Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Echinacea (Purple coneflower)

Echinacea in my 2010 Summer Garden

This is an excellent time to discuss Echinacea (E.Purpurea) while there is still time to divide and transplant it in Southeast Texas. I actually divided mine in October this fall.

The temperatures were still a bit hot and humid, but I had plans for a new bed and couldn't make myself wait until November (the perfect month). They are so hardy here and took the move quit well.

I had to make sure that I mulched them well and watered them in real good so they could adapt to the new bed. We are having such a mild December this year and it's looking quite mild so far going into January.

It would be possible to divide many herbs and move them around now by simply digging up a clump and gently puling the roots apart into smaller clumps for transplanting.

The important thing to remember in our area is the weather can change at any moment. It would be wise to keep up with all the current weather reports. I wouldn't try this if a hard freeze was on the horizon.

Echinacea in a Texas semi dormant stage in January

I originally started my Purple Coneflower from seed about 5 years ago. I purchased it from Wildseed Farms located in Fredericksburg Texas. An excellent source for wildflowers, natives, grasses and herbs.

They sell organic grown seeds and non hybrids throughout the U.S. with well mapped advice for what grows best in your region.

Most of the newer cultivars of hybrids will not grow true to its kind from seed, so I would purchase live plants instead of seed for those. Many of them will also cross pollinate so if you intend to save pure seed I wouldn't mix different varieties together.

If your not worried about saving seed you will most likely end up with some very interesting flowers of all sorts. I soaked my seeds overnight in a little water before I planted them directly in the garden in mid November.

The winter months will cause a natural stratification process for the seeds as they go through the chilly temperatures that are needed for a good germination rate. A vast majority of wildflowers and natives will be planted in the late fall here.

I am a first hand witness that Echinacea really brings on the butterflies and honey bees. A beautiful site to behold in the mist of summer.

It is also an excellent companion plant to grow with Lavender, Yarrow, Coreopsis. and other native plants. They have similar growing requirements in that they love a well drained garden soil mix with equal parts of peat, sand and soil.

Organic natural composting gives them all the nutrients they require. Our soil PH ranges on the acid side of around 6.5, which is good for these types of plants. Echinacea has a thick, long tap-root which makes it a good choice where water conservation is needed, especially in Southeast Texas where droughts are common.

The tap-root is also what is used for medicinal purposes. It's history comes from our Native American Tribes. It was used for all kinds of ailments such as colds, coughs and sore throats.

 It was also used to treat all types of infections similar to what modern science would treat with penicillin today.

Even externally Echinacea is an antibacterial and antiseptic which can be used to treat wounds and skin infections. The Dakota Indians even used it to treat their horses.

A lot of recent research study of the plant has been done in Europe proving it to be a vital herb in treating many health problems. I have listed some of its uses below.

Echinacea is best known for its immune enhancing ability, but has proven very effective in many other areas as well.

  • Colds, coughs and flu and other upper respiratory conditions
  • Enlarged lymph glands, sore throat
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Other minor infections
  • May help combat herpes and candida
  • Wounds, skin regeneration and skin infections (external use)
  • Psoriasis, eczema and inflammatory skin conditions (external use)

Happy Gardening!


  1. My daughter liz suffers from eczema I'll tell her about this. Thanks Pammy

  2. You are so welcome. I think what surprised me a bit was that for years studies were done to disprove the herb until recently. I have to say if the Native Americans were using it all those years there had to be something to it. Best of luck with it for your daughter.

  3. Love this herb, Pammy! Do you grow both E. Purpurea and E. angustifolia? I started some of the endangered E. tennesseensis a few years ago, but haven't made medicine from it yet. This will be the first year it's old enough to harvest some roots and I am looking forward to it :)

  4. Good morning Pammy, I love Echinacea, and I love the fact that it self-seeds all over my gardens, usually in the gravel pathways where it's easy to dig out and transplant! I think your quote above is interesting "I think what surprised me a bit was that for years studies were done to disprove the herb until recently. I have to say if the Native Americans were using it all those years there had to be something to it." This seems to be a typical path for anything helpful to us that's not a pharmecutical... it happens quite a bit. Thank you for stressing that. Have a lovely day!

  5. Hi Rhonda, I love it too!! I'm growing the Purpurea only. I'm not set up to grow another variety where they wouldn't cross. I had done a little research on the Tennesseensis awhile back on it's endangerment due to development. It sounded like they were making some good strides in its recovery and that it was beginning to be grown by a lot of home gardeners as well. Thank Goodness for the folks who stay aware of danger of lost species. I'm so glad your growing it. There is no telling of all the medicinal properties in each individual species. Please keep me posted on your progress with harvesting =)

  6. Hi Laura, I'm so very glad you stopped by. Yes, I put a lot of stock in what our Native Americans were doing long before the dawn of the age of modern medicine. I often feel like a baby on milk hungry for food for the vast wisdom and knowledge to be taught by the ancient cultures who had depended upon the earth's bounties. I pray we can all learn enough in such a short time to pass on to the next generation before it becomes another lost art.

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