Echinacea, more commonly called purple coneflower, is an herbaceous flowering plant that is grown not only for its beauty but also for its legendary health benefits. The roots of the flower are believed to prevent or shorten the effects of the common cold. Commonly found as a wildflower, garden flower and commercially cultivated plant, there are six varieties of purple coneflower plants native to North America.
Purple coneflower seeds do best when they are sown outdoors before winter and allowed to rest throughout the season. Without the effects of cold weather, germination is uncertain. As a result, if you have not overwintered your coneflower seeds and have unidentified seedlings growing in your garden, there is a great possibility that the seedling may be a weed.
It is very difficult to identify seedlings when they are tiny. By the time the seedling is about 1 1/2 to 2 inches from leaf to leaf, however, it should be identifiable.
First, look at the number and shape of the seedling’s leaves. A purple coneflower seedling will have two long, thin leaves and two much smaller oval leaves. The long oval leaves are true leaves and look like what the leaves will look like on the mature plant, only smaller. They should be a medium green in color, rather than dark or light green.
Next, closely observe the surface of the leaves. The long thin leaves should be slightly fuzzy, and the smaller oval leaves should not be fuzzy. If your leaves do not look like this, the plant is most likely a weed and not a coneflower seedling.
Purple coneflower is drought-tolerant and hardy, and, once established, should be able to be successfully grown as a perennial. Because it is a wildflower in some areas, occasionally it may self-seed, and seedlings might turn up in unexpected places in your garden. Be sure to check carefully before weeding!