Coneflowers (Echinacea) are promiscuous. With many different kinds and colors planted in close proximity, no telling who parented the next season’s colorful offspring.

Besides various shades of purple, new arrivals include yellow, cherry, orange and pink. Some have double flowers, with extra petals. They’re only the latest entries in a long string of new coneflower introductions in an astounding assortment of styles and colors.

Gardeners count on coneflowers for a long season of bright, colorful, daisy flowers. They are adaptable and easy to grow. They also make great cut flowers. Coneflowers attract butterflies, and many birds relish their seeds.

Purple coneflowers have a long history in the Midwest. Back when both Native Americans and settlers depended on the prairie as pharmacy, general store and grocery store, the roots of the pale purple coneflower (E. pallida) were used to treat a variety of ills. The medicinal use of Echinacea continues to this day, most often to lessen the effects of a cold or the flu.

Although not as flamboyant as the new hybrids or even as brightly colored as the more common purple coneflower (E. purpurea), pale purple coneflower has a subtle beauty I appreciate, with drooping, pale-purple petals and narrow leaves.

Another species (E. paradoxa) is called Ozark coneflower, Bush’s coneflower or sometimes just yellow coneflower. It looks like a typical purple coneflower except for its yellow blossoms. Despite being native to central Missouri, Ozark coneflower has proven to be just as cold-hardy as the more-common purple species.

Coneflowers grow well in full sun or partial shade and in any well-drained soil, from clay to sand. While the plants stage their best performance with adequate moisture, they can sail through a drought unscathed like many of our prairie natives.

Pests and diseases are seldom a problem but if you see a distorted plant with light-green leaves, a branching top, and few flowers, discard it before insects spread this virus-like disease to your healthy coneflowers.

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