Purple Coneflower Seeds (Echinacea purpurea) and Plants for Butterflies!
Lists of top butterfly nectar plants almost always include Purple Coneflower. It is well known as a butterfly magnet. But to really sweeten the deal, it is not only loved by butterflies but by gardeners everywhere because it is pretty, low-maintenance, hardy and gently spreads over time to create beautiful patches of color.
Echinacea purpurea Characteristics
Purple Coneflower is native to Eastern and Central US from Canada down through the South but it is grown successfully throughout most of the US (hardy in USDA zones 3-9). It is an extremely popular butterfly nectar plant from coast to coast.
Purple Coneflower is a perennial that grows about 4 ft high and flowers from mid-summer through fall. As an herbaceous perennial, it will die back in the fall to return in the spring. It can be grown successfully in deep containers.
This native will spread gently in a clump and will self-sow but is not considered invasive. You can prevent self-sowing by dead-heading the blooms but if left to dry, the seeds are very attractive to birds, especially Finches.
Echinacea purpurea prefers full sun but will tolerate some shade especially in hot areas. Medium wetness or mesic conditions are best but it will also do well in areas with periods of wet soil as well as areas with drought conditions once established. Purple Coneflower does best in well drained soils and fertile loam but will tolerate some gravel or clay.
There are other species of Echinacea such as E. angustifolia (and several others) which may or may not be as good of nectar sources. I haven’t come across a side-by-side comparison; however, Echinacea purpurea is the one that is most commonly seen in lists of top butterfly plants.
There are many cultivars of Echinacea (‘Magnus’, ‘Hot Summer’, ‘White Swan’, and many more). Some forum comments indicate that certain cultivars may not be as attractive to butterflies as is the species Echinacea purpurea. The native species appears to be the best, or at least among the best, attractor as well as being very robust.
I would not discourage trying the different cultivars but if you are looking for the best chance to attract butterflies you may want to start with Echinacea purpurea.
Propagating Purple Coneflower – How to Start from Seed
Echinacea purpurea can be propagated by division or seed. Purple Coneflower seed needs to be stored in cool conditions for good germination. It does not require cold/moist stratification, just cold/dry (like in a baggy in the refrigerator) storage.
Although cold stratification is not necessary, it will not hurt and these seeds may be winter sown or fall planted.
Our seeds are stored in refrigeration so are ready for planting. We have had good germination rates with this seed. Seeds can be directly sowed outdoors once the weather warms up or they can be started early indoors. Plant the seeds about 1/8 inch deep (barely cover) and keep moist. We see germination start in about`1-2 weeks.
Plants started from seed may bloom the first year if started early and with a long growing season but in most cases they will skip the first year and bloom the second. Starting these seeds mid to late summer will produce flowering plants the next year. Space plants about 18-24 inches apart.
Buy Butterfly-safe Purple Coneflower Seeds
Echinacea purpurea is a great nectar plant for butterfly gardens since it is pretty, robust, low-maintenance and very attractive to butterflies! We hope you will give it a try. Joyful Butterfly is a licensed nursery in SC and all of our plants, and of course seeds, are safe for butterflies.