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Plant of the Month: Echinacea purpurea

Double Delight

At a glance
Latin Name: Echinacea purpurea ‘Double Delight’
Common Name: double purple coneflower
Plant Type: herbaceous perennial
Flowers: double, rosy-pink daisies
Foliage: medium-green and coarse
Mature height: 18″ in flower
Hardiness: Zones 4-9
Soil: not picky
Exposure: full sun
Water usage: low
Sources: mail-order or local nurseries

I love purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea). It’s tough, Texas native, drought-resistant, attracts butterflies, perennial and heavy-flowering! Personally I don’t think any perennial border should be without one, and in recent years our choices of color, height and flower size has expanded. Even double-flowered types are being offered.

Double flowers aren’t always better flowers, however, and this was especially true with echinacea. The first variety I ran across was ‘Doppelganger,’ also called ‘Doubledecker.’ Reportedly, it had large fully double flowers of rosy pink. It took me 2 years to get mine to flower and during the next 2 years, I’ve only had two “double” flowers. Apparently it only makes the double flowers under cooler conditions, which interprets as 70-degree temperatures. I’m not sure that ever occurs in Texas during April and May! The few flowers of ‘Doubledecker’ I have seen really look more like faded pink toilet brushes than flowers. I just don’t like them. I call it “Double-Don’t”! In northern climes, this variety may be more impressive, but not for us Texas gardeners.

Then came ‘Razzmatazz,’ a truly double purple coneflower. I liked it – double, rosy-pink daisies that were produced on 3-foot-tall stems, and they were fragrant. One thing I didn’t like was its propensity to constantly lean over in heavy winds. Although popular with retailers and a great cut flower, it’s just too tall for a great landscape plant.

Then came ‘Double Delight,’ promising to flower heavily on short stems. This one really impressed me. It flowers quickly from small plants – I had flowers within weeks of planting them. Plants stayed short at 18 inches tall, produced multiple flowers on each stem, and every single flower was a perfect double pom-pom daisy with a light fragrance. The tough, upright, bushy habit of this perennial makes it perfect for borders or containers. ‘Double Delight’ is just charmingly cute and, more importantly, it didn’t give up its tough purple coneflower heritage. Ours kept blooming right through our 106-degree summer. The tight rosettes of foliage constantly sent up new flower spikes if the old ones were deadheaded.

Like all coneflowers, this variety prefers full sun and is drought-tolerant once established. Nurseries and growers should be stocking this variety late this spring, but if you can’t find it at your local nursery, look online – there are multiple places selling this variety.