Growing Echinacea From Seeds
Echinacea flowers, also known as coneflower plants, are ones that produce beautiful flowers. Growing echinacea from seeds and reproducing your own seeds year after year can be satisfying. Below we are going to jump into the details of how to grow echinacea plants from seeds, as well as discover some medicinal uses from the plant.
I am so excited to explore everything Echinacea with you, as these beautiful purple flowers are one of my personal favorite flowers, because they are so fun to grow, have beautiful blooms, and add a gorgeous pop of color to your flower garden.
Let’s get started by exploring all things related to growing echinacea from seeds!
Species of Echinacea
Purple echinacea or echinacea purpurea, comes in several different varieties under the main plant species of coneflowers. The primary echinacea species include:
Echinacea angustifolia (e. angustifolia)
Echinacea purpurea (e. purpurea)
While most of these echinacea plants have pale purple coneflowers, some differ by different colors or purple or, the shapes of the leaf. One variety, that can be found in yellow is the echinacea paradoxa, and occasionally an echinacea purpurea can be found in white as well.
These beautiful coneflowers are mostly native plants to North America. This type of plant is usually a perennial flower, meaning that it will come up year after year. Typically, these flowers bloom in June or July and continue flowering throughout the late summer months.
Where to Plant
When planting echinacea no matter if they are plants or seeds, it’s important to know what they like, so that you can plant them in the right spot. Here are a few characteristics you will want to keep in mind when selecting a place to plant these flowers.
Full Sun. Coneflowers like to be planted where it is sunny. If you can select a spot where they are in sun all day long, or at least exposed to the morning sun, in partial shade the rest of the day, they will be happiest when they get a lot of sunshine.
Well-Drained Soil. Echinacea plants also prefer to grow in well-drained soil. This means you don’t want to place them in an area that is marshy or will be very wet.
Once the root system is established, echinacea plants can survive with just a little water. The purple coneflower is actually one of a few drought-tolerant plants, which don’t need to be watered very often once their root systems have developed.
Hardy Perennials. Purple coneflowers are hardy perennials, this means that they will continue to grow year after year in the same spot. When selecting a place to plant these flowers, make sure that you want them to grow there for many years to come.
Growing Season. Where you live will determine the growing season for echinacea plants. In most areas of the country, these plants will flower mid-June or July, and continue flowering throughout the rest of the summer. However, this might vary depending on what zone you live in.
How to Grow Echinacea: Step-by-Step Guide
There are three main ways you can grow echinacea from seeds. The first is starting seeds indoors in pots, the second is to sow seeds directly into the soil, and the third is to save seeds from this year’s plant, for next year’s growth. Let’s look at each of these step-by-step methods.
Starting Seeds Indoors
Echinacea seeds can be started in the house about 8-10 weeks before you hope to plant them outside. Start the seeds in starter pots or large containers. You will want to plant groups of 3-4 seeds in small pots, with a well-draining soil mixture.
When the seeds are added to the pot, cover them with approximately 1/8 inch of soil. Then place them into a window, or somewhere where they will get exposure to sunlight.
It is also important that you keep the soil temperature warm, you’ll get the best results when they are planted in moist soil that is approximately 65 to 70°F.
Within 10 to 20 days, you will start to see young plants growing. After you see new growth or a few layers of leaves on each plant, you can begin to harden the plants.
The hardening process will help to toughen the plants up so that they can survive outside in the elements. To do this, you will want to begin by setting them outside in a sheltered location, out of the hot sun for an hour at a time, and slowly increase the time they sit outside until they are completely outside.
When starting echinacea from seed, it’s important that they are not outside in a hard frost when the seeds are first started.
The hardening process will typically take place in early spring, or even early summer. After the plants have hardened, you can select a place in your flowerbeds to plant these young plants.
When they are first planted, you will want to water them once a week so the root systems can become established. After that, you can slowly back off how much you water the plants, so that it is every other week, to every two weeks.
Typically, purple coneflowers produce flowers during the mid to late summer months. The first year your plants are growing, you may notice that they are only leafy plants, and do not produce any flowers. Don’t worry, this is the case for some echinacea species.
In the second year, they should begin producing flowers, which make an excellent addition to your flowerbeds or cut flower bouquets.
