Among the most striking of all North American native wildflowers, echinacea, or more commonly called coneflowers, once spread across thousands of kilometres.

Appreciated in gardens and nature for thousands of years, their daisy-like flowers provided early settlers one of their most important medicinal plants.

For centuries, people have been using echinacea to treat a host of ailments, including snake bites, cuts and burns, toothaches, along with coughs and colds.

Today, echinacea has quickly become a household name for the healing properties found in the antibacterial, anti-viral and immune-boosting ability of the plant.

(It should be noted here that I am a gardener, not a health practitioner. If you want to explore the benefits of this plant, please do so with professional assistance.)

This carefree, easy-to-grow, perennial is resilient for Yukon gardeners. Its flowers offer a colourful display of blossoms from midsummer to fall.

As a single statement in mass plantings, echinacea pairs perfectly with other native plants including prairie grasses, liatris and rudbeckia varieties.

These surprisingly fragrant flowers are perfect as cut flowers. The decorative black cones, of coneflower plants, offer winter interest along with seeds for the birds.

With the growing interest in native plants, the wild coneflower species are being bred to create a brilliant collection of unusual forms, different colours and various sizes, such as the cone-crazy pom-pom “Razzmatazz” from Dutch grower Jan van Wisen.

A member of the asteraceae, or daisy family, echinacea plants have large, showy heads of composite flowers.

Coneflowers are sturdy, low maintenance perennials.

Though they tend to do better in full sun areas, they will tolerate partial shade.

These perennials prefer rich, well-drained soil. Once the plants become established, their coarse, hair-like leaves and bristle stems allow for the coneflower to become drought tolerant.

The plants are best to establish themselves, for four to five years, prior to dividing and transplanting.

Beautiful, hardy and easy to grow, purple coneflower’s merits a place in any garden. Their wondrous medicinal properties, combined with their ethereal beauty, place them at centre stage.

Shari Morash is a gardening enthusiast and an accredited designer. She is the owner and founder of Northern Elegance. Contact her at shari.morash@gmail.com.

PHOTO: iStockphoto