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Top 5 Perennials for the South

Echinacea, also known as purple coneflowers, is used as a cold remedy by some.
Echinacea, also known as purple coneflowers, is used as a cold remedy by some.

­Coneflower, or Echinacea purpurea, is a spring or fall perennial from the same family as the sunflower. It grows 3 to 4 feet (about 1 meter) tall, with long, narrow, purple petals 4 to 6 inches (10 to 15 centimeters) long. As the flowers bloom, the petals tend to grow away from the cone, giving the flower a wind-bl­own appearance. Coneflowers are native to the United States Midwestern plains and as far south as Georgia and Louisiana, with a hardiness zone of three to nine. Due to their height, coneflowers are often placed in the rear of flowe­ring garden arrangements. Coneflowers are also known for their long and sturdy stems, which have made them a popular cut flower [source: Garden Guides].

In addition to being very beautiful flowers, coneflowers are relatively easy to maintain once you get them growing. They prefer a well-drained, almost dry soil in a spot with lots of sun. You may need to use some fertilizer to get them started if the soil in your region isn't nutrient-rich enough, but be careful not to use too much, as this may cause the flower to grow at an unhealthily rapid rate. You will need to water the seedlings until they are well established, but too much water will drown the plants. Similarly, once your coneflowers are in bloom they should be able to survive on whatever rainwater that comes their way, however, in periods of drought you should be sure to water them at least once a week.

To protect your cornflowers, you will want to weed consistently, as they don't compete well with most weeds. Rabbits and hedgehogs consider coneflower shoots a tasty treat, so take precautions to prevent those predators from entering your garden [source: Garden Guides].

­In the health supplement world, coneflowers are better known as the herbal supplement Echinacea, and are touted as a natural remedy to the flu and common cold, as well as a natural supplement to boost the immune system [source: Fahs].