The coneflower has long been one of the most overlooked flowers in the garden. In recent years that has started to change. Breeders have spent more time and effort developing new varieties with better resistance, more versatility and a wider range of colors and shapes. This has led to the native wildflower enjoying a much deserved resurgence.
The coneflower is a low maintenance perennial plant. There are 9 distinct species and over 60 different coneflower varieties. Many coneflower blooms resemble daisies.
Interestingly Native Americans used the plants in a number of herbal remedies. The coneflower has been used to treat ailments such as sore throats and toothaches. Today the coneflower, or echinacea plant, is still used to boost the immune system.
The coneflower is one of the most attractive summer flowers.
Types of Coneflowers
The original coneflower or Echinacea purpurea produces daisy-like purple flowers with a bright orange center or cone. A long lasting bloom with good drought tolerance and the ability to self seed it remains a popular choice amongst flower lovers and pollinators, who adore the pollen laden flowers. This cultivar is, along with several other types of coneflowers, considered native to the central and eastern parts of the United States.
Further adding to the attraction, every year new varieties and hybrids are being developed.
The following are some of the more attractive types of coneflowers currently available.
A newcomer to the market, Avalanche (Echinacea purpurea) is one of the more recently developed types of coneflowers. It is seen by many as a resilient replacement for the less hardy Shasta daisy. Further adding to the attraction, Avalanche is also deer resistant and happily grows in rocky soils.
Typically flowering from June until early September, Avalanche produces classic coneflower looking, long lasting flowers with a rich green center. Avalanche grows to a height of 12 to 18 inches and is considered hardy in USDA Zones 3 to 8. Happiest in full sun, Avalanche also grows in partial shade.
The white blooms of Avalanche resemble those of the Shasta daisy.
2 Green Envy
Another Echinacea purpurea cultivar, Green Envy is one of the most unusual types of coneflowers. The blooms of this herbaceous perennial are completely green when they first develop. As they mature a magenta halo emerges around the central cone. The cone also changes color from green to pink or magenta as it matures.
Flowering from mid to late summer, Green Envy is best grown in warm climates. Like other types of coneflowers it does best in a sunny position. Considered hardy in USDA Zones 4 to 10 Green Envy grows to a height of around 2 to 3 ft and spreads up to 1 ft wide.
As it ages, the petals of Green Envy turn from green to purple.
Bred in Holland, Razzmatazz is one of the true double flowering types of coneflowers. Instead the central cone of the Razzmatazz flower is covered by a dome of short, frilly petals. These are surrounded by a skirt of longer petals. A clump forming flower that has a reliable upright growth habit, the bright pink flowers of Razzmatazz last from June until the end of August or early September.
Like many types of coneflowers Razzmatazz is native to central and southeastern parts of the United States. Hardy in USDA Zones 3 to 9, Razzmatazz reaches an average height of 24 to 30 inches.
The double flowers of Razzmatazz create an eye-catching effect.
4 Double Decker
One of the most distinctive types of coneflowers, Double Decker (Echinacea purpurea) was developed from an unusual mutation noticed by German coneflower breeders. The pink flowers of Double Decker have a unique double layer. While a conventional long layer of reflexed petals surround the base of the cone, a second layer of short petals shoot upwards from the top of the cone. This second set of petals typically appears in the second year.
Hardy in USDA Zones 3 to 8, Double Decker flowers from late spring until the start of fall. Best planted in a cooler climate, Double Decker plants reach a height of 3 to 4 ft and can spread up to 3 ft wide. Double Decker, like other types of coneflowers, Double Decker is popular with pollinators and hummingbirds.
Part of the Bird series of coneflowers, Firebirds orange-red flowers with a dark center resemble a glowing shuttlecock. Popular with butterflies, flower lovers adore Firebird because the color of the flower doesn’t fade as the plant ages. They look particularly effective when planted in groups alongside Black Eyed Susan.
