These wonderful, large daisy-like flowers are among my absolute favourites. They are one of the 'Coneflowers' along with Helenium (sneezeweed) and Rudbeckia. Bees and butterflies feed on the large centres, which become more cone-shaped and prominent with age.
They need full sun and like well-drained soil, but other than that, they are fairly easy to grow.
Look out for wonderful shades of pink, orange, copper, white and buttercup yellows.
Although some varieties will flower from early summer, the later flowering varieties are a real help to bees and butterflies to feed emerging young, and help new queen bumble bees that need to build their energy reserves ready for mating, and then seek out a suitable location to hibernate.
Echinacea coneflowers are described as tough perennials, but they dislike being moved, so decide where their permanent spot will be before planting. If you want to divide the plants, wait until clumps have become dense, and take action only at the end of the flowering season.
There are a number of different types of Echinacea, including some with petals that curl inward as they develop, and those with petals that droop downward.
Echinacea coneflower have tall, sturdy stems, so they can be positioned to the rear of the border, although I like to see them in large swathes close to the front.
However, if you need a medium sized specimen to fill a space in the flower border, compact varieties are available.
As far as I can make out, they are pretty much all attractive to bees and butterflies, so you can pay more attention to details such as size, flowering time and duration, and whether or not you want whites, greens, pinks, orange, yellows or red.
Here are some of my favourites:
Shades of white/cream
Shades of pink
Shades of yellow/orange
Shades of green
Shades of Red
Whichever variety of Echinacea you select, they'll look beautiful in a border nest to striking sapphire blues. I also especially like the paler green, white and yellow varieties with purples and vibrant orange.
However you choose to display them, I'm sure the bees and butterflies will love to visit.
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