Echinacea is a widely respected medicinal herb that is native to Eastern North America. So much so that several variietes have been cultivated with the intent of improving upon the original wildflower.
Echinicea is a tall hardy perennial that is easily grown in Zones 3 – 10. It was originally used to treat wounds. In addition to its antiseptic properties, it is also used to boost immune systems.
Echinicea is so easy to start from seed that it can be direct seeded in the garden. For early indoor starts, it is best to wait until just a month before last frosts. Transplant seedlings at least a foot apart.
Echinacea will grow almost anywhere … from full sun to part shade. In poor soil it will reach at least two feet and in well nourished soil it can easily reach four feet. For best results, do not harvest any part of new plants until the second or third year.
In addition to the native echinacea purpurea, there are cultivated varieties. thes are the ones that I know of:
- Magnus and
- White Swan – both of which are easy to start from seed
- Ruby Giant, which is not available in seed
- Narrowleaf, and
- Pale Purple – both of which are difficult to start from seed
- Yellow Echinacea which can be tricky to start from seed
This plant makes a splendid ornamental as it flowers almost all summer long.
For medicinal purposes, it is best to wait to harvest the roots until after the first hard frosts when the rest of the plant begins to die back.. Please note that although the crown can be replanted, the ‘new’ plant will be more ornamental than medicinal.
Although this is a hardy plant, it will benefit from a heavy mulch of the straw before winter.
Many biennial plants are so easy to overlook in their first year that they could easily be mistaken for weeds in the herb garden.. Viper’s Bugloss is well worth the wait as it becomes a real show stopper in the second year. In Europe, Viper’s Bugloss grows wild in fields and ditches
Viper’s Bugloss is a biennial herb that commonly found as a wildflower in Europe. First year Viper’s Bugloss could easily be mistaken for a weed. In the second year, Viper’s Bugloss becomes an upright plant with spikes of blue flowers. In poor soil, this herb will still reach at least a foot in height. In well nourished soil it can easily reach three feet in height. This is an excellent plant for wild gardens as it easily naturalizes.
Viper’s Bugloss is a hardy biennial in Zones 4 to 8. Although it starts easily from seed, I have found it helpful to label the unassuming first year seedlings so they do not wind up being weeded out of the garden. Space seedlings at least 18 to 24 inches apart to accommodate the second year growth.
Seeds do require sunlight to germinate, although I have found a bit of bottom heat for a few days when first starting the seeds to be very helpful. Helpful Hint …. although you can buy heat mats for starting seeds, it can be just as helpful to tuck the seed flat on top of the fridge.
This is a plant that prefers full sun and well drained soil. I have found that a generous top dressing of rich compost in the first fall to be very helpful for naturalizing.
Bumblebees REALLY love the showy second years spikes of flowers!
Although in olden days, Viper’s Bugloss was thought to be beneficial for snake bite, it is now valued more for its antiseptic properties. There is anecdotal evidence that infusions of the leaves can be used as a diuretic.