Friday, April 9, 2010

Coneflowers! (part 3)

Echinacea hybrids
There have been many hybrid Echinacea in the past ten years. They generally involve crosses of E. purpurea, E. pallida, E. tennesseensis, and E. paradoxa. The biggest mistake gardeners make with the hybrid coneflowers is to treat them like Purple Coneflowers. Most of the hybrids will not tolerate heavy clay soil or partial shade the way Purple Coneflower does, and will usually not make it through the first winter if planted in heavy soil, even in zones 7 or 8. It is extremely important to amend the soil with compost or other organic matter for these varieties to thrive. Again, the most important statement in this post: THESE ARE NOT PURPLE CONEFLOWERS!
The Chicago Botanic Garden released the first orange hybrid coneflower ‘Art’s Pride’ which was sold under the trademarked name Orange Meadowbrite. This plant is a cross of E. purpurea ‘Alba’ and E. paradoxa. It is similar in every way to Yellow Coneflower, except for its rich orange flowers. ‘CBG Cone3’ was sold under the trademarked name Mango Meadowbrite and is an amber mutation of ‘Art’s Pride’. Both of these plants are getting harder to find as most growers have abandoned them for newer hybrids with better non-floppy habit and richer color.
‘CBG Cone2’ is sold under the trademarked name Pixie Meadowbrite and is in my opinion the best dwarf coneflower currently available. It is a complex cross of E. tennesseensis x E. purpurea and E. angustifolia x E. tennesseensis. This plant blooms like mad with masses of small pinkish-lavender flowers. It only grows to 20” tall in my garden. It is fairly adaptable and can grow in heavy soil, but does appreciate good drainage. My dog tramples this thing, and it still grows in compacted clay-loam.
The Big Sky series of coneflowers are hybridized by the Saul brothers in Georgia. All are hardy to zone 5 (possibly 4) and require well drained soil.
‘Sunrise’ was the first release and is the result of crossing E. purpurea ‘White Swan’ with a seedling of E. purpurea x E. paradoxa. ‘Sunrise’ has soft yellow flowers that fade to near white on sturdy stems to 3’ tall.
‘Sunset’ was the second release and had orange petals that were usually rolled into a quill. This plant is no longer widely grown.
‘Twilight’ is the third and probably my favorite of the series for its unusual rose-colored flowers and compact habit. It is not a vigorous grower and takes awhile to look good. It has never been widely grown.
‘Evan Saul’ is sold as Sundown and has rich orange flowers that are not quilled. This variety replaced ‘Sunset’ and was a much better performer. Flowers are profuse, but small.
‘Matthew Saul’ is sold as Harvest Moon and has the same amber color as Mango Meadowbrite but a sturdier and more compact habit. It looks fantastic in combination with Rosa 'Radrazz' (Knockout) and similarly colored flowers.
‘Katie Saul’ sold as Summer Sky is a bicolor with dark rose color around the cone lightening to peach at the tips of the petals. Makes an impressive clump, and probably has the largest flowers of the series.
‘After Midnight’ has dark purple flowers, a black cone, dark stems, and a compact habit. However it has the same need for well drained soils as the rest and in my garden the color isn’t any darker than ‘Vintage Wine’ or ‘Fatal Attraction’ which are much better growers.

Terra Nova has put out a huge number of Echinacea hybrids. All of them have sturdy, well-branched stems and do well in well-drained soils. They will not thrive in heavy soils and likely will not over-winter even in warmer zones. They are hardy to zone 5, likely even zone 4. Most are brand new this year, and I'm going off of what I'm told and what I read. I will have all of them this season, and will try to update this in fall and possibly next spring/summer with overwintering data.
‘Tiki Torch’ is a fantastic rich orange with a large cone. This plant is doing fairly well in zones 4 and 5 WI, as long as it has well-drained soil. Overwintered in my clay-loam this season now that it's out of dog reach.
‘Mac n’ Cheese’ is a great dark yellow color that matches its name. This variety is less vigorous than the others, and probably is much more picky about well drained soil. An improvement on this variety is 'Now Cheesier'; which is slightly darker and more vigorous.
‘Tomato Soup’ is a fantastic red and grows similar to ‘Tiki Torch’. Overwintered in the same garden as 'Tiki Torch'
‘Flamethrower’ is a bicolor variety with a dark orange center lightening towards the tips of the petals.
‘Firebird’ is a great red-orange variety with drooping petals and a good habit. I think this has E. pallida in its background, but I'm not 100% sure. I try to find out later in the season.
‘Hot Lava’ is a red-orange variety with horizontally held petals. Similar to ‘Tomato Soup’
‘Maui Sunshine’ is a dark lemon-yellow with horizontally held petals on well branched stems.
‘Tangerine Dream’ is a bright orange similar to ‘Tiki Torch’ but with more horizontally held petals.
‘Coral Reef’ is a double coral-orange with huge flowers.
'Secret Passion' is a dwarf variety with double flowers. I'm not sure of the background on this and am placing it in the hybrids category. I'm very interested to see this one. If it has the size and blooming traits of Pixie Meadowbrite or 'Mistral' and double flowers like 'Pink Double Delight' I'll be totally impressed.

‘Hot Papaya’ is the first double orange to be released to the US, but hasn’t been available in large numbers. This plant came from Arie Bloom of the Netherlands. Other colors will be available in 2011, Arie has been busy. :)

'Summer Sun' is a new variety bred by Kees van de Aardwegh being released by Walter's Gardens. It's a 40" tall variety with sturdy branched scapes and flowers that start out orange-red and lighten to golden-orange.

'Hot Summer' was bred by Marco Van Noort and is being released through the Novalis 'Plants that Work' program. This one starts out Golden and darkens to red-orange. 36" tall with branched scapes.


  1. I'm an echinacea geek so I have most of the varieties you've mentioned. You're so right about the drainage issue and the fact that these new echies are not the same as "regular old" purple coneflowers. Every year I lose a few (even though I have, for the most part, pretty sandy soil) but I keep replanting because I love them that much. I planted oodles of Mac n' Cheese and Tomato Soup last year, and I'm seeing a lot of Tomato Soup come up, but I think less of the Mac n' Cheese. Time will tell.

    Just got a few baby Flamethrowers so I'll be adding those to the garden later this summer after they get a chance to grow out a little.

  2. Mac N' Cheese has definitely been a disappointment in the vigor category. Now Cheesier is showing great promise as it's replacement though! It's already bigger in the pots, even though it was planted 3 weeks later!

  3. Fascinating read! Now I'm tempted to try again after a good amend to the soil.


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