How to Grow Echinacea / Coneflowers in Pots or Containers


Over the years I’ve grown multiple coneflowers in pots and had them survive the winter without issue. In this article I will tell you the key factors I’ve used to successfully grow Coneflowers in pots, and the pictures to prove it!

A specimen of Echinacea Purpurea that is 36″ tall

Coneflowers (Echinacea) can successfully be grown in pots or containers for display on porches, decks, or balconies. Their long bloom time make them an attractive perennial for many locations.

In order to have success growing Echinacea in a pot/ container, you need to take care of the following 3 factors:

  • What species of Coneflower you choose
  • The pot size & drainage
  • The location, namely how much sun is available

So, if you follow my process below, you should be able to grow Echinacea in a container….Read on.

Process to Grow Coneflowers in Pots

The Container Size Matters

To grow Echinacea in a pot or container, select a large container of 1 gallon or larger (4 L). The larger the container, the larger the coneflower can grow/bloom. The example below has about a 3 gallon capacity (12 L).

The size is also important for stability. Coneflowers can often grow 2-3′ tall. The larger, or heavier the container the less likely the pot could tip over. Choosing a heavy pot can also help for maintaining stability.

Just how much does container size matter?

The image below are three coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea), that are all the same age. Each plant in this picture germinated the year prior, and all overwintered during 2019-2020 in their container shown.

3 Coneflowers. Each germinated from seed the year prior. This illustrates how much container size effects the size of the plant….

The largest plant is in a 3 gallon pot. The medium size plant is in a 1 gallon pot. And the smallest plant is in a 4″ starter pot (I just never planted it out last year – oops).

Drainage if important!

Make sure the container has several large drain holes in the bottom so that water cannot collect. This is because poor drainage will kill Echinacea by rotting the roots. If there are no drainage holes, add them or select a different pot.

Fill the pot with moist potting soil, up to 1″ below the rim (2.5 cm). Gravel is not necessary in the bottom of the pot, unless you think your pot will not be heavy enough to support the plant.

If you purchased seed, plant your Echinacea seeds per the instructions on the packet. Or, you purchased a plant, then transplant it into the pot. Just dig a hole of the appropriate size and plant it.

==> Click here to read our comprehensive guide to starting Echinacea from seed!

Location Matters….

Place the pot in an area that will get at least 2-4 hours of sun per day. Echinacea is a prairie plant though, so 6 -12 hours of sun is fine for growing Coneflowers.

In this location the plant will receive approximately 8 hours of sun per day

Don’t let it dry out

Although Echinacea is drought tolerant, any plant in a container drys out faster than if planted in the ground. So, plan on watering the Echinacea daily when it is hot or sunny.

If you are unsure, you can poke your finger 1″ into the potting soil to see if the soil is moist. If it feels dry, then water the plant. Also, pick up the pot – if it feels light, it probably needs water.

Types of Coneflowers

There are several different species of Echinacea native to North America. In addition to those there are numerous cultivars and hybrids available. All species of Echinacea (Coneflower) are easy to grow from seed. However, most species of Echinacea have taproots.

The good news is that the most common species of Echinacea (which is what most cultivars are based on) is Echinacea Purpurea, which has a fibrous roots system [1]. This allows us more flexibility pot size for growing Echinacea in a container.

Common NameSpeciesRoot
Purple ConeflowerEchinacea purpureaFibrous Root
Pale Purple ConeflowerEchinacea pallidaTap Root
Narrow-Leaf ConeflowerEchinacea angustifoliaTap Root
Tennessee ConeflowerEchinacea tennesseensisTap Root

To grow a coneflower in a pot, I strongly reccommend that you select common Purple Coneflower, or one of it’s variants. If you are purchasing a special color, or hybrid coneflower – look to the scientific name on the packet. If it contains the words “Echinacea Purpurea“. If so, then it will likely have a fibrous root system.

Coneflowers in containers during Winter

Although Echinacea is hardy to zone 4, it still may not survive extreme cold in a container. If you have more mild winters, you can store your Echinacea on Southern facing walls. Consider adding leaves around the pots, or even blankets to help protect the plants.

Don’t overwater plants in pots that are dormant!

When a plant is dormant, or not actively growing, it is ok to not water it much if at all. If you keep the soil moist, the root stock can rot and cause the plant to die. I just leave the plant exposed to the elements and let mother nature determine when the pot gets watered.

Do Coneflowers need to be fertilized?

Generally Coneflowers do not need fertilizer. However, a layer of compost around the plant in the Spring can help keep the plant looking full and healthy.

Learn more about growing Purple Coneflower from seed in this video:

References:

[1] Echinacea Root Types – https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-319-18156-1_3

Joe Foster

Hi - I grew up outdoors in nature - hiking, fishing, hunting. In high school I got my first job at a garden center where I learned to garden and landscape. I've been growing plants from seed and designing native plant gardens for over six years. I hope to share some of my knowledge with you! Additionally I am a wood worker / DIY enthusiast. I enjoy designing/building projects (with hand tools when I can!). I hope to give you some tips and useful information!

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