Coordinate Coneflower Companions with Care

Echinacea 'Butterfly Kisses' with California poppy 'Wrinkled Rose'
Echinacea 'Butterfly Kisses' with
ornamental oregano.
Despite sprinkling several packets of Park Seed's Eschscholzia 'Wrinkled Rose' in a variety of places in early spring, I only had sprouting among the Origanum 'Kent Beauty'.  This spot, right off the patio, is where I'd also decided to plant Echinacea 'Butterfly Kisses', sent to me as a trial from Walters Gardens. This compact coneflower hasn't quit blooming since I planted it. At no more than 12" tall, it looks great amidst the oregano and the poppies.

Echinacea 'Solar Flare' with phlox and rose.
Just as long-lasting in the bloom department has been Echinacea 'Solar Flare', a fragrant beauty that reaches around 2 1/2 feet tall. Nearby, it's accented by Phlox 'Sandringham' and a polyantha rose called 'Marie Pavie'. Later in the season, 'Solar Flare' will be accented by Aster cordifolius 'Little Carlow', its long-lasting buds looking nearly as good as its late blossoms.

Coneflowers can withstand drought once they're established. They can even bloom in less than ideal sun conditions. But I've discovered that coneflowers really don't like being crowded. I no longer have 'Green Envy' because it was overtaken by a peony on one side and a rose on the other. It had been in the same spot for three years, and in its fourth season, slipped into oblivion without a fight.

Bouquet with 'Green Envy' (top) and 'Southern Belle'.
I also noticed that, out of the three plants of 'Butterfly Kisses', the one nearest the California poppy doesn't sport as many blooms as those with more genteel neighbors.

If you fall in love with a coneflower variety, buy it in as large a container as you can find. Give it plenty of elbow room, especially in its first season, and make sure the soil is fairly rich but well-drained. It seems that, even though Echinacea grows wild in American prairies, it likes a fertile soil in a garden environment.
I planted three new Echinaceas that had arrived in small pots and discovered their dislike for thin soils. My definition of a "thin" soil is one that is very well-drained but has no organic matter. The soil has become thin in my seriously raised bed, which is the one that's at least two feet above ground in the midst of a brick patio. My husband built it five years ago and put in some great soil and amendments, but over the years the plants have apparently sucked the life out of it.

Echinacea 'Southern Belle'
Even though I've added a bag or two of manure as a topdressing each year, the soil's fertility, especially at the southernmost and most exposed portion, has petered out.

Anyway, the one coneflower I planted in that bed has been struggling all summer long while the other two, planted in other places in the garden, are doing just fine.

Echinacea 'Southern Belle'
Other coneflowers I've planted this year are plodding along, apparently storing up their energy to bloom next year. And that's okay. That's how Echinacea 'Southern Belle' became established. This variety, the first double coneflower in my garden, grows tall and somewhat lanky, but I love the look of its blooms.

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