Flowering profusely from midsummer until early fall, Firebird is hardy in USDA Zones 4 to 9. Reaches a height of 2 to 3 ft, Firebird is deer, drought, heat and humidity resistant. It also grows well in poor soils. As well as an attractive part of the garden, Firebird is also both a good cut and dried flower.
Firebird’s large pollen filled cones are popular with pollinators.
6 Hot Papaya
Hot Papaya (Echinacea Hot Papaya) is one of the most eye-catching varieties on our list. The double flowers are golden in color as they emerge before developing into a tropical flame red-orange color. These sit around a red pom pom cone. The fragrant flowers retain their color as they age.
Averaging 30 to 36 inches in height, Hot Papaya is a great choice for planting in the center of a flower bed. Hot Papaya plants look particularly attractive when planted alongside other red and yellow flowering plants. Hot Papaya also works well when planted with cooler blue and purple flowers, creating a contrasting effect in the flower bed.
Hardy in USDA Zones 4 to 9, Hot Papaya typically flowers from early summer until the start of fall.
One of the yellow flowering types of coneflowers, Daydream (Echinacea Daydream) is popularly grown for its prominent cones. These are further highlighted by the plants gently drooping petals. Similar in appearance to many other types of coneflowers, what sets Daydream apart is that it sets more flowers on its branches than other varieties whilst retaining a compact shape.
Daydream’s sweetly fragrant, yellow flowers emerge earlier than other types of coneflowers. In favorable conditions this can be as early as May. With a little care, Daydream continues to flower until early September. Daydream is hardy in USDA Zones 4 to 9 and reaches a height and spread of 12 to 24 inches.
Daydream is popular for its bright yellow flowers with prominent cones.
8 Flame Thrower
A fragrant, early flowering cultivar Flame Thrower (Echinacea Flame Thrower) was introduced to the commercial market in 2009. Flame Throwers two toned petals, yellow tips with a red-orange base, contrast nicely with the plants deep red cones.
Popular for its upright, branching habit, Flame Thrower tolerates poor soil, heat and humidity. Growing well in poor soil, Flame Thrower is also deer resistant. A long lasting easy to grow flower, Flame Thrower is hardy in USDA Zones 3 to 8. Flame Thrower achieves a height and spread of 24 to 36 inches.
9 Double Scoop Cranberry
Part of the Double Scoop series, the lush pink-red pom pom like flowers of Double Scoop Cranberry (Echinacea x purpurea Balscanery) add both color and interest to the flower bed. Unlike other types of coneflowers Double Scoop Cranberry petals don’t bleach or fade as they age.
Best planted in full sun, Double Scoop Cranberry reaches a height and spread of 16 to 22 inches. It is considered hardy in USDA Zones 4 to 7.
The Double Scoop series is increasingly popular for its showy blooms.
In addition to Cranberry, the Double Scoop series also includes Bubble Gum, Orangeberry and Raspberry.
A versatile and attractive cultivar, Greenline (Echinacea purpurea Greenline) is another of the green flowering types of coneflowers. Adding both color and texture to sunny borders, the bottle green flowers of Greenline look particularly attractive when planted alongside hot pink or magenta colored flowers.
A long lasting flower, Greenline blooms from June until late August or early September. Hardy in USDA Zones 3 to 8, Greenline typically achieves a height of 18 to 24 inches.
11 Fragrant Angel
Part of the Prairie Pillar Series, Fragrant Angel (Echinacea purpurea Fragrant Angel) is one of the newer types of coneflowers on our list. The large white daisy-like flowers are further lifted by the golden-orange central cone. Unlike other types of coneflowers, the petals of Fragrant Angel sit horizontally around the central cone instead of falling downwards.
Popular with butterflies and hummingbirds, Fragrant Angel is ideal in mixed flower beds and borders. Its large flowers are particularly attractive when planted alongside Black-Eyed Susan. Hardy in USDA Zones 3 to 9, Fragrant Angel is one of the tallest coneflower varieties reaching a height of 36 to 48 inches.
