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Back to News Press Release – January 8, 2021

Press Release

Captivating Coneflowers

After three years of evaluation, Mt. Cuba Center reveals Echinacea for the Mid-Atlantic Region, its latest research report evaluating 75 species and cultivars of this immensely popular native perennial.

Sam Hoadley, manager of horticultural research, studied these selections and ranked the plants based on their floral display, health, and attractiveness for pollinators and other beneficial insects.

“Loved by both urban and rural gardeners, elegant Echinacea are a low-maintenance wildflower for perennial and pollinator gardens,” Hoadley said. “Their colorful, daisy-like flowers can be found blooming across America.”

Echinacea purpurea ‘Pica Bella’ from Mt. Cuba Center's Trial Garden.

Echinacea purpurea ‘Pica Bella’ from Mt. Cuba Center’s Trial Garden.

Key Takeaways:

  • This marks the second time Mt. Cuba has trialed the Echinacea genus.
    • The first report studied 48 cultivars and species between 2007-2009.
    • Echinacea has experienced a boom since the early 2000s and many of the cultivars included in our latest evaluation were introduced after the original trial was released.
    • There was an overlap of a dozen cultivars and species, several of which proved to be excellent performers in both trials.
  • Echinacea purpurea ‘Pica Bella’ earned the top spot in the latest evaluation and received top marks in Mt. Cuba’s first Echinacea trial. In addition to its established horticultural merit, ‘Pica Bella’ was also a preferred plant by insect pollinators in this trial. This plant is easy to incorporate in a wide variety of garden settings and is seasonally on display in Mt. Cuba’s formal gardens.
  • Double flowered Echinacea varieties represent significant breakthroughs in coneflower breeding that have increased the variety of the genus in the horticultural market. They have become popular in gardens because of their showy flowers and prolonged bloom times, but our research found double flowered Echinacea to be less favored by pollinators.
  • The latest Echinacea report also includes pollinator data. Our researchers found that the vast majority of the pollinators that visited the Echinacea in our trial were bees and wasps, with butterflies making up only five percent of the total visitations.
    • Mt. Cuba’s Pollinator Watch team, a trained group of volunteer citizen scientists, observed and recorded the number of pollinating insects visiting each of the coneflower accessions in our trials in 2018 and 2019. The top 15 pollinator-preferred Echinacea were exclusively single flowered species and cultivars.
Echinacea ‘Sensation Pink’ from Mt. Cuba Center Trial Garden.

Echinacea ‘Sensation Pink’

This report breaks out Mt. Cuba’s top 12 horticultural performers and six honorable mentions.

Detailed research reports from both of our Echinacea trials, and descriptions of all 75 plants included in our second trial are available on our website: mtcubacenter.org/trialgarden.

Mt. Cuba’s Top Echinacea Performers: