Echinacea pallida is also known as the Pale Purple Coneflower is one of the more rare members of the Echinacea family, well known for their medicinal use in boosting the immune system.
The plants are useful drought-resistant, perennial flowers that thrive in full hot sun and average to humus-rich soil. With tall slender stems topped with large daisy-like flowers and drooping purple-pink petals it make it an excellent flower for the border or cutting garden.
Pale Purple Coneflower plants bloom earlier (late June to late July) than most Echinacea and will continue to bloom sporadically through the autumn months. They have much longer, ray flowers than those of the more familiar purple coneflower, they are also a paler shade of purple (hence the name), more of a purplish rose.
When the flowers first appear the disk is flattened occasionally concave, but as the flowering progresses it becomes conical in shape. The brown fruiting heads are conical, chaffy, stiff and wiry.
The nectar is enjoyed by butterflies and its seeds are a favorite food source for small birds such as goldfinches. Plant in a rock garden, butterfly garden, or naturalise in a prairie meadow.
The National Garden Bureau (NGB) chose the Echinacea as its perennial of the year for 2014.
Sow seeds in late winter to spring or in late summer to autumn. Echinacea will flower in 11 to 15 weeks so if started indoors early enough, it is possible to get flowers in the first season.
Sow at 20 to 24°C (68 to 75°F), Fill pots or trays with a good seed starting mix (John Innes or similar). Moisten by standing the pots in water, then drain.
Surface sow the seed and press lightly into the soil. Seeds need light to germinate, so do not cover the seeds or use only a light sprinkling of vermiculite. The compost should be kept moist but not wet at all times. Germination may start after only 5 days but may take up to 20 days. Prick out each seedling as it becomes large enough to handle, transplant into 7.5cm (3in) pots or trays to grow on. Plant out in spring into well drained soil. Gradually acclimatise to outdoor conditions for 10 to 15 days before planting out.
In their natural environment, the seeds would germinate after a period of cold, so if there is little or no germination move the tray to a cold area: at around 4°C (39°F) for 2 to 4 weeks. Once you have picked out the remaining seedlings place the tray outdoors in a sheltered area for the winter. Come back to it in spring, more seedlings may await!
Echinacea are generally low maintenance. Grow in deep, well-drained, humus-rich soil ideally in full sun although they can tolerate some shade. Plant in light shade in hot climates. They are tolerant of drought, heat, humidity and poor soil. Avoid over-watering as Echinacea prefer drier conditions once established. No additional fertilising is necessary as heavy fertilisation leads to tall, leggy plants that flop.
These plants are easy to grow although, as with many perennials, they usually take more than one growing season to truly begin to flower. Cut back stems as the blooms fade to encourage further flower production.
Once they are established Echinacea will freely self seed if some deadheads are left intact.
Goldfinch fight for the seeds. If you want to harvest them cover with a net after the seed begins to form. The seed can be difficult to harvest and are easiest after rain or early in the morning when they are wet from dew. The prickly seed heads are soft and pliable, they can be broken in half with your fingers and the seeds picked out.
Dividing every few years will keep them healthy. Divided in spring or autumn, although this should not be too often and care should be taken as they resent a lot of disturbance.
While most home garden Echinacea is a garden ornamental, it can also be grown as a fresh or dried cut flower. Allow flowers to mature on the plant before harvesting. Fresh Echinacea has a short vase life of seven days. Dry by hanging upside down in a well-ventilated, dry area.
Cottage/Informal Garden, Cut Flowers and Flower Arranging, Flowers Borders and Beds, Prairie Planting, Wildflower Gardens or Wildlife Gardens.
Echinacea has nine species in the genus and all are native to the United States. They are related to Rudbeckia and have very much the same look when flowering.
Three different species are used medicinally: E. purpurea, E. pallida, and E. angustifolia. Purpurea is considered more ornamental. Each variety is used to boost the immune system and ward off infections. They have been studied and proven effective against bronchitis, coughs, cold, flu, fever, infections, and sore throat.
Historically, the leaves of these plants were used by Native Americans to treat rheumatism, mumps, and measles and the roots to treat burns and toothaches.
The root was also chewed as a cold remedy and to increase saliva flow to prevent thirst. A tea made from powdered roots and leaves was drunk to treat sore gums and sore throats. Samples of Echinacea were uncovered in campsites from the 1600s, but its use probably goes back much further.
The root is fibrous and close to the surface. It takes 3 to 4 years to develop roots large enough for a substantial harvest.
A fun exercise for the unknowing is to take 3 to 5 seeds and grind them between your front teeth. The resulting sensation will exhibit its pain killing ability.
Echinacea is a genus in the aster family. There are nine species of Echinacea. The family is native to the central and south-eastern parts of the United States.
Some species, for example E. angustifolia, E. purpurea, and E. pallida, are widespread. (These three species are most commonly found in herb products). E.purpurea prefers relatively damp sites in semi-shadow such as the edges of forests and embankments, from lowlands to elevations of 1500 metres.
While other species, including E. tennesseensis (obviously from Tennessee), the rare Appalachian species E. laevigata, and E. paradoxa, are found in narrowly restricted areas. E. tennesseensis and E. laevigata are on the list of endangered plant species.
The yellow-flowered E. paradoxa (the paradox of this "purple coneflower" is that it is yellow) and E. simulata (simulating E. pallida), are both native to the Ozarks of Arkansas and Missouri.
Other unusual species include E. atrorubens, which occurs in eastern Kansas and Oklahoma, and E. sanguinea, which occurs in Louisiana and eastern Texas, with one population in southwestern Arkansas.
The name Echinacea is derived from the Greek word echino which means spiky or prickly, referring to the plant’s floral centre. Pronounced eck-in-ay-see-uh
The species name pallida means ‘pale’. It is commonly referred to as the Pale Purple Coneflower.
The common name of Coneflower is shared with a number of species including Rudbeckia.
NGB. 2014 Year of the Echinacea:
Echinacea was chosen as the National Garden Bureau’s 2014 Perennial of the Year because of the vast assortment of flower colours and shapes available to today’s gardener but also because they are such a garden staple. The classic flower shape continues to be a favorite in home and public gardens, a ‘tried and true’ classic sure to please any home gardener.
- Additional Information
Packet Size 50 Seeds Family Asteraceae Genus Echinacea Species pallida Common Name Pale Purple Coneflower Hardiness Hardy Perennial Flowers Mid Summer to Mid Autumn Height 60 - 90cm (24-36in) Spread 45-60cm (18-24in) Position Ideally in full sun, will tolerate partial shade Aspect East, West or South facing. Exposed or Sheltered Soil Well-drained/light, Clay/heavy, Chalky/alkaline, Sandy