Fragrant Angel’s petals sit horizontally around the cone, instead of falling downwards.
12 Big Sky Harvest Moon
Part of the Big Sky series Big Sky Harvest Moon (Echinacea BIG SKY Harvest Moon) is one of the hybrid types of coneflowers. Made by crossing E. paradoxa and E. purpurea, Big Sky Harvest Moon produces fragrant flowers with large copper-orange cones and deep golden petals. Like many other plants on this list, Harvest Moon is ideal for mixed flower beds and borders. It also makes a good cut flower, lasting for up to 2 weeks if kept in fresh water.
Like other Big Sky Series plants, Big Sky has good humidity and heat tolerance. Flowering throughout the summer, Big Sky draws scores of bees, butterflies and hummingbirds to the garden. Reaching a height of 24 to 36 inches and spreading 12 to 24 inches wide, Big Sky is considered hardy in USDA Zones 4 to 8.
The Big Sky is a reliable hybrid series, popular for its long lasting flowers and large cones.
13 Mango Meadowbrite
Popular for its orange or tangerine blooms and sweet orange aroma, Mango Meadowbrite (Echinacea Mango Meadowbrite) is one of the more unusual types of coneflowers. A versatile herbaceous perennial, Mango Meadowbrite is pleasingly disease resistant and heat tolerant. Ideal for flower beds and container gardens, the Mango Meadowbrite’s large flowers last from midsummer until well into the fall.
Mango Meadowbrite is hardy in USDA Zones 4 to 9. Mature plants can reach a height and spread of 2 to 3 ft depending on the growing conditions.
Part of the Meadowbrite series, another popular cultivar is Orange Meadowbrite, a reliable hybrid which produces attractive orange flowers from June until the fall.
14 Pixie Meadowbrite
Pixie Meadowbrite (Echinacea Meadowbrite) is one of the best dwarf types of coneflowers currently available. Like Mango and Orange Meadowbrite, Pixie is part of the reliable Meadowbrite coneflower series.
Pixie Meadowbrite is increasingly popular for its dense mass of purple blooms that last throughout the summer months. Despite being a dwarf cultivar, Pixie Meadowbrite’s flowers look just like the traditional coneflower bloom.
Hardy in USDA Zones 3 to 9, Pixie Meadowbrite typically reaches a height of 12 to 24 inches. When planted in pots or as part of a container garden the plants tend to be smaller than those in the ground. As well as pots and container gardens Pixie Meadowbrite is also ideal for planting at the front of mixed flower beds.
Dwarf cultivars are just as popular with pollinators as full size varieties.
With a name meaning ‘Royal Child of Heaven’, Leilani (Echinacea Leilani) is one of the most cheerful types of coneflowers. The plant’s attractive yellow flowers reach up to 3 ft tall sitting on impressively strong stems. This resilience means that Leilani is one of the best cultivars for planting in a slightly more exposed position. The sturdy stems also mean that Leilani pants make for good for cut flower gardens.
Leilani has a pleasingly vigorous growth and, with a little care and regular deadheading, can continue to flower from July until October. Tolerating heat well, Leilani is hardy in USDA Zones 4 to 9.
16 Cheyenne Spirit
Cheyenne Spirit is prized for its showy flowers in shades of white, yellow, cream, pink, red and orange with contrasting brown centers. Cheyenne Spirit is also popular with hummingbirds, bees and butterflies, making the cultivar an ideal choice for a butterfly garden.
Perfect for cut flower gardens, the colorful petals are said to resemble large, elegant spikes. The fragrant flowers also suit mixed flower beds, wildflower gardens and naturalized areas. Sow Cheyenne Spirit seeds early, undercover just after Christmas, for the flowers to emerge in July and August. Hardy in USDA Zones 4 to 9, Cheyenne Spirit typically reaches a height of 12 to 30 inches.
