Scientific name: Echinacea purpurea
Common name: purple coneflower
Cold Hardiness: USDA zones 3-8
Grows to be 2-4' tall and around 2' wide, though some varieties differ.
(When we lived in Missouri, my coneflowers shot up taller than me one year! It was awesome!)
Wildlife: Favorite nectar source for bees and butterflies. Birds will also eat the seeds, if seedheads are left to dry on plants in the fall.
Herbal uses: Helps boost the immune system and fight infections. *
Floral Design: Single flowers on sturdy stems make excellent cut flowers that last in the vase for several days.
It is a perennial, which means it comes back year after year, with the patch growing ever more bushy and better-looking.
If it's in good soil and you let the seedheads stand over winter, it will often reward you with baby seedlings all over the place in the spring. They will grow to be their own beautiful patch in 2-3 years, but are also easy to pull out if you don't want them.
I think they look like ladies in pink dresses dancing. :)
When finding a spot to plant this in your garden, keep in mind that this flower is native to the American prairies, so it needs lots of sunshine.
I haven't found it to be very picky about soil conditions--it has taken to my clay soil without any problems and has thrived in imported flowerbed soil as well.
Its long tap roots make it very drought-tolerant once established, so if you're planting a xeriscape garden, this would make a great choice!
Basically, this flower is like the wonder child of the garden.
It attracts wildlife! It needs no supplemental watering! It will cure your cold!
Not to mention, it is just so pretty!
Once it starts blooming mid-summer, it keeps right on until frost.
Color-wise, mostly you've got purples and pinks.
As you can see, though, the variety pictured here--'Cheyenne Spirit'--has vibrant reddish-orange blooms, and my neighbor just planted a white variety. I know there are yellow varieties, as well.
There are even some double forms that look like they have a pom-pom sitting on top of the petals.
If you are new to gardening and are not sure what to put in your sunny flowerbed, give Echinacea a try! Water it at least weekly for the first year, then after that sit back and enjoy!
I usually leave it standing over winter, then cut all the dead foliage back to the ground in the spring.
* Disclaimer: I have never used it as an herb, so I have no advice or opinions on how best to do that.