Pale Purple Coneflower

Pale Purple Coneflower

Echinacea pallida

While you may notice colourful arrays of coneflowers in local gardens or nurseries, pale purple coneflower is the only echinacea species that is native to our local area. It is a fun, carefree-looking wildflower with thin, mauve petals that hang down from its large reddish-brown centre.

Growing up to one meter (three feet) tall, its summer blooms attract a variety of butterflies such as black swallowtails, red admirals, monarchs, skippers and the American lady. You may also spot bees, such as bumblebees, long-horned bees and tiny sweat bees, carrying pollen while flying between the flowers and drinking the sweet nectar for energy.

These native wildflowers prefer sandy or gravelly sites with full sun and well-drained soil. Some loam or light clay may be fine, but avoid planting in nutrient-rich soils or in areas where salt is spread in the winter. Once established, do not water excessively and avoid fertilizers or the plants may flop over.

Try planting several clumps of three to five flowers among a larger planting of little bluestem grasses and dotting some individual plants throughout. Consider adding clusters of evening primrose or slender blazing star and frame with something low-growing like butterfly milkweed in front.

Come fall, leave the plant stems standing so their seed heads can attract birds like goldfinch and juncos. Ensure adequate soil coverage and top up with six to eight centimetres (two to three inches) of mulch before winter. If all goes well, you’ll enjoy these pretty coneflowers for many years to come.

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