Echinacea Cultivar Groups

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The modern hybrid Echinacea are so new that there are no formal cultivar groups defined, nor have any interspecific hybrid

names been designated (some nurseries have taken to using Echinacea hybrida but that name is not official). Based on the forms

released since 2003, we can divide ornamental Echinacea into the following cultivar groups based on flower type, leaf color,

and habit:

Wild Types

The wild-type Echinacea group consists of seed strain cultivars and clonal selections of individual species chosen for

improved flower color, flower architecture or plant habit. Flower color varies from pale pink to a saturated pink/purple, or

(rarely) white.

Double-flowered hybrids

The double flowered hybrids may be any color including pink, purple, white, yellow, mango, or orange. The list of colors of

double-flowered types expands every year. The flowers may be:
* anemone-formed (the disk florets are completely converted into small petals but the ray florets are unchanged)
* tufted (most of the disk florets are intact but the top of the cone contains a tuft of small petals)
* flower-over-flower (the disk florets are partially or completely converted into a new flower with its own ray florets and

disk florets. The lower ray florets are unchanged)
* fully-double (the disk florets and ray florets are all petaloid and are all roughly the same size so that you cannot tell

one from the other).

Novelty color hybrids

The novelty color hybrids include all the new variants that have been created by breeding the purple-flowered species (pastel

pink to saturated pink/purple, rose-pink, white) with Echinacea paradoxa (yellow). The array of novel colors is quite stunning

and includes pastel to neon forms of yellow, orange, pink, purple, mango, coral, orange, salmon and all colors between. There

is a green-flowered cultivar too. Breeders are filling in the color palette to cover the entire spectrum (except blue) and are

extending the orange colors into new territory that borders on red. There is one cultivar, Echinacea ‘Green Envy’, that is

even bicolored with pink and green petals.


Variegated Echinacea are rare. There are not many variegated forms of Echinacea on the market and the ones that are out there

are not particularly vigorous. Variegation usually takes the form of white stippling on the leaves and is quite variable.

Gardeners are anxiously awaiting the discovery of a stable, wide, white edge or white center but none yet exist. Here at Plant

Delights Nursery we have found a number of Echinacea with variegated foliage but so far they have been unstable and quickly

reverted to green.


The dwarf group includes any plant under 24″ in height. Breeders have selected many dwarf forms whose flowers are full-sized.

Novelty flower architecture

The novelty flower type group currently contains only 1 stable selection. ‘All that Jazz’, from Kevin Hurd at Walters

Gardens, has fluted petals that are rolled over in the middle much like a spoon-petaled osteospermum or gerbera.

The cultivar groups listed above highlight most of the traits that modern breeders are selecting for. They are extending the

color palette, selecting for wide, erect petals, and double flowered plants. The new hybrids are often very sweetly scented.

In addition, breeders are looking for hybrids that are easier to grow and more tolerate of wet conditions.

Echinacea Species and Cultivars

Echinacea angustifolia (Narrow Leaf Coneflower)
Echinacea angustifolia was not “officially” discovered by taxonomists until 1836, but in 1805 the explorers Louis and Clark

sent Thomas Jefferson specimens of the plant from Fort Mandan during their famous exploration of the Louisiana Purchase lands.

They referred to it as ‘Mad Dog Plant’ in their packing list, and state that it is “highly prized by the natives as an

efficacious remedy in the cases of the bite of the rattle Snake or Mad Dog.” This fantastic butterfly-attracting native, found

from Canada south to Texas, is as stunning as Echinacea purpurea, just less known. The 30″ tall stems are topped in late

spring (mid-June) with large, attractive pink-purple heads, each composed of very narrow petals. Even if you don’t like the

looks of coneflowers (I can’t imagine), Echinacea angustifolia is the most highly prized species for its medicinal

properties…very popular among nursery owners. (Hardiness Zone 3-8)

Echinacea laevigata (Smooth Purple Coneflower)
Echinacea laevigata is a Federal Endangered species native from Pennsylvania south to Alabama. Like all echinaceas, it needs

an open glade-like habitat and has become endangered due to forest fire suppressions…gee, thanks Smokey. Echinacea laevigata

produces 3′ tall flowers spikes with typical purple narrow petaled flowers. The leaves are never cordate, like other

echinacea. (Hardiness Zone 3-8)

Echinacea pallida (Narrow Petal Coneflower) This southeast native is kin to our commonly grown Echinacea purpurea, but with

very narrow petals of pinkish purple atop 3′ stalks in mid summer. Echinacea pallida is particularly useful in perennial

borders due to its narrow form. (Hardiness Zone 5-8)

Echinacea paradoxa (Yellow Coneflower) The difficult-to-find yellow coneflower is indeed a paradox as all other coneflowers

are either purple or white. This strange relative from the Midwest (don’t we all have one of those) has narrow, fuzzy green

leaves that form a small basal clump which gives rise to 4’+ flower stems, topped in late spring with large yellow coneflowers

with dark brown centers. (Hardiness Zone 4-9, possibly colder)

Echinacea purpurea (Purple Coneflower) Without question, Echinacea purpurea has the most garden value as evidenced by the

extraordinary number of commercial cultivars listed below. Because of its wide range in virtually every state East of the

Mississippi River except Minnesota, it has a wide range of adaptability. (Hardiness Zone 3-9)

Echinacea purpurea ‘Alba’ (White Coneflower) This is the commonly sold white-flowered seed strain of the purple coneflower.

