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Home & garden.

16 August 2021

How to grow echinaceas

Echinaceas return year after year to bloom in mid-summer. Discover our best varieties and tips for how to grow them.
CT
Ceri Thomas
Echinacea

Echinaceas, commonly called coneflowers, start to bloom in mid-summer and look good for many weeks, their mellow colours ideally suited to the late-summer sun. They fit into both formal or natural-looking gardens, as well as the ‘prairie’- style planting for which they’ve become well-known.

They have a temperamental side though, and sometimes die down in winter, never to be seen again. We thought it was time to find out which of them not only looked good but had some staying power as well.

Which? Gardening magazine grew a range of popular varieties in the north and south of the UK over two years to see which would give us the best display and be hardy enough to get through UK winters.


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Key facts

PLANT TYPE Herbaceous perennial

POSITION Sunny

SOIL Well-drained 

How to grow echinaceas: month by month

JanuaryFebruaryMarchAprilMayJune


CUT BACK/PLANTPLANT

JulyAugustSeptemberOctoberNovemberDecember
FLOWERING/DEADHEADINGFLOWERING/DEADHEADINGFLOWERING


Best echinacea varieties

Which members can log in now to see the full results and which are our Best Buy varieties. If you're not a member, join Which? to get instant access.

Best Buy echinaceas
What it looks likeVariety nameHeight x spread
110 x 60cm
A new relatively introduction from the US, the striking flowers of this variety had a huge cone which started with a prominent green centre, though later it looked like a giant orange button in the middle of the short, flat petals. The stems were strong, straight and branching, so plants were nicely shaped, though they did need some support when the flowers were fully open. They had good scent and proved to be a popular variety with bees. Peak flowering: Jul-Sep
What it looks likeVariety nameHeight x spread
110 x 40cm
This classic variety had a really long flowering season in Northumberland, where it bloomed until the end of September. In north London, it was sturdy and colourful into the start of September, and carried on flowering well, even though it began to suffer from a leaf disease later in the season. The plants needed little support and attracted lots of bees to the large flowers, whose petals drooped in the typical echinacea fashion as they matured. Peak flowering: Jul-Sep
What it looks likeVariety nameHeight x spread

How we test echinaceas

In spring, we planted three plants of each variety at our Capel Manor trial garden in north London, where the soil is well-drained and the climate mild and relatively dry. We did the same at Alnwick Garden in Northumberland, where it’s colder, slightly wetter and the soil is also well-drained. Plants were grown for two years and assessed for: duration and impact of flowering; whether they were floppy or self-supporting; which had the best scent; those that attracted the most pollinators; susceptibility to problems.

Caring for your plants

Planting

Plant in any soil, as long as it’s well-drained. Add well-rotted garden compost when planting. Place in full sun for best flowering, though they can also grow in light shade. Plant in spring if possible so plants establish before winter sets in.

Deadheading

Deadheading regularly early in the flowering season prolongs flowering. Stop deadheading in September and allow stems to stay on until new growth starts in spring. This helps protect the plant’s crown in winter.

Common growing problems

Slugs and snails

Watch out for slugs and snails eating leaves as plants come into growth in spring. Use organic slug pellets or biological control (for slugs only).

Read more about slugs and snails