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Connecticut Garden Journal
Connecticut Garden Journal is a weekly program hosted by horticulturalist Charlie Nardozzi. Each week, Charlie focuses on a topic relevant to both new and experienced gardeners, including pruning lilac bushes, growing blight-free tomatoes, groundcovers, sunflowers, bulbs, pests, and more.

Connecticut Garden Journal: Unusual Echinacea

Helen Haden
Creative Commons

These new hybrids flower the first year and last longer than the original species.

Some things aren't what they used to be. Take echinacea or purple coneflowers. This hardy, native Midwestern prairie plant has garnered much interest for being pollinator friendly and medicinal.

Now plant breeders are playing with echinacea's colors and forms. The new hybrids sometimes barely resemble the original species.

Love them or hate them, there are lots of new ones on the market. These new hybrids flower the first year and for longer than the original species.

But while purple cone flowers normally last a few years and self-sow readily spreading your patch, these new hybrids aren't so tough. Don’t be surprised if these “perennials” disappear after a few years and don't self sow. But here are a few new ones worth trying.

The Big Sky series was one of the first new colored cone flowers. ‘Sundown’, ‘Sunrise’, and ‘Harvest Moon’ have orange, pale yellow, and gold colored petals respectively.

The bright red Fire Bird’and orange colored Mango Meadowbrite are two other colorful varieties. Cheyenne Spirit is unique because it's a collection of multi-colored flowers that you can grow from seed and it blooms the first year. 

For something completely different try the cone-fection series. These echinaceas are best described as looking like toy poodles. The cones are colorful, fuzzy and pom-pom-like. I’m not a big fan, but you might be.

Credit F.D. Richards / Creative Commons
Creative Commons
Sundown echinacea

Most echinacea grow two to four feet tall, and love full sun on well-drained soil. These new hybrids benefit from some protection from winter weather, so plant in a protected area and add mulch in late fall.

Plant them near other mid-summer bloomers such as rudbeckia, bee balm, and tall phlox for nice combinations.

Next week on the Connecticut Garden Journal, I'll be talking about summer watering. Until then, I'll be seeing you in the garden.

Charlie Nardozzi is a regional Emmy® Award winning garden writer, speaker, radio, and television personality. He has worked for more than 30 years bringing expert information to home gardeners.

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