Garden News: Coneflower shows its true colors

Louisiana gardeners have been growing the coneflower, or Echinacea purpurea, for years.

It’s a tough, resilient plant that’s extremely attractive to butterflies, LSU AgCenter horticulturist Dan Gill said.

“It’s a real performer in our gardens,” Gill said. “The problem is a color limitation.”

For years, the only color available has been a sort of magenta-purple. But plant breeders have been trying to expand the color range. And they’ve finally done it.

By breeding Echinacea purpurea with other species, they’ve created some wonderful new colors.

“One of their best efforts is a seed-grown variety called Cheyenne Spirit,” Gill said.

It’s an All-America winner, and it has an outstanding range of colors — yellows, golds, oranges, reds and more.

These plants are tough, with few insect or disease problems, Gill said.

Coneflowers do best in well-drained areas, like raised beds. And they do best in full sun — as much as they can get.

The plants bloom over a long period, and each individual flower lasts a long time as well — about two weeks — so they make great cut flowers.

Because it’s a seed-grown variety, Cheyenne Spirit should be available as transplants at local nurseries or garden centers. You also should be able to find seeds online and start your own plants if you wish.

You asked

Is there a way to treat large crape myrtle trees at the root to prevent leaf spot? Maybe some systemic fungicide? Treating by spraying is difficult as they are large and numerous and the problem is becoming repetitive. — Jacob

Unfortunately, there are no systemic fungicides you can apply to the base of the trees that will effectively control Cercospora leaf spot.

Spraying is possible but is generally considered impractical and unnecessary for a disease that makes the trees look bad but is not life-threatening. Spraying once you see the symptoms does no good; the disease has already occurred and will have to run its course. — Dan Gill

Got a gardening question? Write to GardenNews@agcenter.lsu.edu.