Also known by the name, 'Coneflower', an echinacea plant is much more than being a great addition to perennial beds and borders. It also serves as a medicinal herb which helps in boosting the immune system and curing a number of ailments. The echinacea is endemic to eastern and central North America. The reason it is popular is because of its season-long colorful display of daisy-like flowers. The plant's sturdy stems bear a prominent central cone which is complimented by strikingly colorful, brilliant, and fragrant flowers. Breeding activities developed in recent times, have been able to make way for the production of a wide range of colors for the flowers, blooming characteristics, and the habitat of the plant. Nowadays, you may find a wide range of cultivars of the same plant bearing hues of magenta, orange, pink, purple, white, and yellow. With little care you are rewarded with some eye-catching blossoms which appear in mid-summer and last through the end of the growing season.
As mentioned earlier, this variety is a hardy species and a preferred choice when it comes to gardening for beginners. The only concern about this plant is too much moisture. It does not prefer wet, soggy soil. Rather, it does well in fairly dry soil. However, during the first year after transplanting, young plants require about an inch of water every week in order to develop their taproots. Once the plants get established, they become drought resistant to a great extent and thus, can do well in drier soil. The plants will obtain their required moisture from rain, except in extremely dry days. So, if there has been no rain for 1 to 2 weeks, then you must consider watering them yourself. But take care not to make the soil soggy.
The plant enjoys full sun, but it also does well in partial shade. Excess shade may hamper its vigorous growth and productivity of flowers. The soil type must be fertile and if not, then work in a little compost and supplement it with a good organic fertilizer. The soil must also be well-drained and it must not be constantly damp. In areas, where the moisture level is high, it is best if you grow it in a raised bed.
A general, all purpose, slowly dissolving fertilizer is preferable for feeding young echinacea plants, during the first and second years of growth. This has to be done once in late spring. Sprinkle the fertilizer on the soil around the base of the plants. Take care not to cause the mixture to come in contact with new stems or leaves. Older plants do not require fertilizing, unless they're growing in poor soil.
Mulch is required for maintaining the moisture of the soil, especially for a plant whose blooming period occurs during the heat of spring to summer. 2 inches of organic mulch is good enough to be spread around the flowers in cultivated beds. As the echinacea plant is a wild species, it requires minimal pruning. Removing fading flower tops helps the formation of new buds and extends the blooming season.
Aphids, caterpillars, grasshoppers, Japanese beetles, leafhoppers, and whiteflies are the common pests which are known to affect the echinacea. Also, aster yellows, powder mildew, and root rot are diseases that are commonly observed.
Growing an echinacea plant is easy when done through seeds. Early spring is considered ideal for the seeds to be sown. Place the seeds 2" apart from each other and sow at a depth of 1/4" in the soil. When the seedlings grow to an inch tall, they must be 18'' apart. Look out for weeds, as this plant does not compete well with them.
This plant helps in boosting the immune system. Illnesses which can be treated with the tea of this plant include cold, cough, sore throat, fever, ear infection, and urinary tract infections. Treating skin problems such as eczema and boils, asthma, and inflammation associated with arthritis are the other benefits which this plant provides.