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Magnus Receives Award As Perennial
By Norman Winter
Central Mississippi Research & Extension Center
Many people believe purple coneflowers are worthy of awards, but now it's official.
The Perennial Plant Association named Magnus purple coneflower as its Perennial Plant of the Year for 1998.
Purple coneflowers, known botanically as Echinacea, have long been favorites with gardeners in the South and now have found their way to the health food aisle in stores as a medicinal plant.
American Indians used it to cure a number of ailments and now herbalists use it in their teas and pills. They have been credited with anti-inflammatory properties, tissue regeneration abilities and the ability to stimulate the immune system.
Magnus is a real winner in the garden. It was selected for its vibrant, rose-purple flowers. Its petals remain horizontal rather than drooping toward the ground. In other words, this coneflower is shaped more like a shasta daisy than a cone.
Purple coneflower is hardy from zones 3 to 8 and reaches between two and four feet in height. It is attractive when mass planted with other perennials like black-eyed Susan, Russian Sage and Victoria Blue salvia.
Combine with purple fountain grass for a real showy display. If your garden club members see this, they will think you went to some specialized training program during your vacation.
Purple coneflowers perform best in sun or partial shade. It generates a tap roots, which enables it to withstand dry conditions in gardens, so place it in a well-drained site.
They attract butterflies like the Painted Lady, and birds eat their seeds, so the plants are suitable for landscapes dedicated to wildlife.
Purple coneflowers are great as cut flowers. If you let one get past its prime, simply pick the petals off and use the brown cone in the vase. Don't throw the arrangement away when you're finished. Let the flowers dry completely and then scatter the seeds around for a denser planting.
If you are buying transplants next year, select healthy green plants that are not yet in bloom. They will reach peak bloom in midsummer and bloom until the first freeze.
I try to preach patience with perennials and roses. They get better with a little age. The same is true with Magnus and other purple coneflowers. More flowers are produced in the second and third years.
Space plants on 16-inch centers and fertilize with a 10-10-10 formula at a rate of 2 to 2.5 pounds per 100 square feet when transplanting.
In subsequent years, fertilize in early spring with a 10-10-10 formula at a rate of 1.75 pounds per 100 square feet and again in midsummer at 1 pound per 100 square feet.
Magnus will be a perennial whose clumps can be divided. This should be done every two to three years. It also can be propagated from its own seed.
Bravado is another variety that you may want to try. I am much impressed with this selection that has large 4- to 5-inch flowers with a wonderful fragrance, particularly in the morning.
After you grow Echinacea for a few years, you will wonder how someone could name such as pretty flower after a hedgehog. At least they didn't stick weed on the end of it.