Purple Coneflower (echinacea): Beautiful and Beneficial

Purple coneflower (echinacea) is one of the easiest native perennials to grow in the midwest United States. I live in northwest Indiana and these plants have propagated like crazy. Not only is it beautiful, but it benefits our health and our environment. If you’re looking for a great starter plant to beautify your yard and benefit the local bee or butterfly population, start growing purple coneflower (echinacea).

blog3_purpleconeflower_echinacea_ladybug
A ladybug rests on a purple coneflower.

 

 

Purple coneflower is a native plant to the United States, which means it was not brought here from another location. It has been on this continent for centuries. It has adapted to the soil, rainfall amounts, pests, and diseases that could make it impossible for another type of plant to survive without a large amount of expensive, chemical care. Since it is a native plant, no fertilizer or pesticide is needed to have these beautiful plants flower and propagate.

Purple coneflower is a native species. They will attract the natural pollinators of the area. Some of the beneficial insects that frequent these flowers are ladybugs, bees, and butterflies. Goldfinches will benefit as well and be a daily visitor to your yard simply by allowing purple coneflower to go to seed in the late summer. Look at the ingredients list in any store-bought goldfinch bird seed and you will see this as the ingredient. Save yourself money and grow your own! Even purple finches have stopped by my home for a visit.

 

blog3_purpleconeflower_echinacea_grasshopper_seed
Purple coneflower that has gone to seed along with a grasshopper photo-op.

If you harvest the roots of echinacea, as it’s known medicinally, you can use it as an immune-booster. Again, look at the ingredients lists of some of the  homeopathic cold and flu remedies and it will be on that list. Native Americans and early settlers used the dried roots as a tea for fighting off illnesses. It has antiviral, antifungal, antibacterial, and antiallergenic properties (source:  All About Herbs).

 

Purple coneflower grows approximately two to three feet tall, depending on its age, and prefers sunny areas although it will grow well in partial shade. It has a daisy-like flower and comes in many different colors. The main types of coneflower are echinacea angustifolia, echinacea pallida (these are the best grown for medicinal purposes) and echinacea purpurea.

If you’re looking for a carefree flower to add a cottage element to your yard, or simply want to attract beneficial pollinators like butterflies and bees, plant purple coneflower (echinacea). It will be attractive and help support the natural wildlife in your area.

 

Advertisements

Plant Native Perennials – Save Bees

Commercial pesticides are killing thousands of bees everyday. We need the bees to pollinate our plants. Without pollinators, our grasses, grains, trees, shrubs, flowers (really any vegetation) can’t grow. Pollination is the only way that the fertilization process begins in order for seeds to develop. Without seeds, we have no plants.

We need to bring back the natural pollinators. Two things need to occur in order for this to happen:

  1. We need to stop using the commercial pesticides that kill them.
  2. We have to regrow the pollinator population.

We aren’t going to turn the tide of big agriculture in a blink of an eye. One thing the average consumer can do is to buy organic, thus eventually eliminating the use of pesticides. Another very important act the average person can do is to grow native perennials from your surrounding area. Growing even one plant will make a sudden impact. Growing native perennials will give the natural pollinators a place to strive during the spring and summer months, as well as, a place to lay eggs and hibernate in the fall and winter months.

In my area in northwest Indiana, I grow purple coneflower (echinacea). I’ve seen many

blog2_growperennialssavebees
photo credit April McLeish

species of butterflies, bees, flies, moths, caterpillars, and beetles swarming around these plants. I also don’t deadhead the flowers, because the goldfinches love the seeds. They come back every year and I get to watch them from my kitchen window. We’ve even had purple finches visit a few times over the years. Also, purple coneflower will self-seed and grow new plants all on their own.

I encourage you to find your area’s local native perennials by contacting the local agriculture extension office (this is the one for my area), or do a quick search on the internet. Perennials are naturally more disease-resistant and drought resistant because they are adapted to the environment already. Not only will your flower garden be absolutely beautiful, but you will be helping to save the bees!

The Importance of Pollinators

#bringbackthebees 

Insects are an inevitable part of being outdoors and they can be a real nuisance while you’re trying to garden. I use bug spray when I’m out and about tending to my vegetables or flowers to avoid being bitten, but I never spray anything on my garden beds to eliminate insects. Why? Because they’re so very important! Here’s why.

We humans can’t survive without pollinators. Our grains, vegetables, and flowers won’t bloom without them. If there are no pollinators; there is no food. Well, there’s meat, right? Well, without grasses, vegetables, and grains, what would our meat eat? Nothing! They can’t live without them either.

Why is it important to know that the world can’t survive without pollinators? Because we’re currently killing them to grow food. Seems counter-productive, doesn’t it? It is. So, how did it come to pass that big ag farmers are using poisons that kill beneficial pollinators that ultimately help food to grow? It’s a long and terrible journey that is wrapped in greed from huge agricultural business, but don’t blame the farmers. Blame us, the consumers.

What can we do to get farmers to use more organic methods instead of pesticides? Money talks, people listen. We have a voice with our money. Buy organically grown produce when you can afford it. Buy non-GMO products. Buy from local farmer’s markets from those who grow organically. Get active with social media groups to stay informed. No one person can save the world, but every little thing a person does contributes to solving the bigger problem.

Read my blog on how you can bring back local pollinators or keep them from extinction by planting native perennials in your yard or community garden here.
.