Coneflowers are prickly-centred flowers known by their Greek name "echinacea," which translates to hedgehog. The flower's prickly centres produce seeds. Coneflowers are difficult to propagate from seed because they require certain conditions and treatment processes. While some gardeners propagate the flower via seed, others use simpler and more productive propagation methods, such as root cuttings and root division.
Echinacea flowers require an established root system prior to propagation. Take root cuttings from the peripheral root system of an established plant. The best time to take a root cutting and grow a viable plant is in the early spring or fall. The plant is at rest, but has all the stored energy necessary to establish a new plant. Summer cuttings are also acceptable, as the root cutting is in the process of continual growth. Observe your summer plants prior to taking any cuttings as disturbing a drought-stressed plant will result in poor cuttings and plant death. Mid to late spring cuttings are not recommended because the plant is in the process of expending energy for shoot growth and bud development.
Separate root cuttings from the mother plant by taking cuttings from wire-thick roots. Keep these 1- to 2-inch cuttings moist. Dried-out cuttings are not viable. Place cuttings in a soilless growing medium such as perlite, keeping the medium moist but not saturated. Avoid tamping down the cuttings. Instead, loosely cover cuttings with the moist medium. Place the container in a plastic bag to retain moisture and heat. Keep cuttings within a 55 to 65 degree Fahrenheit temperature range. Cuttings take root and grow shoots and stems within 10 to 21 days.
Echinacea, even cultivated varieties, are descendants of wild flowers found growing in arid sections of the Great Plains states and farther north. Echinacea's long taproots allow the plants to find water and also help anchor them against strong winds. Protect your seedlings' developing taproots by removing the plants from shallow pots. Transplant seedling-sized shoots to their permanent garden location. Plants kept in shallow trays beyond seedling stage develop weak tap roots and fair poorly when transplanted.
Root Division Propagation
As coneflowers' root systems grow and spread, small plantlets emerge at the base of the mother plant. Plantlets eventually grow to full-sized plants. Over time the accumulation of new plant growth begins to crowd out and diminish the quality of the flowers. Use the division method to thin out your overcrowded beds. Gently uproots the mother plant and separate it from the plantlets. Divide your echinacea every three to four years. Discard plantlets or relocate them in a different garden area.
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- Ohio State University; Plantfacts; Echinacea purpurea; Purple Coneflower
- University of Vermont Extension; Rooting Cuttings; Leonard P. Perry; May, 2003.
- United States Department of Agriculture Plant Guide; Purple Coneflower
- Clemson Cooperative Extension; Dividing Perennials; Karen Russ, Bob Polomski; June, 1999.