As with all seed strains, the plants are somewhat variable. (Hardiness Zone 3-9)

Echinacea purpurea ‘Avalanche’ PP 18,597 (Avalanche Coneflower)
Echinacea purpurea ‘Avalanche’ PP 18,597 is the best compact, single white-flowered coneflower in our trials. This 2006 Arie

Blom hybrid makes a tight clump, adorned in summer with 20″ tall spikes of large, white, horizontally-held petals…quite

nice! (Hardiness Zone 3-9)

Echinacea purpurea ‘Bright Star’ (Bright Star Coneflower, syn: Echinacea purpurea ‘Leuchstern’) This superb seed strain of

our native coneflower is a bit taller than most (to 3-4′) and has a slightly larger and more horizontally held rosy purple

petals. (Hardiness Zone 3-9)

Echinacea purpurea ‘Coconut Lime’ PP 18,617 (Coconut Lime Coneflower) This 2006 Arie Blom selection is topped with white,

pompon style flowers with a hint of green. (Hardiness Zone 3-9)

Echinacea purpurea ‘Cotton Candy’ PPAF (Cotton Candy Coneflower) This 2008 Arie Blom introduction makes a compact plant with

3′ tall stems, topped with large double pink flowers, which we have found to rebloom well. (Hardiness Zone 3-9)

Echinacea purpurea ‘Elton Knight’ PP 18,133 (Elton Knight Coneflower) From the UK’s Anthony Brooks, gardener at Elton Hall,

came Echinacea ‘Elton Knight’. Echinacea ‘Elton Knight’ was one of only three coneflowers to receive the prestigious Award of

Garden Merit in the Royal Horticultural Echinacea trials (2003). In our trials, Echinacea ‘Elton Knight’ stands apart not for

its color, which is typical pinkish lavender, but for its sturdy 2′ tall compact architectural habit and great branching. The

flower stalks are topped in summer with 5″ wide flower heads of nice outwardly held petals. Echinacea ‘Elton Knight’ is named

for Thomas Andrew Knight, a founding member of the Royal Horticultural Society. (Hardiness Zone 3-9)

Echinacea purpurea ‘Fatal Attraction’ PP 18,429 (Fatal Attraction Coneflower) This 2006 selection of our US native Echinacea

purpurea is from Piet Oudolf’s famed garden in Holland. Echinacea purpurea ‘Fatal Attraction’ PP 18,429 is unique because of

the 26″ tall sturdy wine black stems that hold the intense pink flowers…a favorite of garden visitors. Flowering begins in

late June…be patient. (Hardiness Zone 3-9)

Echinacea purpurea ‘Fragrant Angel’ PP 16,054, PVR (Fragrant Angel Coneflower) This sturdy 2004 release from Terra Nova

Nurseries is the white counterpart of Echinacea purpurea ‘Ruby Giant’ and the best white coneflower we have ever grown. The

giant 4-5″ heads of pure white petals, around a contrasting orange cone, are also deliciously fragrant. Since these are

clonally reproduced, each plant is identical for a more uniform planting. (Hardiness Zone 3-9)

Echinacea ‘Green Envy’ (Green Envy Coneflower) When Mark Veeder first showed me a photo of his 2008 Echinacea purpurea

seedling introduction; I thought for sure this was an April Fool’s Photoshop?creation. Only after growing and photographing

the plant myself, can I say for sure, it is truly this unique. The 20″ tall stems are topped, starting in mid-June, with large

4.5″ wide flowers composed of a dark cone with a green center. Surrounding the cone, are long petals that are pink toward the

cone changing to lime-green toward the downward recurving tips. Echinacea ‘Green Envy’ is so weird, gardeners will either love

or hate it…we love it! (Hardiness Zone 3-9)

Echinacea purpurea ‘Kim’s Knee High’ PP 12,242 (Kim’s Knee High Coneflower) From Tony’s college classmate Kim Hawks, former

owner of Niche Gardens, comes a 1999 dwarf selection of the wonderful native purple coneflower. This compact selection is the

first coneflower to be vegetatively propagated, ensuring that every plant is identical…no seed-grown variation as long as

you remove the old seed heads. Starting in mid-June (NC), each flower head has rigidly reflexed, rosy-pink petals that give a

truly unique look to this selection. (Hardiness Zone 3-9)

