Echinacea ~ Also known as purple coneflower.
Soil/Sun – Grows best in full sun, and prefers a sandy or rocky soil. Echinacea likes to grow in wide open areas. A long bed or border is ideal. Some plants will need staking after a heavy or prolonged rain. Under ideal growing conditions, the plants can reach a height of 3 feet or more. When laden with the beautiful flowers, they’ll need some support.
Propagation/Growth – All Echinacea do best when sown directly in prepared garden beds. Scatter the seeds thickly as the germination rate is low- about 30%. March 1st is ideal for sowing the seeds. The seeds sprout much better in cold soil and will germinate in about four weeks. Echinacea grows in clumps and produces stunning pinkish-purple flowers in late summer. Dead head the flowers and lay them aside to dry for craft projects. Air dry the flowers on paper towels in a warm and airy room.
Harvesting – Roots can be harvested in late fall after they reach maturity. Most plants mature within three years. Harvest the aerial parts, flowers and seeds using scissors, during the 2nd growing season. Whole plants are harvested when in peak flower. Use a garden spade or fork to dig roots and whole plants. Carefully lift the entire plant from the soil, and try not to cut the major roots in half. Rinse the soil from the roots, and hang the entire plant high up in a warm area that is free from moisture.
Medicinal Benefits – Echinacea promotes a healthy immune system. Echinacea capsules are wonderful for colds and flu. Purchase the capsules from health food stores or GNC. Be sure to follow directions on the package.
There are three species of medicinal Echinacea- Echinacea, Angustifolia, E. pallida, E. purpurea. This herb is used in traditional tincture, syrup, poultice, compress, ointment, salve, cream, bath herb, steam inhalation, infused oil and balm.
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