Purple coneflowers, or Echinacea purpurea, are herbaceous perennial plants that work well as borders, in gardens, or as cut flowers. Purple coneflowers have medicinal properties; their flowers are used to create echinacea, a popular herbal supplement.
Purple coneflower plants grow approximately 3 feet tall; they form clumps as large as 3 feet in diameter. Their narrow, lance-shaped leaves are dark green with a rough, sandpapery texture. The plants bloom between April and September, producing daisy-shaped purple blossoms with purplish-brown domed centers. According to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, the plant’s name, echinacea, is derived from the Greek word ‘echino,’ meaning hedgehog. The name refers to the spiny brownish disk in the middle of the flower.
Purple coneflower plants are native to the United States. They are hardy in United States Department of Agriculture Hardiness Zones 3 through 9, which includes cities such as Tomahawk, Wisconsin, Lebanon, Pennsylvania and Houston, Texas. (See Resources for Zones.) They prefer full sunlight, but Floridata indicates that they will tolerate partial sunlight. They grow best in well-drained, nutrient-rich or sandy soil. Purple coneflower plants are drought-tolerant.
Purple coneflower roots and leaves are sold in capsule and tablet forms and processed into herbal teas. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center claims that echinacea is a mild natural antibiotic that improves the white blood count, interferes with the production of bacteria and stimulates the immune system. The flowers are also a source of nectar for butterflies and hummingbirds.