Echinacea purpurea ‘Kim’s Mop Head’ PP 13,560 (Kim’s Mop Head Coneflower) Echinacea ‘Kim’s Mop Head’ is a 2001 introduction

and is the white flowered companion to Echinacea purpurea ‘Kim’s Knee High’. This mutation of Echinacea purpurea ‘Kim’s Knee

High’, discovered at Sunny Border Nursery in Connecticut, has the same wonderful compact habit with perfectly symmetrical

downward arching heads of fringed-white petals. (Hardiness Zone 3-9)

Echinacea purpurea ‘Kim’s Red Knee High’ PP 20,411 (Kim’s Red Knee High Coneflower) Echinacea purpurea ‘Kim’s Red Knee High’

PP 20,411 is a mutation of Echinacea purpurea ‘Kim’s Knee High’ PP 12,242, discovered at Connecticut’s Sunny Border Nursery in

2005. Echinacea purpurea ‘Kim’s Red Knee High’ PP 20,411 has the same vigorous growth, short habit and attractively reflexed

petals of its parent. The name red, however, is problematic…another example of male color-blindness and why you never ask

men to describe a color. The color is actually a richer, darker pink than the parent, but nothing close to red. (Hardiness

Zone 4-9)

Echinacea purpurea ‘Lilliput’ PP 18,841 (Lilliput Coneflower) From the Terra Nova breeding program in 2006 came one of the

most compact of the dwarf coneflowers that we have seen. The tight clumps are adorned, starting in early summer, with 16″ tall

flower spikes of large, fragrant, rosy-pink flower heads…perfect for the front of the border. (Hardiness Zone 4-9)

Echinacea purpurea ‘Little Giant’ PP 16,183 (Little Giant Coneflower) This 2004 Terra Nova selection of our native Echinacea

purpurea combines the large 4-5″ wide flowers and flat petal arrangement of Echinacea purpurea ‘Ruby Giant’ with a compact

habit. Each 16″ tall clump is topped with the large fragrant pink flowers starting in early summer. For smaller planting

spaces, Echinacea ‘Little Giant’ just what the plant doctor ordered. (Hardiness Zone 4-9)

Echinacea purpurea ‘Magnus’ (Magnus Coneflower) This seed strain of our US native was selected by Sweden’s Magnus Nilsson for

its vibrant pinkish purple color and strongly horizontal petal formation and was named the 1998 Perennial Plant of the Year.

In spring, the small rosettes of narrow green leaves unfurl, then are topped in midsummer by 30″ spikes ending in 3-4″ wide

purple petaled, black-eyed Susan-type flowers. (Hardiness Zone 3-10)

Echinacea purpurea ‘Meringue’ PP 20,537 (Meringue Coneflower) This 2008 Arie Blom introduction is a compact 16″ tall version

of their Echinacea ‘Coconut Lime’ with double white pompom flowers. (Hardiness Zone 3-9)

Echinacea purpurea ‘Milkshake’ PP 20594 (Milkshake Coneflower) This coneflower from Holland’s Arie Blom has made a real

splash in our trials. The amazing branched flower spikes are composed of large, double, white flowers, each surrounded by a

row of single petals. For us, Echinacea purpurea ‘Milkshake’ starts flowering in midsummer and re-blooms in the fall. Although

the breeder claims a 3′ tall flower stem, our plants have never topped 2′ tall. (Hardiness Zone 4-9)

Echinacea purpurea ‘Pink Double Delight’ PP 18,803 (Pink Double Delight Coneflower) The 2006 introduction has impressed us

with its excellent performance in our trials. Developed by Arie Blom of the Netherlands, this vigorous and floriferous

cultivar is composed of sturdy 24″ tall stems, each topped with double flowers starting in July and continuing until frost.

Each flower head is composed of an oversized, dark pink cone adorned with lighter pink petals. Echinacea ‘Pink Double Delight’

needs 8+ hours of full sun to prevent the maturing flowers from doing a Greg Louganis half gainer. (Hardiness Zone 3-9)

Echinacea purpurea ‘Pink Poodle’ PPAF (Pink Poodle Coneflower) Echinacea purpurea ‘Pink Poodle’ PPAF from the Terra Nova

breeding program is the latest (2008) in the line of double-flowered pink coneflowers. Echinacea purpurea ‘Pink Poodle’ PPAF

boasts rounded, double pink flowers that look like one of those overly-clipped poodle tails, atop well-branched, sturdy 3′

tall stems in the summer months…at least they’ve bred out that incessant yapping from its namesake. We find that the first

few flowers may be a bit deformed until the plants gets settled into the garden. (Hardiness Zone 3-9)