Sowing Directly in Soil
Coneflower seeds can also be planted directly in the soil. Before planting, it’s important to read your seed package instructions to determine if they need cold stratification or not. Cold stratification is basically when the seeds need to go through a cold period in order for them to grow.
I learned this the hard way a year ago. I had saved spent flowers that had dried and seeded, I kept them in the garage planning to plant them in the late spring. But when spring rolled around, and I planted the seeds in the ground, they did nothing. I learned that they had not endured the winter conditions, so the seeds were no longer good. All this to say, make sure you read your seed packages to know if they require cold winters to go through cold stratification.
To grow echinacea from seeds, sow seeds directly in your garden. To do this you will want to determine where they will be planted at least 12 weeks before the ground freezes. Before you sow them, make sure to fill the area thoroughly, or remove any weeds. Then sow the seeds and cover them with approximately 1/8 to ¼” of soil. Purple coneflowers tend to grow in clumps, so it’s a good idea to plant the seeds approximately 2-3 feet apart so that the plants are spaced out.
The germination rates will be slow when you plant them in early fall. Likely, you won’t see them begin to sprout until early next year.
Although the best time to direct sow most seeds is in the fall. Be sure to read your seed packet, because some seeds can be sown in the early spring, or after the last frost date.
No matter if your seeds are sown directly into the soil in the late fall months, or early spring months, when spring arrives, you will begin to see the plants sprout and begin to grow. Purple coneflowers can grow to be quite tall, often reaching two or 3 feet high.
As these plants produce flowers, you can remove any deadhead, to encourage the plants to continue flowering. Or you can allow the flowers to dry on the plant, and form seed heads.
How to Harvest Seeds for Next Year
Did you know that you can save the deadhead from your plants this year, and sow your own echinacea seeds for next year? Let’s look at how you as a home gardener, can easily save this year’s dead flowers which have turned into seed heads, and grow your own echinacea plants from them for next year.
Echinacea plants usually flower all summer long. But as the flower heads turn into dead flowers, those dead flowers produce seed heads. During the late autumn months, these seed heads can be collected, then sown directly in the soil where you want them, before the first frost, usually during the late fall months.
These dead seed heads will winter in your garden beds, then in the spring the seed heads will grow into mature plants that will produce more lovely flowers for you to enjoy in the years to come.
Harvesting and planting your own seeds produced by your own plants and saving them for next year is a great way to continue expanding your purple coneflowers so that you can enjoy more each year.
When you are ready to buy echinacea seeds, you might notice that they are usually found in the herbal section, not amongst your usual flowers. This is because Echinacea actually has several medicinal properties and is often used as a medicinal herb.
Echinacea flowers, specifically those of the purpurea, angustifolia, and pallida varieties, were originally used by Native Americans, and still, today are sometimes used to help treat sore throats and enhance your immune system in the form of herbal tea. (Source)
Pests and Diseases Encountered with Echinacea
Japanese Beetles. Japanese beetles are one of the most common pests you may encounter with purple coneflowers. These beetles can be treated using insecticidal soap, or they can be picked off during early morning hours and placed in a bucket of soapy water.
Powdery Mildew. Powdery mildew is another struggle you may encounter with purple coneflowers. This usually occurs because of hot and humid weather conditions, which can make a powdery mildew substance appear on the plant leaves. This can easily be avoided by allowing good air circulation to the plant.
Excellent Cut Flower
Adding a purple coneflower to your flower arrangements, from your cut flower garden is also a fabulous idea.
Echinacea flowers are ideal for cut flowers because when cut, they often last quite a while when placed in a vase of water. Plus, they help add texture and a pop of color to your flower bouquets.
Where to Buy Echinacea Seeds?
There are many different places you can find echinacea seeds to buy. The most common is to buy seeds from your garden center. However, you can also order seeds online, or even pick them up at your local grocery store. Likely you will find echinacea seeds in the herb section and not the flower section.
Growing Echinacea Flowers from Seeds
Growing echinacea from seeds is quite easy to do. The main key to determining if your seeds will thrive or not is to learn if they need to be exposed to cold temperatures, or if they should be sown in the spring. Purple coneflowers are beautiful flowers to add a pop of color and texture to your flowerbeds.
These are a type of hearty perennial, that will continue to flower year after year. Growing echinacea from seeds is one of my personal favorites. I hope that you will enjoy these beautiful purple coneflowers as well!
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