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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Monday - August 26, 2013

From: Springfield, MT
Region: Midwest
Topic: Container Gardens, Watering, Herbs/Forbs
Title: Wintering Purple Coneflowers in pots in Springfield MO
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I have some 8 month old purple cone flowers in containers on my porch. They did not bloom this summer because they were seedlings when given to me. I can not put them in the ground. How can I keep them over the winter so they might continue to live and bloom for me next summer? Can they be brought inside to keep them from freezing or left out? I have found no information on just what to do, can you help me? Thanks

ANSWER:

We noticed that you indicated you were from Springfield, MT, which is apparently mostly a fictitious town from the TV program The Simpsons. However, we also noticed that your e-mail indicated Missouri State Edu. We are changing your town designation from "MT" to "MO" and answering your question accordingly. If we are wrong and you really DO live in Springfield MT, please forgive us and let us know and we will answer you in light of that area of the country instead. We also checked and Missouri State University is located in Springfield MO. This member of the Mr. Smarty Plants Team has had family in that area dating back to the late 1800's. It is a lovely place to garden, and we hope we have the right location.

Operating on that assumption, here is what we know about Echinacea purpurea (Eastern purple coneflower). According to this USDA Plant Profile Map, it does grow natively in Green Co., MO. So, that means the climate is right for the plant, but we must consider the roots exposed to the cold in winter. Please read our How-to Article on Container Gardening with Native Plants and note especially this paragraph on protection in colder weather:

"In freezing weather, plants in containers are more vulnerable than plants in the ground. They can be shielded on the south side of a wall with leaves, blankets, or given extra warmth with strings of holiday lights. Particularly tender plants should be brought inside. Remember to uncover your plants after a few days when the weather warms up and avoid over-watering dormant plants to prevent rotting."

Here are the growing conditions from our webpage on Purple Coneflower:

"Growing Conditions

Water Use: Medium
Light Requirement: Sun , Part Shade
Soil Moisture: Dry
CaCO3 Tolerance: Low
Soil Description: Well-drained, sandy or richer soils.
Conditions Comments: Echinacea is a suitable addition to a prairie garden and attractive in flower arrangements. It is a popular perennial with smooth stems and long-lasting, lavender flowers. Rough, scattered leaves that become small toward the top of the stem. Flowers occur singly atop the stems and have domed, purplish-brown, spiny centers and drooping, lavender rays."

We don't think you should have to carry your plants in and our of your house with changing weather; for one thing, this plant needs quite a bit of sunshine. If you can find a somewhat sheltered spot that still gets some sunlight, that would be perfect. Since this is a perennial, if a sudden hard cold snap freezes back some of the foliage, as long as the roots have not been frozen the plant will re-emerge in the Spring. If the water in the roots freezes, it will burst the roots, killing the plant, so the mounding up of extra insulation around the pot itself would be wise. We think they will do great in Springfield, MO - sure hope that is where you garden!

 

From the Image Gallery


Eastern purple coneflower
Echinacea purpurea

Eastern purple coneflower
Echinacea purpurea

Eastern purple coneflower
Echinacea purpurea

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