Echinacea tips & tricks
and why pollinators love them
Echinacea purpurea or Purple Coneflower is a plant local to many ecologies across central and eastern Canada (hardy in zones 3-9) and tolerant of many soil and light conditions, preferring well drained sunny sites.
- Seeds can be scattered over the last of the early Spring snowfalls or germinated indoors a month beforehand and planted out after threat of frost has past.
- Echinacea likes full or part sun and does well growing amongst other sunny meadow, and open woodland edge grasses, forbs, sedges, vines and shrubs. Plant in the middle or back of the border as it grows to 1 meter tall.
- Echinacea is a wonderful plant for pollinators. It has a very big landing pad, a bright colour in the range seen by bees (they don’t see red but can see the blueish pink of Echinacea) as well as butterflies and birds. Echinacea has lots of great nectar and pollen, making it well worth the visit.
- Drought tolerant, Echinacea flowers for a long time; from mid-Summer to Fall, spreads easily by self-seeding and grows into big clumps that are easily visible by flying pollinators. Clumps can be easily divided every 3-4 years (in Spring or Fall) by splitting the root ball being careful not to break the taproot.
- Do not cut back all the seed heads but do gather some of the seeds (in the second year after they have become completely dry) for sharing with friends.
- Seed heads will feed birds in the Fall and Winter, particularly finches.
- Seed heads can also be used in everlasting flower arrangements.
- Bees, butterflies and hummingbirds are attracted to the colorful flowers and feed on the nectar.
- Many species of bees are attracted to the flowers including the Green Metallic Bee, Bumble Bees and HoneyBees.
- When purchasing plants from a nursery or garden centre make sure to find out that they are safe for pollinators and not treated with any pesticides, especially neonicotinoids.
- Choose Echinacea purpurea, pallida or angustifolia not the new hybrids that have double flowers (looking like pom-poms) as they are sterile and do not have pollen and nectar available for pollinators.
If you are going to grow the seeds indoors:
- Soak the flower heads in water for an hour or two.
- Roll them in a paper towel to get excess water off of them, and then place them in a plastic bag.
- Put the bag into the refrigerator and leave them there for two months prior to planting (unless you purchase seeds like A.Vogel’s that are already cold stratified).
- When planting, cover the seeds with about 3 to 6 mm of soil.
Some of the butterfly species you might see feeding on the flowers include:
- Eastern Tiger Swallowtails
- Silver-spotted Skippers
- Black Swallowtails
- American Lady
- Giant Swallowtail
- Great Spangled Fritillary
- Painted Lady
- Pearl Crescent
- Red Admiral
- Silvery Checkerspot
- Spicebush Swallowtail
- Variegated Fritillary
- Fiery Skipper
- Gulf Fritillary
- Tawny-edge Skipper
- And more.