Sowing, Growing, and Harvesting Echinacea

Sowing, Growing, and Harvesting Echinacea

Echinacea, also known as the Purple Coneflower, is a perennial flower that is known for its beauty and medicinal purposes alike.  When in full bloom, Echinacea will attract both butterflies and bees and will make you want to spend countless hours in the garden watching all of the action!  In the fall, while you wait for the seed heads to dry and blacken, they will attract songbirds to your garden.

Sowing, Growing, and Harvesting Echinacea

Sow

Echinacea grows well in Zones 3 – 10 in deep, loose, loamy soil that drains well with plenty of organic matter and/or compost.  It prefers full sun, though it can tolerate partial shade. So, when planning where to plant it, choose your plot accordingly.

Seeds can either be sown in the spring when soil temperatures are above 55 degrees Fahrenheit (if the seeds have already been through the stratification process) or, if collected from a friend or neighbors garden, they can be sown in the fall or winter (this way Mother Nature will complete the stratification process for you)!

echinacea seeds

Spread your seeds sparingly on the surface of the soil and keep moist (if you do not get much rain, gently spray or mist your seeds) until germination takes place.  Once germination has occurred (after 10-20 days) gently cover sprouts with 1/8 inch of soil.  Then, when sprouts are ~3 inches tall, thin them to 18-24 inches apart in all directions and mulch around them to control weed growth.  I know that seems like a lot of space, but Echinacea grows in clumps and will fill in nicely on it’s own.

Grow

The first and most important thing to remember about Echinacea is that it may not bloom during the first year or two after sowing, depending on the variety you are growing.  Don’t worry, though, as long as you have foliage, your Echinacea is doing well.  Just be patient…trust me, your patience will pay off!

Keep in mind that Echinacea is fairly drought tolerant once established, though you will need to water your plants throughout the summer if you receive less than an inch of rain each week.  Also, Echinacea does not like competition, so make sure to weed your bed while your plants are establishing themselves.  Mulching your bed will help keep the weeds down, too.

Sowing, Growing, and Harvesting Echinacea

Once your Echinacea is blooming, remember that cutting fading or dead flowers will prolong the blooming season! They make a beautiful addition to your summer table 🙂

Fall Care and Seed Harvest

After first frost when all of the Echinacea stems and heads are dry and have blackened (and using garden gloves to protect your hands) cut stems 6-12 inches below the head and place upside down in a paper bag.  Then, all you have to do is gently shake seeds from their heads.  If you live in a humid climate, allow your seed heads to fully dry before shaking the seeds loose from the heads. I like to shake the stand of spent Echinacea before cutting each stem to allow some seeds to fall and self sow for future years.

Sowing, Growing, and Harvesting Echinacea - fall echinacea before cutting back

If you have any empty spaces in your garden that you are willing to surrender to another plot of Echinacea, the fall is the perfect time to shake some seed heads out in the area.  Alternatively, you can simply throw a few heads into corners and wait for nature to take its course!

Sowing, Growing, and Harvesting Echinacea - seeds

Next, cut all of the stems back to just above ground level and mulch with leaves, straw or store bought mulch to protect the plant from the elements throughout the winter.

Sowing, Growing, and Harvesting Echinacea - cut it back in the fall

Root Harvest (for drying or making a tincture)

Once your Echinacea is at least three years old, you can begin harvesting some of the roots for medicinal purposes.  I do this after cutting back the Echinacea and harvesting the seeds and before I mulch in the fall.

Harvest the roots by using a garden fork to gently lift the roots out of the soil.  You can choose to either harvest a few roots and then place the disturbed plant back in the soil or you can simply sacrifice the whole plant and harvest all of its roots at once.  I choose the latter and pick a plant or two that are very close to others in an effort to thin them out a bit for the next year.

Sowing, Growing, and Harvesting Echinacea - roots

Once you have your roots, gently shake off any excess soil and gently wash them under cool running water.  Gently pat them dry, then either dry them for later use or make a tincture to help keep you and your family well throughout the cold months.

Sowing, Growing, and Harvesting Echinacea - tincture

Echinacea is one of my favorite medicinal herbs and it doesn’t hurt that it’s so beautiful, too! I hope that this has helped you feel as though you, too, can grow your own!

xoxo,
M

Linking up to The Homestead Barn Hop #157, Homemade Mondays #78, The HomeAcre Hop #68, Green Thumb Thursday, From the Farm, Strut Your Stuff #145

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Written by Melissa @ Ever Growing Farm

39 Comments

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  4. Jane Lurie

    Hi Melissa, I love to photograph Echinacea but never knew how it was harvested for medicinal use (although I have taken it). Thanks for an interesting post.

    1. Melissa @ Ever Growing Farm

      Hi Jane! I’m so glad you found the post interesting and learned something new! I hope you have a lovely weekend and fantastic year ahead!!!

    1. Melissa @ Ever Growing Farm

      Ah! It’s my favorite! You can dry it the roots and heads) and turn it into a tea or steep it in alcohol and turn it into a tincture. It boosts your immune system and tastes delicious all at the same time 🙂

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  6. Chris

    I’ve been trying for years to get echinacea growing in my zone 3 garden. I finally got some starts from a friend and they are thriving this year and blooming. (First time I’ve had blooms, too.) I’m hoping now I can finally keep them growing. And I will try to expand them by tossing out the dried heads in the fall. Zone 3 can be a challenge for herbal perennials, I’m afraid. But gardeners are ever hopeful.

    1. Melissa @ Ever Growing Farm

      I’m so glad you’ve finally gotten some to grow! It really is my favorite medicinal herb and is just such a beautiful flower! I’m hopeful for you, too <3

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  11. dhijana

    We love our Echinacea here at Harmony Gardens Charlotte and leave the seed heads intact until they are all eaten by the goldfinches each fall. It is so much fun watching them swinging on the long stems feasting on their favorite food- coneflower seeds.

  12. Micky

    Love this post! I bought some Echinacea this year, and I can’t wait to get the seeds in the ground. I’m still working on the perfect location… decisions, decisions…

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  14. tessa Homestead Lady

    This was so fantastic – thank you for sharing it at Green Thumb Thursday and I hope you’ll share this week, too. I pinned this to our board and shared it everywhere – more people need to know they can grow ech without too much trouble.
    tessa Homestead Lady recently posted…Malva Mallow FlopMy Profile

  15. Samantha @Runamuk Acres

    This is a super helpful post–I’m working to establish some new echinacea plants this year and hoping it goes well. Thanks for including info about harvesting the roots–that’s something I have yet to do!

    1. Bee Girl

      We love our Echinacea and now consider it a very important part of our perennial garden 🙂 I hope you’ll be able to find some space for a little patch!

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    1. Bee Girl

      Glad you enjoyed the article! I loved writing it so I’m very happy to see it enjoyed 🙂 I hopped on over and linked up, thank you so much for the invite! Have a great weekend!

    1. Bee Girl

      Thank you! And so glad to hear that you’re growing is successfully! Have a fabulous weekend!

  17. Annie

    I love echinacea and haven’t had much luck starting from seed so thank you for the post – will give it a try again this year.

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