Growing echinacea ( purple coneflowers ) in your garden could help fight those stubborn colds, and a whole host of other things. There’s still tons of research and heaps of trials to be done before the final results, but so far echinacea is living up to it’s fame.
Echinacea is indigenous to mid-western America and native Americans have used the root in herbal preparations for many years. The constituents of echinacea have cleansing and antiseptic properties and the plant is used to treat many medical conditions.
NB: Don’t take home-made herbal preparations unless you are 110% sure you have it right!
Where to plant:
Echinacea likes a sunny spot and is drought-tolerant, so if you forget to water, it’ll probably be okay! Plants will survive in fairly poor soil as long as it’s well-drained. It grows naturally on the prairies of the mid west of America so if you could replicate those conditions, the plant should thrive. Hot and sunny – not much rain.
If you live in the UK – or any other high rainfall region – it may be better to try growing echinacea in a greenhouse or other protected area.
Seeds or plants?
Transporting ready grown plants and re-planting them isn’t always the best way to growing echinacea. They may survive but ideally you should start your own echinacea plants from seed…
Buy the seed from a reputable seed company.. Thompson and Morgan have a few varieties..
This Hardy Perennial is fabulous!
Echinacea purpurea ‘Pink Parasol‘ (UK)
or check your local seed supplier.
Once you have your seeds, read the instructions on the packet for the finer details – when best to plant in your region, how much space you need to allow for your particular variety, etc;
Sow the seed in warm seed compost, in well-drained pots and keep soil damp until the seeds start to germinate. Water less after that but keep a close eye on your seedlings as they are vulnerable at this stage. Echinacea seeds take ages to germinate – sometimes as long as six weeks.
The plants do well in sandy soils and raised bed systems. The seeds can be started off inside a few weeks before the last frost. Sow in bio-degradable pots so you can plant out later without disturbing the roots too much. Making your own pots is a great thing to do to help your plants, and the planet!
After Care & Uses.
Keep weed-free as much as possible. When hoeing take care not to damage the roots.
Traditionally the roots have always been used in medicinal treatments, but there is strong evidence the flowers have just as much healing power as the roots. Go with the natural flow and use the flowers when they bloom and the roots when the flowers have finished.
The root should be collected for use in the third of fourth year of growth and after the flower has died right back in the autumn. Roots should be dried using a home food dryer or in a slow oven.
A combination of echinacea root and garlic can help boost the immune system and protect against colds, flu and all sorts of ailments.
The dried root and herb can be taken as a tisane ( 1-2 grams per tisane taken approx. 3 times a day. )
Echinacea is also used in ointments to treat skin problems such as eczema and boils.
Care should be taken when applying echinacea ointments, or taking it internally, by anyone with allergy problems. If you are allergic to other flowers in the daisy family, it’s possible you will have an allergic reaction to echinacea.
The flowers are bright and cheerful and work well in borders. They also make a great cut flower to brighten up the house.
Historically, echinacea was used over 400 years ago, that we know of, as a cure-all. Today, scientists are doing numerous tests with the herb in various forms to see if it really does live up to its reputation. The verdict so far seems good!
Growing echinacea in your garden gives you daily access to this wonderful herb.
Please note that I am not a medical practitioner and any self-medication should be okayed with your GP first.