Red and orange types bring warmth to the flower bed.
17 Secret Passion
One of the most showy types of coneflowers, Secret Passion produces eye-catching bright pink double cones that are surrounded by light, pink petals. As well as being rich in color, the flowers are also fragrant. Secret Passion flowers throughout the summer. Regularly deadheading spent blooms encourages more to form, further prolonging the flowering period.
Secret Passion (Echinacea Secret Passion) is part of the Secret series along with Secret Romance, Secret Glow and Secret Desire. These heat tolerant plants are ideal for southern gardens. Hardy in USDA Zones 4 to 10, Secret Passion achieves a height of 1 to 2 ft and can spread up to 3 ft wide. Like many other types of coneflowers, Secret Passion flowers draw pollinators and hummingbirds to the garden. This attractive coneflower is also an excellent dried flower.
18 PowWow Wild Berry
PowWow Wild Berry, part of the PowWow series of coneflowers, is a quick growing variety. An ideal choice if you want to grow flowers from seed, PowWow Wild Berry flowers emerge around 20 weeks after sowing. The attractive magenta blooms can continue to emerge throughout the summer months, even if you do not deadhead the spent flowers.
PowWow Wild Berry is one of the more compact types of coneflowers reaching a height and spread of 12 to 24 inches. This makes it ideal for growing in pots and planters. Wild Berry Thrives in cooler climates and is pleasingly tolerant of poor soil and arid conditions.
Many types of coneflowers produce long lasting flowers.
19 Kim’s Knee High
One of the smaller types of coneflowers in every other aspect, Kim’s Knee High (Echinacea purpurea Kim’s Knee High) resembles the traditional purple coneflower. Typically achieving a height of just 12 to 18 inches, Kim’s Knee High is an ideal choice for planting in smaller spaces and containers.
A compact cultivar, Kim’s Knee High produces attractive pink flowers that can last from June until late August. Hardy in USDA Zones 3 to 8, like many other types of coneflowers Kim’s Knee High is popular with pollinators and hummingbirds. Kim’s Knee High is also pleasingly easy to care for.
20 Intense Orange
One of theKismet series types of coneflowers, Intense Orange (Echinacea KISMET Intense Orange) is popular for its large flowers. The vivid orange petals surround a golden brown cone. These attractive flowers sit on surprisingly strong stems above lush dark green leaves.
With a little encouragement, Intense Orange can flower from the start of summer until the first fall frosts arrive. Reaching a height of 18 to 24 inches, these may be one of the smaller types of coneflowers, but the colorful blooms more than make up for it. Intense Orange is hardy in USDA Zones 4 to 9.
Bicolored petals are particularly eye-catching.
Caring for Coneflower Plants
The coneflower is an attractive, low maintenance summer flower. Many types are versatile enough to tolerate planting in a range of conditions. A popular choice for mixed flower beds and naturalized or wildlife friendly planting schemes, many types of coneflowers are also suitable for growing in pots and planters.
Growing from Seed
The coneflower is one of the easiest flowers to grow from seed. Scatter the seeds evenly across trays or in pots filled with fresh, moist potting soil. Place in a Tabor Tools Propagator. Continue to keep the soil evenly moist until the seeds germinate. Following germination the trays or pots can be removed from the propagator.
Continue to grow the seedlings on undercover until the last frost date has passed. Harden off the seedlings and transplant into your final growing position.
A herbaceous perennial, the coneflower is best planted in full sun. While the plants also grow in partial shade positions, they may not flower as intensely. Ideally the soil should be neutral or slightly acidic, however most types of coneflowers tolerate planting in a range of soil profiles. This tolerance is thanks to the plant’s fibrous root system. This also means that the cornflower is more forgiving of both transplanting and dividing than some other flowers.
An adaptable plant, the coneflower is suitable for planting in a range of soil types.
