Now white forms are available. Magnus is a popular variety that was the Perennial Plant of the Year in 1998. This selection has vibrant, rose-purple flowers. Bravado is a variety with 4- to 5-inch fragrant flowers. White Swan is a white-flowering form.
With hybridization of coneflower species, a whole new group of coneflowers, called the Big Sky series, has added to the color range. The Big Sky coneflowers come in shades of oranges, reds and yellows. These plants originated from Itsaul Plants in Georgia and are being marketed by the Novalis “Plants That Work” program. The varieties Twilight (rose-red flowers), Harvest Moon (earthy-gold flowers), Sundown (russet-orange flowers), Sunrise (citron-yellow flowers) and Sunset (orange flowers) comprise the series collection. These varieties have been available at garden centers in Louisiana the past three years, but they are not as reliably perennial as we would like to see.
New in the purple coneflower world is the seed-propagated PowWow series. PowWow Wild Berry is an All-America Selection winner from 2011. In addition, a white version is called PowWow White. These have performed nicely in LSU AgCenter trials. Also new are the vegetatively propagated Sombraro series and the double-flower series Doublescoop. A new purple coneflower that will be an All-America Selection winner in 2013 is Cheyenne Spirit.
You can do several things to help coneflowers perform ideally. These plants prefer a mostly sunny location with well-drained soil. You can buy coneflowers at the garden center in 4-inch pots or quart or one-gallon containers. A light application of a slow-release fertilizer is recommended at planting and once or twice annually thereafter. Mulch with pine straw or a similar material. Remove old flowers to encourage quick re-bloom.
Coneflowers are reliably perennial in Louisiana.
Visit LaHouse in Baton Rouge to see sustainable landscape practices in action. The home and landscape resource center is near the intersection of Burbank Drive and Nicholson Drive (Louisiana Highway 30) in Baton Rouge, across the street from the LSU baseball stadium. For more information, go to www.lsuagcenter.com/lahouse or www.lsuagcenter.com/lyn.Rick Bogren