Place: North America

Uses: Teas, tinctures and ornamental use

Fun fact: The yellow-petaled Echinacea paradoxa grows wild in some parts of the Ozarks, where our Missouri farm is located.

Echinacea: Origin and History

A favorite among gardeners and herbalists, the lovely echinacea is a perennial prairie flower with a long and colorful history.

Primarily native to the Eastern fields of North America, echinacea has been prized by indigenous tribes as an herbal medicinal for a wide range of ailments, including those related to the common cold. Modern-day herbalists still prescribe echinacea preparations, often in the form of teas or alcohol-based extracts, which are commonly referred to as tinctures. Perhaps the most well-known medicinal use of echinacea is as a preventative against cold and flu, as formulas crafted from this herb are meant to strengthen the immune system.

The two most widely cultivated species of echinacea, E. purpurea and E. angustifolia, are often used interchangeably in the herb garden and the apothecary. While both species offer the gardener a palette of vibrant colors, the most common flowers are a delicate, soft purple. One of the most notable differences between these two species is the structure of the plants’ root systems: E. purpurea has a more fibrous tangle of roots while E. angustifolia grows the more substantial, thick root commonly utilized by herbalists in their medicinal formulations.

Pink flowers of echinacea

Echinacea flowers

While these two species remain the most well known, there are a total of ten recognized species of Echinacea, all of which are frequently referred to as coneflower, thanks to the cone-like arrangement of the florets on the fully-opened flower heads. Among these species are E. pallida, the beautiful pale purple coneflower and the yellow-petaled E. paradoxa, both of which are considered wonderful additions to a flower garden as their tall, erect stems and colorful blooms add a delightful whimsy and splash of beauty to the landscape.

Indigenous North Americans would harvest the roots, leaves and flowers of their local echinacea species to be crafted into medicinal herbal teas for the treatment of various cold symptoms, including cough, fever, sore throats and headaches. Eventually, European settlers observed this widespread medicinal use of the plant and adopted these therapeutic uses for echinacea.

What Is Echinacea Good For?

By 1895, the flower was introduced throughout Europe, where it was widely studied for its medicinal value. In 1930, German doctor Gerhard Madaus introduced the first commercial preparation of echinacea, which was advertised as an immune system stimulant and marketed under the name Echinacin.

Since Madaus’ introduction, echinacea supplements of various types have become commonplace offerings in health food stores around the world. Scientific studies suggest that while taking echinacea might slightly lessen your chances of catching a cold, it hasn’t been shown to shorten the duration of a respiratory illness, nor has its effectiveness to treat other diseases been proven.

How to Grow Echinacea?

Echinacea plants are quite simple to grow and, once established, will lend their beauty to your garden for years to come. For the greatest success in getting your echinacea started, the small seeds must first go through a process known as stratification in order to trigger germination. Echinacea seeds from many companies, including Baker Creek, have been pre-stratified and arrive in the mail ready to grow. But if not, you can easily cold stratify them by placing the seeds into a moist medium, such as a seed starting mix or potting soil, and then putting them into a refrigerator for up to 30 days.

This exposure to cold temperatures will help your precious seeds break free from their dormant state, ready to sprout into seedlings and join the world! Alternatively, the seeds could be planted directly into the garden early in the winter, but with this technique comes some risk, as small birds or rodents who are eager for a tasty snack might make off with the seeds before they have time to germinate.

Early seed catalog offerings touted echinacea as “peculiar plants with long-lasting flowers” and “greatly admired and very attractive, perfect for cuttings.” This perennial flower can easily be grown in the home garden and enjoyed either for its celebrated blooms or even harvested by the industrious gardener to be crafted into an assortment of herbal concoctions for the household apothecary. Echinacea is also a veritable magnet for pollinators like bumblebees and butterflies.

Pink echinacea flowers with a bottle and a pond on the background


Generally, most cultivars bloom the first year, but some cultivars of echinacea may not share their exquisite blooms until their second year of growth, especially for gardeners with short growing seasons. But patience will be rewarded with a healthy stand of brightly colored flowers to be enjoyed throughout the summer months. Echinacea will easily reseed itself, quickly establishing a healthy patch of flowers that can last up to a decade or more with even the most basic of care. The varieties we carry bloom the first year, so long as they are started indoors six to eight weeks before planting outdoors.

Beginning in the 1990’s, a surge of interest in echinacea breeding has produced some eye-popping new varieties that have more gardeners growing these vibrant flowers for their beauty than for their touted medicinal properties. Botanists and backyard enthusiasts have now developed dozens of interesting echinacea cultivars, resulting in a great selection of colors and growth habits suitable to any situation. Try the glorious palette of Mellow Yellows, featuring a range of colors from brilliant yellow to rich gold, the spectacular Green Twister with its electrifying green and magenta petals, or the ornamental spectacle of our Paradiso Mix with its candy-jar selection of colorful blooms!

Echinacea varieties are among the hardiest, longest lasting flowers we know. When other flowers are fading, echinacea holds on. They’re incredibly resistant to pests and diseases, making them a perfect native flower for the North American garden.

A Simple Echinacea Tea Recipe

A person making echinacea tea

Echinacea tea


  • ¼ cup dried echinacea (½ cup if using fresh)
  • 1-2 teaspoons raw honey
  • 8 ounces boiling water

Echinacea tea can be brewed from fresh or dried flowers and leaves. Steep for approx 15 minutes.

Try adding peppermint or lemongrass to the brew for a tasty cup of tea!

Disclaimer: Please consult your own health care provider on guidance for using echinacea. We think of echinacea as a plant for culinary and ornamental purposes, not as medicine.

Are you ready to transform your outdoor space into a botanical masterpiece? Then explore our shop for a wide selection of vegetable and flower seeds and start cultivating your botanical dreams today!