To transplant your coneflowers, make a hole in the soil large enough to hold the root ball. When placed in the hole the top of the coneflower root ball should sit level with the soil level. Backfill the hole and water well.
While they appreciate regular watering, all types of coneflowers prefer well draining soil. If your soil is slow to drain, work in compost whilst digging the hole and transplanting. Allowing your coneflower plants to sit in soil that is too wet or poor to drain can cause fungal issues such as powdery mildew to develop.
After planting, regularly water your coneflowers. Gradually reduce the frequency with which you water from once a day to once a week. Once established the coneflower is pleasingly drought tolerant.
If your soil is rich in organic matter there is no need to fertilize your plants. Too much fertilizer can cause the coneflower to become leggy. Instead mulch or work compost into the soil each spring. A regular dose of compost encourages lots of healthy foliage and flowers to emerge.
Many types of coneflowers struggle in humid climates or if soil stays wet. Heat is less of a problem. Mulching the soil around the flowers helps to keep the roots cool.
Particularly in colder climates,many types of coneflowers require protection from the frost. Younger plants in particular are susceptible to cold or frost damage. Older specimens have more resilience. Airstar Plant Covers are made from permeable material, enabling light and moisture to reach your plants whilst still protecting them from cold temperatures.
Most types of coneflowers dont require pruning. Allowing the plants to stand through the winter can provide a food source to visiting garden birds. Prune back in the spring. Consequently bushier plants with a longer flowering season tend to emerge.
Deadhead spent blooms to encourage more to form. Deadheading also prevents the coneflower from setting seed and spreading freely around the garden.
When planted in an exposed position, taller specimens may require a little support to help them stay upright. Tie the main stalks loosely to a Bamboo Stake with a piece of string or garden twine.
If you want to save some seeds to sow on, wait until they ripen. Ripe coneflower seeds should be dark and stiff to the touch. The seeds of many types of coneflowers are attached to the spent flowers by sharp spines. You may need to wear gloves to safely remove the seeds.
As the petals fall away, seeds start to develop on the cone.
Allow the seeds to dry on a paper plate on a light windowsill.
Coneflower seeds require stratification, exposure to cold temperatures, before they germinate. To stratify either, after harvesting, sow directly in the ground or, place in damp seed starting mix in a sealed container. Put the container in the refrigerator for 8 to 10 weeks.
Following starification, sow the seeds half an inch deep and cover with soil. Germination usually takes place in 10 to 14 days. Seeds purchased from garden stores and plant nurseries have usually gone through the stratification process and are ready for sowing.
How to Divide a Coneflower
Mature coneflower plants, at least 3 years old, can be divided. This helps to rejuvenate plants. The roots of older coneflowers can become dense, leading to sparse floral displays.
To divide, carefully dig around the drop line of the plant. Dig deeply down, loosening the roots and soil as you do so. Use the tip of the shove to loosen the roots, working your way around the entire plant. Lifting is often easier in wet soil. If it hasn’t rained recently, soak the soil with a garden hose the day before dividing.
To lift the plant, use your shovel or a garden fork to force the root ball up from the soil. Aim to keep the root as intact as possible.
After lifting the plant from the soil, gently shake away any soil. Be careful not to damage any of the roots as you do this. Any slim, discolored or soggy roots can be cut away with garden scissors.
Inspect the roots, looking for the least dense spots. All types of coneflowers have a spreading root system. This means that it can be gently separated by pulling with your hands. You can also use a sharp spade or shovel to divide the roots.
The ideal size for each section is around a quarter of the size of the original root system.
After dividing, trim back the root mass by about one third. This gives the plant room to set out new, fresh roots. Trimming back the root mass also encourages the coneflower to become stronger and more productive.
Easy to grow, bright, colorful, fragrant and popular with pollinators it is easy to see why so many people adore the coneflower. Whatever type or types you choose to grow, these colorful coneflower varieties are a great way to fill gaps in mixed flower beds or add height and interest to planting schemes.
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.