Mid-Summer: Coneflowers Are Bursting Out All Over

Find the bee on the flower.

Find the bee on the flower.

In Mid-July the ‘butterfly magnet” pink coneflowers (echinacea purpurea) start to take centre stage in the summer garden, ready for the busy pollinators, the bees and butterflies. This perennial native is a must-have in any garden, especially for those who like low maintenance and lots of bloom. Although there are now many new cultivars of this native plant, including double forms, the original native form is extremely reliable and carefree. It even self seeds to give you more plants in unexpected places, always a plus in my book.

Some of the newer echinacea varieties, however are very exciting, and offer a new colour ranges, with deeper pinks, white and even varieties of orange and red. Orange-toned varieties include ‘Hot Summer’, ‘Cheyenne Spirit’, and the deliciously named ‘Tomato Soup’. Other varieties are more compact, like ‘Pow Wow Wildberry’  (16 to 20 inches high), which won the All American Gold Medal in 2010. The ‘Pow Wow’ colour is a bit deeper purple than the true native. ‘Pow Wow’ also comes in a white form. ‘White Swan’ is another lovely variety, with pure white petals. ‘Green Jewel’ rounds out the colour spectrum for echinaceas, with only the exception of blue.

Colour Variety of Coneflowers

The large cultivar ‘Magnus’ was the first coneflower cultivar developed and has more horizontally held petals, vs the traditional downward facing “shuttlecock” style of the original petal form. ‘Sombrero Salsa Red’ is a vermilion red. ‘Sombrero Sandy Yellow’ is a yellow-orange, along with the foodie-friendly name, ‘Mac and Cheese’ (I do love the variety of names in the cultivars, you can tell the breeders have fun with this aspect of their job.) By selecting different cultivars of coneflower, you can have a full range of hues using just this one plant.

Double Flowered Coneflowers

Now a word about the double forms: I personally stay away from the double forms of echinacea, in my own garden, as with all double flowers they present problems for pollinators, and one of my main goals is to plant for wildlife. The physical form of any double flower provides very little access to nectar and pollen for bees and butterflies. The double cultivars are fun to look at though. ‘Ferris Wheel’ and ‘Double Decker’ are almost jokes in flower form. The white, double ‘Milkshake’ looks to me like something from a Dr Suess book. ‘Pink Poodle’, to me, looks too much like a dahlia, to even still be considered a coneflower; it is so fully double. But if you have a hankering for a pink poodle in the garden, this might be one for you. If you do plant a double form, make sure you also have a few single forms as well, if you are interested in hosting wildlife.

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