Echinacea, a radiant late-flowering beauty

The purple coneflower, or Echinacea Purpurea, is an exceptional perennial. It has been considered to possess healing powers since time immemorial, although some claims carry more weight than others. The exact effects of the substances it contains are not fully understood, but it does appear to have certain medicinal properties. Echinacea also has glorious flowers, which provide welcome colour in the garden in late summer!

The discovery of the purple coneflower added an extra genus to the Compositae family: Echinacea. This perennial originates from North America, where it was commonly used for medicinal purposes. The Indians used it as an antidote and as an anaesthetic for snake bites, whereas the colonists favoured the plant as a remedy for coughs and colds.

This popular border plant is the best known species within the genus, partly due to the fact that the name ‘Echinacea’ regularly appears on the packs of homeopathic products. The roots and leaves of this plant are still commonly used in remedies of this sort. E. purpurea is not the only species. Around nine different varieties can be distinguished, of which E. purpurea, E. angustifolia and E. pallida are also used as garden plants.

Although this winter-hardy perennial is fairly undemanding, there are some factors that need to be taken into account. First of all it likes a warm, sunny position, although it feels quite happy in partial shade too.

Echinacea needs little nutrition in order to survive – but, of course, you want your plants to do more than merely survive. If you want magnificent large flowers in your garden, and if you want to enjoy a long flowering period (August - October), the soil should have a high humus content and good drainage properties. However, if the plant absorbs too many nutrients, it will become too tall and limp and may topple over. The trick is to find a happy medium. The purple coneflower reaches a height of 60-90 centimetres on average.

Space is another factor that needs to be taken into account when choosing a suitable site. Make sure the colourful coneflowers are not overgrown by other tall plants that obstruct the sunlight and stunt their growth. It would be a shame if you were prevented from enjoying their long, rich flowering.

The ideal planting time is late September to late October. Although coneflowers combine well with other plants, they are especially effective planted in groups. A border containing large groups of coneflowers interspersed with ornamental grasses creates a glorious effect!

Echinacea is not susceptible to disease, although wet winters may cause a problem as the plants may rot. This is why soil with good drainage is so important.

Besides the above-mentioned species, Bakker has an exclusive variety in its collection: the so-called Echinacea ‘Butterfly hybrid’. These colourful plants are very striking and will fill your garden with stunning summer colours.

On the subject of radiant late-flowering beauties, we should also mention Rudbeckia, which is related to Echinacea.  At a brief glance these two genera are almost identical, which is why they share the common name of Coneflower. With its fresh colours and long flowering period, this member of the Compositae family is another radiant late-summer plant.

These trendy border plants are very useful subjects for the late summer garden. Try them in your garden and prepare to be enthralled!

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