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Echinacea Care

Echinacea is a flowering genus of herbaceous plants from the daisy family consisting of ten species that are commonly named coneflowers. They are only found in North America, growing in moist or dry prairies and open woodland areas.

They have large, eye-catching composite flower heads that bloom in summer. Their generic name is taken from the Greek word “ekhinos”, which translates as “sea urchin”, because of the flower’s spiny center.

Two species, the E. tennesseensis, and the E. laevigata, are listed as endangered by the United States as they were threatened by over-harvesting for commercial trade as herbal health products as well as habitat encroachment by people. However, the native population of E. tennesseensis sufficiently recovered by 2011 and was removed from the endangered species list.

These plants are perennial herbaceous drought-tolerant plants that grow up to 4 feet high. They mainly grow with taproots, except for one species, E. purpurea, that grows from a caudex and has fibrous roots. Their erect stems are unbranched in most species. The leaves are frequently hairy and rough, but lack hair sometimes. 

They are valued for their flowers, the most popular being the purple variety, although several other varieties of white, yellow, orange, pink, red, and green are also cultivated.

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Sunlight

These plants should be cultivated in a spot that gets 6-8 hours of sunlight every day to get the most flowers and sturdy growth, as insufficient light can lead to gangly stems and make the plant vulnerable to powdery mildew. 

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Water

While many consider these plants to be drought-resistant, they do better with fairly regular watering. Water them every day after being planted, then switch to watering once a week for their first year of growth. After that, water them once every 7-10 days while monitoring their condition, particularly in warm weather. 

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Humidity

They don’t like high humidity and growth will be affected.

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Temperature

They prefer growing in temperatures of 65-70°F with a lower range of 40-50°F.

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Soil

These plants can thrive in different soils, including rocky, sandy, and clayey soils with a neutral soil pH of 6.5-7. However, they don’t like soggy or waterlogged soil, add some compost to the soil when planting to give them a good boost. Coneflowers grow best in a garden that boasts.

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Repotting

Repot the plant after 3-4 years when flower production slows down. Dig up the plant and divide it. Replant it into the original container and the other sections into 18-inch wide containers. They prefer larger containers to grow in. 

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Propagation

They are relatively simple to propagate from seed, to save the seeds you’ll have to wait till the flower is completely dry and turns darker in color, and becomes stiff be careful when collecting the seeds as they are attached to sharp spines, so wear gloves to collect and separate the seeds. 

The seeds need to undergo cold stratification to help them germinate. The simplest way is to sow them in the garden in autumn or if you’re starting them indoors, plant the seeds in damp soil in a container that can be sealed and place the container in your refrigerator for 8-10 weeks. Then plant them in suitable soil about ½ inch deep, covering them with soil. They usually germinate in 10-14 days. Place the seeds in bright light when the seedlings appear and water as recommended above.

Divide these plants every 3-4 years in spring or autumn. When plants become dormant, dig up the root clump and cut into sections, each having plenty of roots. Remove any dead or damaged roots and cut the stems back. Plant the divisions as fast as possible and water well.

Additional Care

These plants thrive better in soils rich in organic matter and don’t need supplemental feeding. Add compost in spring to give them the nutrients they require for healthy leaves and flowers.

Pruning is helpful, but not necessary. Cutting them back in spring will bring bushier plants that flower longer into the year. Deadheading is the sole maintenance for these plants this will keep them flowering all summer. This will also help prevent the plant from self-seeding itself. 

Common Problems

Alternaria leaf spot creates small round red/brown spots with white or grey centers on top of the leaves. These lesions might also affect the stems and make them wilt. This disease is usually more severe in warm, wet, and very humid weather. Avoid wetting the foliage, remove infected leaves and stems and make sure the plants have sufficient air circulation. Apply a suitable fungicide to treat the infection.

Aster Yellows make the plant become stunted and deform the flowers and turn petals green. This virus-like infection is spread to the plants by leafhoppers. Remove infected plants and use a suitable insecticide to control leafhoppers. 

Botrytis is a fungus that causes a grey mold on leaves, stem buds, and flowers cool wet weather helps it thrive. Remove infected foliage, don’t water the plants at night and avoid getting the leaves wet and provide good air circulation apply a suitable fungicide to treat the plants.

Powdery Mildew is another fungal infection that appears as white or grey powder on leaves in high humidity and might also cause leaf curl, ensuring the plants have sufficient space for air to circulate by spacing them out and pruning unruly growth. Aphids can spread disease when they feast on the sap from the leaves, leaving a sticky residue that attracts ants. They can be sprayed off or use insecticidal soap or neem oil to control them.

Eriophyld Mites infest the flower buds and can make the flowers distorted and deformed. Prune back the plants in autumn and remove any plant debris to stop the mites from hiding and nesting.

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