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!