Zone: 3 to 8
Soil: Sand to clay
Light: Full sun to part sun
Bloom colour: Purple, yellow, red, white
Bloom period: 8 weeks from mid-summer
Height: Up to 48 inches
Moisture: Dry to medium
Attracts: A large variety of bees and butterflies including Monarchs. The flowerheads provide seeds for birds if left.
Notes: Echinacea should be present in every wildlife garden and it is one of the easiest plants to grow. In addition to their wildlife value, they add great appeal to a garden with their large long-blooming flowers. They can be used as specimen plants or en masse. In larger gardens, Echinacea is often planted next to Rudbeckia. Deadheading helps to keep the flowers blooming, but leave the flowerheads alone in September so that they can provide seeds for birds.
There have been so many cultivars produced now, that you could have a bed of just Echinacea with a full range of colour from yellow to red and white to purple.These cultivars will entice you, but most of them are not suitable for a wildlife garden because they are hybrids or because they have been selected from polyploid forms to produce extravagant looking flowers that are completely useless for pollinators.
Echinacea pallida is the only species truly native to Ontario and in large parts of New England, there is actually no species of Echinacea that is native. Echinacea purpurea, as a near-native from the mid-west, has become an acceptable substitute for many wildlife gardeners.
If you are buying Echinacea from a regular nursery, then you should read about the naming of cultivars and check the labels carefully. The label should have the full name Echinacea purpurea to guarantee that it is not a hybrid.To get the best blooms with lots of visiting pollinators, stick to the single flowered purple cultivars.
For Ontarians that want to stay strictly native in their gardens, then find Echinacea pallida. It blooms a few weeks earlier than the more commonly available Echinacea purpurea. While it is not as impressive as the latter species, it is attractive to bees and planting it extends the Echinacea bloom season in the garden.