Tuesday, September 1, 2009

A Favorite Coneflower

This pretty little coneflower is not like the others here. There are two of these. They may have come from a wildflower seed mix the Lawn Man started a couple of years ago. They're deeper pink, the foliage is smaller and narrower, the plants are shorter, the cones are flatter, smaller, and brighter, and the slightly toothed petals are narrower than Echinacea purpurea. Instead of the typical shuttlecock coneflower shape, the petals are more horizontal. The plants are nicely upright even with very little sun.

Earlier in this garden's life, a few different echinacea cultivars were tried. Most of them didn't make it through their first season. The only ones left from those days are one 'White Swan,' and one 'Magnus.' They seem happy enough here, but I'm not impressed with them in our shady garden. White Swan is more off-white and kind of dull, and Magnus' petals are even paler than purpurea's.

With underwhelming results from cultivars in our garden, I gave up on them and last spring started Echinacea purpurea from seed. With more plants than I could use from a $2 pack of seeds, about half were shared with K, my oldest daughter. The rest have been happy here along with the remaining White Swan and Magnus, and the two mystery coneflowers.

The finches, squirrels, and I are all happy Echinacea purpurea grows well here, pleased one 'White Swan' and one 'Magnus' decided to hang tough, and thrilled these unnamed coneflowers are happy. Whatever they are, may they be fruitful and multiply.


  1. Coneflower from seed is probably the best and most vigorous! The other cultivars seem to never quite match the size of my plain old purples.

  2. It might be pale coneflower-echinacea pallida. I think it is a native prarieflower and is most gorgeous in masses.

  3. I love the color on your coneflower. I have an echinacea this year, but it really hasn't grown very much and hasn't been very prolific with its flowering. Maybe I'll try to see if I can keep it till next year inside... Cheers!

  4. Anonymous9:54 PM

    If I were going just by the description and not the pic, I'd say you have E. Tom Thumb like me.

    Mine is exactly like you describe yours but the pic looks a lot different than mine. It was one of my faves.

    I think I lost it this year when I moved some around and I think I shaded it with larger Echinaceas because I hadn't thought of it or remembered seeing it in the garden since this spring until I read your post.

    I'm going to run out first thing in the morning and look to see if it is still around.

    I'm going to go upload a pic of a funny looking Echinacea of mine to the Chicago Gardeners Flickr pool.

  5. Anonymous10:01 PM

    However it came to be in your garden, it sure is a star performer. What a pretty colour, too.

  6. I'm convinced of that Dave! I won't talk about about how much money I've wasted on cultivars, only to watch them disappear. Some were chewed to the ground by bunnies and never came back, some just disappeared. So far nobody has eaten the natives, although the squirrels, rabbits, or somebody has eaten a few blooms.

    I thought it might be pallida Tina, except when I googled it most of the photos seemed to show more recurved petals than these have. Some of the photos do look a lot like these though, so I'm still not sure.

    I think they take a couple of years to really shine Avis. This is the second year for my seedlings, and the first time they've bloomed. I've started coneflowers from seed before and they bloomed the first year, but that was in full sun. I hope yours makes it. It might even survive winter on the balcony - some are hardy to zone 3, which probably translates to zone 5 when potted.

    MBT, these are about 2' tall, but being young plants they may not be at their mature height yet. Coming from a wildflower seed mix I've assumed their natives but who knows - they could be a cultivar or a open-pollinated cross. With their long tap roots, echinaceas definitely sulk and suffer when they're moved. I moved a bunch of E. purpurea to a (slightly) sunnier spot this year. They weren't happy for a few weeks but recovered. I had to cut them back to stop the daily wilting. These two though, I'm leaving alone - don't want to chance losing them. I hope you find your Tom Thumbs!

    These are happy surprises Nancy, and I agree - love the color whatever name they go by.

  7. Hi Linda, Oddly, echinacea (not sure what cultivar) have never been any problem for me. I water them very little (OK, not at all except after planting) and they always remain upright. Had a problem with the groundhog eating off the flowers for a few years... but that can';t be blamed on the plant! ;-)

    I do love the variety you have... might I suggest you save some seeds for my seed swap in January? (Or just for me, pretty pleeeease?!)

  8. They were never a problem for me until moving here Monica! I definitely push the envelope with sun-loving plants in the shade, and it seems like native echinaceas are more tolerant of our dry shade and tangled maple and arborvitae roots than the cultivars I've tried.

    Then of course there are the squirrels who dug the cultivars but curiously didn't bother the natives (true of other plants here as well,) and the rabbits who don't discriminate between them.

    After moving some of them here, extra watering was needed for weeks, but normally they're very tolerant of our dry conditions.

    I'll be happy to save and share seeds - planned to since I want more of this one myself. I hope they haven't crossed with the others in the garden, and that they get a chance to mature before whoever it is eats them.

    You can see evidence of the marauder on the bare bloom stem to the right of this one that has (so far) survived. Maybe I'll try bagging the remaining blooms.

  9. I notice a lot of variance in my coneflowers, too, Linda, especially since so many of them came from self-seeding. I thought this one looked a little like the echinacea pallida, too, especially if it came from a wildflower mix. I've been wanting to try some of the new cultivars, but I've heard mixed reviews about their hardiness and I hate to spend the big bucks for something that's not going to make it here. Besides, the common purpurea is still the most beautiful of all!

