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Echinacea purpurea – White Coneflower ‘White Swan’

Categories:Attractive to Birds Drought Tolerant Long-Flowering Perennials Native Plants Perennials

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We are planting white coneflower White Swan in the garden. Coneflowers are among the easiest of sun-loving perennials to grow. White coneflower will stand some shade but will flower best with at least 4-6 hours of sun.

White coneflower instead of purple

Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) is a favorite perennial of many gardeners. Purple coneflower is drought tolerant, a native plant, attractive to birds, and one of our longest-flowering perennials. We’ve had problems eradicating mugwort from the beds of a garden we inhabit. After digging out the mugwort and screening the soil, we made the decision to convert the space to a white garden.

white swan coneflower
Echnicea ‘White Swan’

I have never grown white coneflower. In almost all cases I have chosen purple or pale coneflower (Echinacea pallida). From speaking with fellow landscape architects, landscape designers, and other gardeners the only warnings I hear are that 1) white coneflower is not as robust as purple coneflower and 2) white coneflower may be less winter hardy than the species.

We planted white coneflower in the beds in question this fall. Winter has been tough by Georgia standards (friends in Chicago and Rochester laugh derisively at this thought). It has a stated winter hardiness to USDA hardiness zone 3b, we should be fine. If there is a loss this winter, I would put it towards drainage rather than temperature issues.

white coneflower

White coneflower White Swan

We chose White Swan for this gardening experiment for a pretty simple reason: It’s the one our favorite nursery Goodness Grows keeps in stock. Happily, other gardeners following the progress this year can easily find White Swan. There are some recent alternatives to White Swan, but it is considered the original and classic white cultivar.

white coneflower
In all gardens where I have found it, white coneflower’s blooms combine with dark foliage for a dramatic display in the late afternoon and early evening.

Growing white coneflower

Coneflowers are extremely heat and drought-tolerant. Drainage should be excellent, and coneflowers generally prefer poor to average soils. Do not feel the need to douse with fertilizer. Many of the smaller birds, goldfinches, in particular, love the seeds in fall. Rather than deadheading, consider leaving the flowers to mature…the birds will thank you and the dried blooms are lovely fall into winter.

Plant type: Herbaceous perennial
Height: Grows 18″-24″ tall
Native status: native North America
Bloom period: Early June-July. Leave seed heads on for birds.
Winter hardiness:  3-10
Of note: Easy to grow in poor soils. Do not over-fertilize. Likes lots of sun…can tolerate some shade but may flop. Because white coneflower tends to grow lower than purple coneflower, I have noticed it does not flop over as much when grown in partial shade.

Here are some resources:


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