Most coneflowers are tall, so they look best in clumps toward the back of a bed or border of flowers. They are at home in both formal and informal settings in the yard. Mix them with silver and bluish-green foliage plants, or ornamental grasses, and with other summer bloomers such as yarrow, goldenrod, beebalm, veronica and blazing star. Offset their coarse texture with large, more finely textured neighbors such as thread-leaf coreopsis, sea-lavender or baby’s breath.
Coneflowers are perfect for a patch of meadow featuring native plants and grasses or scattered in open woodland settings. They are not usually invasive.
Coneflowers Attract Wildlife: several kinds of bees, beneficial insects and butterflies seek out the pollen and nectar from purple coneflowers. Admirals, swallowtails, monarchs and various skippers visit cornflowers constantly over the many weeks they are in bloom during the late summer.
In the fall when the centers of the flowers have matured to bristly, conical seed heads, seed-eating birds flock to stands of dead and dying purple coneflowers. The goldfinches, white-crowned sparrows, chickadees, blackbirds, and others who visit in the fall may be persuaded to overwinter in the yard if feeders filled with commercial birdseed replace the dead coneflowers. In the spring these birds contribute to pest insect control in the yard when they search for protein for their babies.
Cutting/Displaying Coneflowers Indoors: Purple coneflowers are useful in flower crafts and arrangements. Allowed to dry on their stems in the yard, the ray petals drop off leaving the dark, bristly cones which are useful in dried arrangements. They can be painted or gilded for special effects.
Purple coneflowers add a nice touch to indoor arrangements. Harvest stems with newly opening blooms early in the morning, before they have a chance to dry out in the sun. Trim off their lower leaves so that they do not foul the water and put the stems in a bucket of water until you are ready to display them. Transfer them to a vase filled with lukewarm water laced with a non-diet citrus soda or commercial floral conditioner. ‘Bravado’ has large flowers on long stems and make a good cut flower. For more information see the files on Keeping Cut Flowers and Cut Flower Supplies
Coneflowers as Medicinal Plants: Coneflower roots were used by Native Americans to treat snakebite, stings, and some internal diseases. Today numerous tinctures (liquid extracts) and dried root products made from purple coneflowers and called Echinacea are available in the US. These preparations are used to bolster the immune response against colds, flu, allergies, and upper respiratory disorders. However, in Germany where Echinacea compounds are routinely prescribed for a variety of conditions, authorities caution that people with diabetes, HIV, lupus, or MS avoid exposure to them.
Do not use compounds containing Echinacea if you are allergic to ragweed or plants in the Aster (Composite) family. Check with a qualified herbalist or naturopathic physician before taking any herbal preparation.