  10. A nice touch of light color in your coneflower.... ~bangchik

  11. Linda girl !! Don't give up on the cone flower project ? You will find more that will be happy in your garden .. I have so many it is ridiculous .. a phase I am going through ? LOL
    I wish we lived closer because I could give you some of mine and I know you would love them !!
    Vintage Wine, Merlot, Ruby Star .. some dark and some tall ones yo might like .. White Swan can be a little lanky but have you smelled it ? .. one gorgeous scent ! : )

  12. Love that pretty and dainty pink one! And it tickles my fancy to know that both you and I are enjoying White Swan in our gardens, even though we are tenthousands of miles apart.

  13. Could it just be due to your shady condition Linda? My coneflowers in full sun are pretty much done but those growing under a dogwood are hanging on and look fresh as a daisy..hehe! They are a very pale shade like yours and much shorter...in my case they are volunteers though and not something I planted. I did attempt the white variety from seeds though and the flowers didn't impress me as much either.

  14. Are the leaves long, thin and a little rough? Do they go all the way up the stem or are they basal? E. pallida has basal leaves that are thin and lanceolate. If the leaves go all the way up the stem you've definitely got E. purpurea. Either way it's very pretty!

  15. Hi, Garden Girl,
    I've tagged some of my favorite midwestern garden bloggers for a Meme, including you!

    Carol, May Dreams Gardens

  16. Rose, in my attempts to determine which species of echinacea these are, the variations between individual plants in the species and the variations between blooms on single plants has made identification challenging to say the least. Even narrowing it down to three or so species, it seems it would take a DNA test to positively identify it. I actually think there's a third plant like these two, but someone ate the flower buds before they opened, so I'm not sure. The plant form is exactly the same though.

    The cultivars sure haven't worked well here! I've also noticed how many are lost at the nursery where I work. I've seen the entire group of particular cultivars become diseased and die. They may be arriving diseased as plugs. It's very usual for them to lose large groups of single cultivars. They've been retail growers for about 25 years and although some plants are more delicate and require more specialized care than others, it's rare for them to have failure rates like they have in some of the fancier cultivars. I saw this after trying and failing with way too many coneflower cultivars, and that's when I decided to stick with the species!

    B&K, one of the things I like about these particular plants is the blooms are deeper and darker-colored than the rest of the coneflowers growing in our garden.

    Joy, you wouldn't believe how many echinacea cultivars I've tried and lost here. I should have my head examined for not giving up on them earlier than I did. I've concluded the conditions here are just too tough for most of the fancy coneflower cultivars. It seems with some notable exceptions, natives and older cultivars of just about any species are a lot happier than many of the more recently-introduced cultivars I tried. It's one of the reasons this garden is still so immature. Except for the few tried-and-true transplants I brought from my last garden, most of the plants here are only two years old. It took the first four years to figure out what would survive here under the canopy of huge silver maples whose roots mingle with 12' tall arborvitaes and a 40-year-old serviceberry. This has been hands-down, the most challenging garden I've ever had.

    I haven't given up on coneflowers but for now I'll stick with the species. They seem to be the ones I can rely on to survive here. I'll always enjoy seeing the fancy ones in other gardens, including yours though!

    Yolanda, I think it's amazing being able to share our gardening passions across oceans and around the world!

    Lynn, I'm sure all the shade has a lot to do with it - shade and tree roots. I think the roots are even more the issue, but of course the shade and roots are a package deal.

    White Swan is kind of muddy-looking here - definitely not the pristine white I've seen in other gardens. These smaller, unidentified coneflowers are the only ones that color up nicely here. It will be interesting to see what happens with all of them as they mature.

    Rose, the leaves are thin, sparse, and lanceolate, but don't go all the way the stems. There are a few basal leaves but not nearly as many as on the rest of the e. purpureas here. With 9 distinct species of echinaceas I've narrowed these down to three or four, but still can't say for sure which they are.

    I agree - whichever they are, they're pretty. I like to know exactly what everything I'm growing is and do try to identify anything unknown. Ultimately though, if it thrives here and I like it I'm happy regardless of its exact name.

    Hi Carol, looks like fun - thanks for thinking of me!

  17. That is a pretty one. Some of my 'Magnus' seedlings look different from the parent plant. Usually they are smaller. I really like all Coneflowers and tried a few new ones this year. Hopefully they'll come back.

  18. Linda, Your coneflower is a cutie pie! Save the seed!

    When I planted Tennessee Coneflower in my garden, I was told to expect it to cross with any echinacea within a bees flight pattern! It has. There is no way I could isolate them from my other echinaceas. So I now have coneflowers that have skinnier leaves and a deeper purple coloring like TN coneflower, with recurved petals like E purpurea!!

    I find the E purpurea tolerates clay soil, roots and semi shade very well! Now that's a wonderful plant.


  19. It is a really pretty color!

  20. Hi Catherine. This one actually does look like it could be a smaller-blooming Magnus seedling. Magnus is very pale pink in our shady garden, so I'm glad these are deeper-colored. I don't think I have any seedlings yet from the coneflowers I planted. I think this came from the wildflower mix the Lawn Man planted. I do think it's pretty likely it's a cross. The plant list on the package was common names rather than botanical names.

    Gail, that's what I think it is - a cross. I'll probably try the old pantyhose trick to catch the seeds. I hope that deters whatever critter it is around here that eats the blooms. Whatever's eating them seems to favor these particular blooms, so far leaving E. purpurea, Magnus, and White Swan alone. Figures!

    Except for the washed-out color of the blooms (except for these nicely-colored ones,) the coneflowers are doing very well in our loamy, but dry shade.

    I think so too Teresa!

  21. simply beautifully captured shot....lovely!

  22. Hi Garden girl, I love it I can see why it is a favourite! Sych a pretty colour.



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