Sowing: Direct sow in late fall, planting the Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) seeds 1/4" deep and lightly compacting the soil. For spring planting, mix the seed with moist sand and store it in the refrigerator for 90 days before direct sowing; keep the soil consistently moist until germination. Thin or transplant the seedlings.
Growing: Water seedlings until they become established. Unlike most coneflowers, Purple Coneflower does not do well in drought conditions and needs adequate moisture. The area should be well-drained to avoid soggy soil, since this can cause disease. Keep competition to a minimum in the first year of growth, since this plant cannot reach its full potential when crowded by weeds. After several years of growth, mature plants can be divided in late fall. This plant attracts hummingbirds, butterflies and bees.
Harvesting: For fresh flowers, cut long stems of flowers that have just opened and place them in water immediately; strip the leaves that will fall below the water.
Seed Saving: After flowering, the central cones of the flowers will develop into a spiky seed head. Since songbirds such as goldfinches love to eat Purple Coneflower seeds, they should be harvested as soon as possible to avoid loss. As soon as the seeds easily come loose from the head, cut off the seed heads. Rub them lightly to remove the seed, and store the Purple Coneflower seed in a cool, dry place.
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