Echinacea Pallida – How to Grow Pale Purple Coneflower
September 20, 2018
Pale Purple Coneflower Overview
The native perennial, Pale Purple Coneflower, (Echinacea Pallida) is a good choice for landscapes and prairies. It has a long bloom time and is very showy, also being very tall (3-5’, 1-1.5 m). There are several differences with the more common Echinacea Purpurea, which is the common Purple Coneflower. The first being the flower itself, as it has very narrow petals that hang down, almost like a more delicate and graceful coneflower. The second being the bloom time. In my experience this will bloom 2-3 weeks earlier than Echinacea Purpurea. So, if you like coneflower then you should consider adding a few of these to your garden, as it will allow you a longer duration of having ‘coneflowers’ in bloom during the summer! Another difference with Echinacea Purpurea is that the leaves are much narrower, which helps in identification prior to blooming.
Also, the roots of echinacea typically go to around 5’ deep (1.5 m), making it very drought tolerant. This plant can thrive in any type of soil, even clay. But, it probably won’t survive if it is semi-wetland, or just a general moist area that doesn’t drain. Another difference differentiating this plant is the leaves are much narrower than the more common Echinaceas.
We have several specimens growing in our backyard micro-prairie. They add some graceful pink hues in Early Summer while most of the other plants are still growing. Be sure to check out how to start your own micro-prairie to get maximum color throughout the year, while doing the most to help bees, butterflies, and other pollinators.
Growing Pale Purple Coneflower from seed
I’ve never seen this plant available at a garden center. So, unless you have a good friend with some roots to spare, seed is probably your only option.
Stratification is pretty much required for this plant. For instance, most references say 30-90 days, but in my experience, 90 is the safe bet. Planting depth is the same as other echinaceas, ⅛ to ¼ inch (3-6 mm). I generally use 3-5 seeds per pot/cell, and will usually get at least 2 seeds to germinate per cell. The easiest way to get the stratification on this plant is to winter sow it. So, basically plant it during the winter in the ground – or in pots that are protected.
Transplant small seedlings to larger pots once they begin to fill out their pots. I generally recommend something that is 4” square or diameter at a minimum. You should let the seedling grow for another month or so before transplanting out to the garden. When choosing a location in the garden, make sure you give this plant enough space. A small seedling one year can easily turn into a large 3’ diameter plant the second. Also, beware of deer/rabbits, as they like to eat the leaves of young seedlings. I recommend using some of the rabbit repellent techniques described here.
This plant will generally not bloom the first year. But if transplanted early enough, I have seen a 1-2 blooms very late in the season. The second year you can expect to have a strong, vigorous plant that can product 10-20 blooms. So, it can establish quite quickly.
General Growing Requirements – Pale Purple Coneflower
This is a hardy perennial, and pretty easy to grow. Another benefit is that bees absolutely love this plant, as evidenced by the picture at right. It is native to the prairie, where it would receive sun all day, occasional droughts, high wind, etc. A big threat to Echinacea Pallida is deer and rabbits when the plants are young, or emerging from winter. Another consideration is to avoid putting it in a space that collects too much water, or if it doesn’t receive enough sun.
This plant lights a lot of sun, and well drained soil. As long as it isn’t in a wetland and gets sun, it should do just fine. Make sure you keep the rabbits/deer at bay when seedlings are young or when it is emerging from winter.
Once this plant is done blooming and beginning to go dormant, don’t cut it back. Leaving your dormant plants up will provide many ecological benefits. The first benefit you will notice with this flower is that the birds, particularly goldfinches, love to land on the seed-heads and pick out the seeds to eat. I’ve seen four goldfinches at a time eating seed from plants I have grown. So, it is like a natural bird feeder for your garden! Also, many beneficial insects will hibernate, or have larvae in the hollow stems. Keeping those up will allow them a safe place to over-winter and reemerge in the spring.
Collecting Echinacea pallida seed
Collecting Pale Purple Coneflower seed is very easy! Just cut the seed heads off the plant after they’ve turned black. Store them in a paper bag for about a week in a cool dry place. Next, you place some of the seed heads in a decent sized sealed plastic container and shake them up. The seeds will readily separate from the seed head, without the need of clippers, scissors or gloves. See this video tutorial for more info.
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