Purple Coneflower is the Most Popular Perennial in America

Click on photos to enlarge.

Purple Cone flower large

Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) is the Most Popular Perennial in America.

It s a familiar, old-fashioned flower that has been a staple in Midwestern gardens since settlement days.  We had a few in my childhood garden on Lovell St., but my recollection is that they were called Rudbeckias.

purple coneflower overlooking corner

A bold, rose-purple daisy with a large copper-brown center cone, it grows 3-4’ tall., thriving in full sun or part shade.  It spreads by seed and rhizomes, but I don’t consider it   invasive.


side yard 2016

My side yard today.


butterflies tiger swallowtail

In my experience, Purple Coneflower and Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium purpureum)attract more butterflies than any of my other plants.  This is a Tiger Swallowtail.

butterflies monarch

Monarchs find it irresistible.

purple coneflower w: red Admiral

Red Admiral on Purple Coneflower.

side yard 2015

My side yard last July.  Self-sown Purple Coneflower and Showy Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia fulgida var. specious)  are the stars.

While Purple Coneflower is ubiquitous in flower gardens, It is, however, uncommon in natural areas.  It has been  found in  railroad prairie remnants in Kane County south and west of Elgin (where I live), says Dick Young; while Swink & Wilhelm mention that it is prosperous in Bur Oak savannas in southern Cook County.  I have never seen it growing anywhere in the wild.

Have any of you, dear readers, seen it growing in nature?


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12 Responses to Purple Coneflower is the Most Popular Perennial in America

  1. Mary Scherrer July 22, 2016 at 6:07 pm #

    Isn’t the Belmont Prairie in Downers Grove remnant prairie? It grows there.

  2. sharon cross July 23, 2016 at 10:56 am #

    No, why is that?

  3. Pat Hill July 23, 2016 at 3:56 pm #

    Because of its rarity, although I don’t understand why it is so rare.

  4. Carol Bart July 23, 2016 at 9:02 pm #

    Coneflowers are on the “deer resistant” list. But the deer around about here find them irresistible!!! They munched thru my garden a few weeks ago & ate all the first shoots of flowerheads as I hadn’t sprayed them. After spraying my coneflowers are now coming back & are finally staring to bloom.
    I have asked for years how can they be a “native” wildflower when the deer eat them all?!!
    Enjoy your column Pat! 🙂

    • PatHill July 26, 2016 at 5:05 am #

      Deer no longer have any natural enemies to keep their population down, and their natural environment has also been reduced so their herds eat people’s gardens.

  5. Jason July 24, 2016 at 11:52 am #

    Purple Coneflower is certainly a hugely effective butterfly magnet. In my experience, Milkweeds, summer-blooming alliums and Mexican Sunflower are in the same league. I might have already mentioned that I can’t grow Purple Coneflower because of aster yellows … though perhaps by now it is safe to try them again?

    • PatHill July 26, 2016 at 4:58 am #

      I’ve never seen aster yellows, so I don’t have any advice for you. I might try the Mexican Sunflower, although I already have a plethora of yellow daisies.

  6. linda bailey July 24, 2016 at 8:08 pm #

    I thought Rudbeckia was Black Eyed Susan.

    • PatHill July 26, 2016 at 4:55 am #

      Rudbeckia is Black-eyed , but at one time, many years ago, Purple Coneflower was called Rudbeckia–I remember that from my childhood.

      • PatHill July 26, 2016 at 5:41 am #

        I meant to say Rudbeckia is Black-eyed Susan.

  7. JoAnn Schindler July 25, 2016 at 8:26 am #

    The pictures with the butterflies reminded me that I am still waiting to see my first monarch, or for that matter more than the occasional butterfly here in Algonquin. So sad. At our farm in southern Indiana the same flowers are constantly visited by a variety of butterflies.

  8. Laurie July 26, 2016 at 9:46 am #

    I believe I saw purple coneflower growing in the prairie areas off the main road in Burnidge Forest Preserve. Beautiful pics and interesting captions as always Pat! Thank you;))

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