Echinacea purpurea ‘Purity’ PP 19,441 (Purity Coneflower) This 2007 Terra Nova hybrid is a descendant of Echinacea purpurea

‘Fragrant Angel’ and another new advance in white-flowered coneflowers. Echinacea ‘Purity’ offers a well-branched,

architecturally sturdy 26″ tall plant, topped in mid-summer with 4.5″ wide pure white flowers. (Hardiness Zone 4-9)

Echinacea purpurea ‘Razzmatazz’ PP 13,894 (Razzmatazz Coneflower) From Holland’s Jan van Winsen comes this stunning Echinacea

purpurea seedling (from Echinacea ‘Magnus’) that appeared in his fields in 1997. The unique, double pompom flower atop 30″

stems makes this one of those rare plants that elicit “oohs” and “ahhs” from those who see the plant in flower or merely in a

photograph. Since the flower heads are heavier than normal, we recommend an area with bright light and good air movement,

which will strengthen the stems. This is the first of the double-flowered coneflowers to hit the market. (Hardiness Zone 3-9)

Echinacea purpurea ‘Ruby Giant’ (Ruby Giant Coneflower) This Dan Heims selection of the US native Echinacea purpurea is from

the European garden of the son of Magnus Nilsson (Echinacea ‘Magnus’). This clump was selected from the parent stock for the

seed strain Echinacea ‘Rubinsturn’. One particularly nice plant was selected for vegetative propagation…all offspring are

now identical. Echinacea purpurea ‘Ruby Giant’ boasts large 5-7″ wide flowers of pure bright clear pink, each with upcurved

petal tips. Did I mention the flowers are delightfully fragrant? This is truly a stunning selection that is a must for every

border! (Hardiness Zone 3-9)

Echinacea purpurea ‘Sparkler’ PP 17,298 (Sparkler Coneflower) Echinacea ‘Sparkler’ is a truly unique 2005 sport of Echinacea

purpurea ‘Ruby Giant’ that forms a nice, dwarf, compact clump to only 26″ tall by 18″ wide. The green leaves emerge frosted

white and hold this pattern until very hot weather arrives. Each clump is topped with 26″ tall flower spikes of 4″ wide

fragrant, light-pink flowers. If you enjoy plants with variegation, this one’s for you. (Hardiness Zone 3-9)

Echinacea purpurea ‘The King’ (The King Coneflower) This UK selection was the first clone to show wide horizontal branching

on the flower stem. Its pollen was used to produce a more compact variety with the same branching, that was introduced as E.

‘Elton Knight’. The flat-petaled 5-6″ wide flowers are the typical Echinacea purpurea color. (Hardiness Zone 3-9)

Echinacea purpurea ‘Vintage Wine’ PP 13,893 (Vintage Wine Coneflower) This introduction of our US native comes from Holland’s

designer extraordinaire, Piet Oudolf. Echinacea ‘Vintage Wine’ in Piet’s garden as a self-sown seedling in a patch of

Echinacea purpurea. It was selected for its 2′ tall, sturdy, upright habit and branched flower stems. The flat but short

outfacing petals of a unique wine-pink (RHS 63A) color are darker toward the tip and top the plant from July through

September. (Hardiness Zone 4-9)

Echinacea purpurea ‘Virgan’ PP 18,684 (Virgin Coneflower) This 2006 coneflower introduction comes from Netherlands garden

designer, Piet Oudolf. The compact clumps are topped in summer with sturdy 2′ stems, ending in an abundance of 4″ wide flowers

composed of a fragrant dark green cone and surrounded by frilly-white petals. (Hardiness Zone 4-9)

Echinacea purpurea ‘White Swan’ (White Swan Coneflower) The seed strain is considered the best of the non-clonal whites,

producing flowers atop sturdy 18″ stems. (Hardiness Zone 3-9)

Echinacea simulata (Wavy-leaf Purple Coneflower) Echinacea simulata is very similar to Echinacea pallida except that the

pollen is yellow instead of white. The leaves are very narrow and the flowers have reflexed, narrow purple petals. (Hardiness

Zone 5-8, at least)

Echinacea tennesseensis (Tennessee Coneflower) Echinacea tennesseensis is another federally endangered species, which means

you must obtain permits in order to sell it. Consequently, it is sold as Echinacea ‘Rocky Top’, since the folks in charge of

enforcing stupid Endangered Species regulations think that once you give the plant a cultivar name then it is no longer

endangered….here’s your sign. This wonderful species, native to the cedar glades of three counties in central Tennessee, was

thought to be extinct until the ’60s when it was rediscovered. Echinacea tennesseensis makes a robust clump of narrow leaves,

topped with 2′ tall flower spikes ending in bright pink flower heads of narrow, slightly upturned petals. Echinacea

tennesseensis is one of the longest lived and most adaptable of the coneflower family…provided it has very good drainage.

(Hardiness Zone 5-8)
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