A guide to the new echinaceas or coneflowers

There are so many new echinaceas, or coneflowers, that it's hard to know which ones are worth trying and which aren't. Here's a quick guide.

Photo courtesy of Judy Lowe
Orange echinaceas.are some of the most impressive of the great new cultivars of coneflowers.
Courtesy of Donna Williamson
Lilies and pink coneflowers or echinaceas make a colorful combination.

During a conference this summer on native plants, one speaker gave us the rundown on the endless variety of new echinaceas (commonly called coneflowers). I have had trouble with Mango Meadowbrite and figured it was just a fragile plant.

But in answer to a question from the audience, she threw in the one piece of information I had been missing all along. Echinaceas need to be planted early in the season – not at the end of October when the season is winding down. They need to become established well ahead of winter weather So now you know, too.

Here are the best varieties of echinaceas to look for, with their flower colors and eventual height:
Fragrant Angel -- white, 3 to 3.5 feet
Kim's Knee High -- bright pink, variable height, supposed to be dwarf
Mango Meadowbrite -- plant in gravel for good drainage
Pica Bella -- pink, strong, short
Twilight -- orange-pink, a good performer
Avalanche -- white with lots of yellow in the cone
Coconut Lime -- greenish, with a fuzzy top
Tomato Soup -- red, not fragrant, mid-size
Mac n Cheese -- nice
Milkshake -- white, with a fuzzy top
Hot Papaya -- 3 feet, great color, more upright than some

She said not to bother with:
Magnus -- now not coming true to the original
Tennesseensis -- needs total dryness, faces east, endangered
Pallida – grows in rock crevices
White Swan
Pixie -- has Tennesseensis parentage; draws leaf hoppers
Sunrise - does winter well in pots
Pink Poodle
Pink Double Delight -- bees don't like it and won't pollinate it
Coral Reef
Marmalade -- has good goldenrod color to start, then fades to very pale on second day
Flame Thrower
Hot Lava
Now Cheesier - just like Mac n Cheese

These are too new to know how they'll perform:
Secret series: Passion, Romance, new series of dwarfs
Strawberry Shortcake -- bicolor
Pineapple Sundae -- won't propagate in tissue culture
Jade -- white/green; may be nice
Green Envy -- pink halo around center; striped, novel
Raspberry Truffle -- good stem and intense color - 3.5 feet tall in Netherlands, 2' feet tall in the United States.

If you love these wonderful plants as I do, you now have an informal guide to plant selection and better success.

Donna Williamson is one of nine garden writers who blog at Diggin' It. She's a master gardener, garden designer, and garden coach. She has taught gardening and design classes at the State Arboretum of Virginia, Oatlands in Leesburg, and Shenandoah University. She’s also the founder and editor of Grandiflora Mid-Atlantic Gardening magazine, and the author of “The Virginia Gardener’s Companion: An Insider’s Guide to Low Maintenance Gardening in Virginia.” She lives in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. To read more by Donna, click here.

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