AIB Lex has been working with area horticulturists, garden clubs, gardeners, garden centers, neighborhoods, citizens and city government since 2017, investigating the best that nature has to offer to identify as our trademark flower.
Thanks to all these stakeholders and more, Lexington-Fayette County has an official flower: Echinacea Purpurea or better known as the Purple Coneflower.
This perennial Kentucky native is sun-loving and drought tolerant, and is suitable for single plantings and show-stopping mass groupings. Their name comes from the coned center of the bloom where the seeds develop. Showy daisy-like purple coneflowers (to 5″ diameter) bloom throughout summer atop stiff stems clad with ovate to broad-lanceolate, dark green leaves. Good fresh cut or dried flower. The dead flower stems will remain erect well into the winter, and if flower heads are not removed, the blackened cones may be visited by goldfinches or other birds that feed on the seeds.
Echinacea is a native North American coneflower that was discovered and used as a traditional herbal remedy for more than 400 years by the Great Plains Indian tribes. Technically classified as an herb, several species of the echinacea plant are used to make medicine from its flowers, leaves and roots.
Genus name of Echinacea comes from the Greek word echinos meaning hedgehog or sea-urchin in reference to the spiny center cone found on most flowers in the genus.
Want to grow some?
The Old Farmer’s Almanac provides these suggestions:
CHOOSING AND PREPARING A PLANTING SITE
Coneflowers prefer full sun for best bloom. Choose a location where the they won’t get shaded out or shade out other plants.
- Loosen the soil using a garden fork or tiller to 12 to 15 inches deep, then mix in a 2- to 4-inch layer of compost. (Learn more about preparing soil for planting.)
- Coneflowers are very tolerant of poor soil conditions; but they perform best in well-drained soil that’s rich in organic matter.
WHEN AND HOW TO PLANT CONEFLOWERS
- More commonly, coneflowers are bought as small plants with blooms already on the way. These should be planted in spring or early summer.
- Coneflowers can be started from seed in spring indoors (about a month before the last spring frost date) or outdoors (when the soil temperature has reached at least 65°F/18°C).
- Note: Coneflowers started from seed may take 2 to 3 years before producing blooms.
- Better yet, don’t cut back coneflower plants and they’ll self-seed successfully!
- If dividing or transplanting coneflowers, do so in the spring or fall. You may want to divide clumps when they become overcrowded (about every 4 years).
- Plant coneflowers about 1 to 3 feet apart, depending on the mature size of the variety.
- If you are moving a potted plant into the ground, dig a hole about twice the pot’s diameter and carefully place the plant in the soil. Bury the plant to the top of the root ball, but make sure the root ball is level with the soil surface. Water it thoroughly.
- Put a thin layer of compost around the plants, then a 2–inch layer of mulch to help keep the plants moist and prevent weeds.
- Native coneflowers really do not need fertilizer. Just ensure your soil has plenty of organic matter when you plant.
- In late spring, provide supplementary water only if the season is extremely dry or your coneflowers are newly planted.
- Optional: To encourage delayed blooming for fall enjoyment, cut coneflower plants back by 1 foot when plants come into bloom. This will result in later-flowering, more-compact growth because coneflowers can get leggy. Cut some and not others for more staggered bloom heights and times.
- Optional: When flowers are faded/done blooming, deadhead if you wish to prolong the blooming season. But consider leaving late-season flowers on the plants to mature; the seed heads will attract birds and promote self-seeding. Deadheading will prevent self seeding if this is your preference. To deadhead, cut the dead flower back to a leaf where you can see a bud ready to swell.
- Watch for beneficial soldier beetles in August and do not harm them.
- In the fall, a light mulch in colder regions is beneficial.
- Cut back in late winter/early spring when you’re tidying up the garden.
Plants usually re-bloom without deadheading,
- Type: Herbaceous perennial
- Family: Asteraceae
- Native Range: Eastern North America
- Zone: 3 to 8
- Height: 2.00 to 5.00 feet
- Spread: 1.50 to 2.00 feet
- Bloom Time: June to August
- Bloom Description: Pinkish Purple
- Sun: Full sun to part shade
- Water: Dry to medium Maintenance: Low
- Suggested Use: Naturalized plantings, herbal medicine, arrangements
- Butterfly host/food: American Lady, Giant Swallowtail, Great Spangled Fritillary, Painted Lady, Pearl Crescent, Red Admiral, Silvery Checkerspot, Spicebush Swallowtail, Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, Variegated Fritillary, Viceroy, Fiery Skipper, Gulf Fritillary, Sachem, Tawny-edge Skipper.
- Tolerates: Deer, Drought, Clay Soil, Dry Soil, Shallow-Rocky Soil