Echinacea is a tough, colorful perennial from central and eastern North America, where it is found growing in prairies and open wooded areas. The name Echinacea is derived from the Greek word echino, meaning sea urchin, because the foliage of this plant forms a spiny central rosette. Echinacea was widely used in traditional Native American cultures, and today the herbal preparations made from this plant are among the most popular in North American and Europe, used to boost the immune system and ward off infections. It is also sometimes used as a laxative.
The flowers of Echinacea are daisy-like in form, with narrow petals and brownish orange dome-shaped centers, held on strong straight stems above the clump of bristly foliage. There are 9 distinct species of Echinacea, the most common being E. purpurea. The plants are long blooming, and blossoms range in color from white to pink, purple, gold and rust.
Coneflowers are well suited to naturalistic gardens, where they will reseed if spent flowers are allowed to dry naturally and fall to the ground. Clumps spread slowly, and should be divided when they become crowded, usually every 3 or 4 years. Coneflowers like a sunny location with fertile soil that is well drained. In our area they prefer regular water during the dry season, but will tolerate some drought once established.
If you would like more information on Echinacea, and in particular on harvesting and preparing it for medicinal use, check out this useful article on the Garden Guides website: Garden Guides: Echinacea .