Echinacea Varieties: Varieties with Exotic Flower Forms

| April/May 2010

  • Ethereal E. purpurea ‘Pink Double Delight’ looks like a fluffy garden confection.
    Photo by Rob Cardillo

Most echinaceas have the typical daisy form with droopy rays around a central cone, but breeders are doing their best to come up with unbelievable alternatives: flowers that are fully double, anemone-form, or with spoon- and quill-shaped petals.

The best of the true doubles is ‘Pink Poodle’. Its huge, fluffy flowers resemble zinnias. They “take double to the next level of magnitude” from anything that’s been seen before, Norris says. Their color is the typical coneflower hue: faded magenta.  

The majority of other “double” echinaceas are actually anemone-flowered, with a central powderpuff of petals surrounded by a ruffle of longer ray petals. ‘Pink Double Delight’ and ‘Cotton Candy’ are good choices for those who desire anemone-flowered echinaceas, Avent says. ‘Pink Double Delight’ is “very floriferous and reblooms frequently” and has returned reliably since 2005 in Avent’s trial beds. ‘Cotton Candy’s’ flowers are a little bigger than those of ‘Pink Double Delight’ and it also has good rebloom, Avent says.

‘Coconut Lime’ has the anemone flower form, but its flowers are more subtly colored. It has returned for several seasons at the Missouri Botanical Garden with its summer-long procession of soft greenish-white pompoms. “We love it,” Hutson says. Avent also has been pleased with ‘Coconut Lime’, but he’s noticed that ‘Milkshake’—another double white from the same breeder—might eventually prove to be better.

Besides varying the number of petals in a flower, breeders also like to select varieties with oddly shaped petals. ‘Green Envy’ is one example. It’s a curious flower whose spoon-shaped green petals eventually open to reveal dusty pink centers. Avent says ‘Green Envy’ has been a vigorous performer in his trials. ‘All That Jazz’ is another variety with spoon-shaped petals. Its petals retain their spoon shape throughout the life of the flower. The bloom is solidly pink, making for a more obvious garden display.

These are only a few of the many amazing coneflower hybrids to be found on nursery shelves, but they’re an excellent start for anyone who wants to experience the potential of this genus.

Caleb Melchior studies landscape architecture at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas. When not working in the studio, he writes about food and works in the garden.

Click here for the main article,  Echinacea Varieties: 19 Cutting-Edge Coneflowers .

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