Natural Immune Booster

Growing Echinacea at Home

Learn how to grow and harvest echinacea in your home garden.

Echinacea is an easy perennial herb to grow outdoors in zones 3-9, and with pretty mauve flowers makes a nice addition to any flowering garden. Both Echinacea purpurea and E. angustifolia prefer full sun. E. purpurea is a little pickier as far as soil conditions go, but E. angustifolia and E. pallida generally do well even in poor soil and drier conditions. Keep soil for all species of echinacea well-drained, and cover plants with hay or evergreens to prevent root damage during winter. E. pallida and E. angustifolia have tap roots; E. purpurea has fibrous roots.(20)

Growing Echinacea from Seed

If growing from seed, you may read that echinacea seeds must be stratified. All this means is that the seeds need to be chilled first, as they naturally do outdoors, in order for them to grow. When grown plants are allowed to go to seed at the end of the flowering season (middle to late summer or early autumn) the seeds strewn by the wind and birds land on the soil and are chilled over the colder autumn and winter seasons. But if you are starting from a package of seeds, you need to sow them in the ground during late autumn, spacing them 18" apart.(20)

Harvesting Echinacea

Harvest the aerial (above-ground) parts of echinacea plants after the 2nd year, and roots after 3-4 years if planted by seed (2 years if grown from a nursery plant). For E. purpurea, harvest the aerial parts when the flowers start to open, cutting where the first leaves are growing for the season. Dry out the herbal parts in a warm, airy location (not in direct sunlight) spread out on a screen or tied and hung in small bundles. Echinacea roots should be harvested in the autumn. Make cuttings with a sharp knife and be sure to leave enough left so the plant will survive. For best results cut roots into 1" chunks to allow thorough drying.(20)

The easiest way to harvest seeds (if you haven't harvested the above-ground parts before the plants have gone to seed) is to tie cut stems with the ripe flower heads and hang them upside down in a paper bag to drop their seeds. You will know the flower heads are ripe before you cut them when they turn grey around six weeks after the flowers fade. Be sure to put a few small holes in the bags for air flow. Spread the seeds out and let them dry 8-12 days; they will keep for a year in the refrigerator.(20)

Storing Echinacea

Stored in a sealed container in a cool area (leaving the roots in chunks until needed) the dried herbs will keep for a year. Be sure to check for condensation in the containers with the roots, because moisture will make them moldy. If you see condensation take the roots out and let them dry more.(20)

Echinacea has been used by Native Americans and early North American settlers for many years as an herbal remedy for many ailments. Why not try making some of your own?(310)

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