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Starting Echinacea from seed

(Zone 5b)

Are they easy to start from seed?
Any tips appreciated.

Garner, NC(Zone 7b)

I had good luck wintersowing e. paradoxa My magnus and plain purples reseed, so I imagine that they would also wintersow well. I would think that in your zone, you still have time to ws:-)
Most folks say that they don't bloom the first year from seed, though.


(Zone 5b)

I just ordered some 'Double Decker' seeds.
Not sure when they will arrive but can they be sowed directly into the ground in early spring or would it better (or can I also) start them indoors?

Garner, NC(Zone 7b)

I put mine outside in soda bottles and left them in the cold. It was the easiest thing. If you haven't tried wintersowing, here's a link to the forum for help. Warning: you may get hooked like so many of us have:-)

(Zone 5b)

So are you saying Echinaceas have to be winter sown to germinate or can they be started indoors as well?

Greentown, IN(Zone 5b)

I just put some into peat I am waiting to find out too!!!

Garner, NC(Zone 7b)

I don't know about starting them inside. I suppose that you can. I found this at Johnny's that says that echinacea needs cold and light to germinate.

(Zone 5b)

Shoot! I guess I will have to hold my seeds and plant them this fall. :(

Richmond, VA(Zone 7b)

I have several batches of them growing from seed right now.

I really just drop three seeds in a cell and use a paper clip to push the little seed just under the soil.

Really nothing special, to be honest. I have done with with purpurea, paradoxa and a white coneflower (the last having the worst germination rate, but always getting at least 1 out of 3).

Edit : I have definitely never had one bloom the first year out. I start my seeds as early as 3 months before last frost (and as late as 2 weeks before last frost.) I've put them in a greenhouse and had fairly large plants when they hit the ground, but I never get a bloom in year one.

This message was edited Mar 29, 2008 12:35 AM

Indianapolis, IN(Zone 5b)

Rose, It's not too late! You are far enough North to go ahead and sow them, stick them outside, and then either leave them outside to germinate or bring them inside to germinate after a couple weeks or so.

I am sort of taken aback that they need freezing. I have some germination from pots I sowed inside. Now I am wondering if they might be weeds instead of Echinacea, but they all look vaguely alike, so I think they are Echies.

Cold Stratifying aside for a minute, the trouble with sowing them is keeping the soilless mix moisture low, but available. You have to be careful not to flood them or water them too much, Also, don't compress the soilless mix at all. Just moisten a batch and scoop it up with the pot you want to sow. You can level it off, but don't pat it down much at all. It needs to be fluffy and light. Put a sandwich baggie over the pot to hold the moisture in until after they germiate and have been up for 3 weeks. (Yes, I know, you usually pull the cover off seedlings as soon as they germinate, but it is too easy for them to dry out, and then one waters too much....much better to keep the original moisture in the pot for as long as possible. (I have done this recently, so I know it will work)

I am still struggling with the moisture issue, even as the seedlings are growing. I used a mix of about 50/50 Pro Mix BX and Expert Brand soilless mix with moisture crystals and fertilizer. The Pro Mix BX is the problem -- it holds too much water for like a week, and then all of a sudden, one day it is dry as a bone and hard to re-wet again. I think The Miracle Grow with Moisture Crystals and fertilizer that people are complaining about in another forum would be's the one with all the sticks in it. Good for Echies because of the drainiage and they have the ability to find water instead of sitting in it.

Those are my thoughts on the subject, but since I don't have any plants bigger than my thumbnail, I'm not sure I am being much help :)


Thorne Bay, AK(Zone 6b)

Cottage Rose-Don't give up,and don't try just one method.Try starting a few indoors in cells.I've had good germination with E.Purpurea 3 years in a row.I treat them just the same as all others.Also try direct sowing a few outside when your weather warms a bit.

(Zone 5b)

Okay! What the heck!
Nothing ventured nothing gained.

IIIoquin thanks for all the tips.
My experience with seeds is basically easy to grow from seeds one can just sow in the ground and ignore.
Ya Sunflowers and Zucchini. LOL ;o)
But I flipped when I saw those Double Decker Echinaceas!
Hope to find some in plant form too.

Pretoria, South Africa

I have started some E. purpurea and "White Swan" with the baggie method. As soon as the roots appear, put them in your potting mix, cover lightly and there you go! I usually make sure the soil is dry before watering. I put mine where they get morning sun, and once they have about four to six leaves, I plant them in the garden. I have had E. purpurea flowering the first year (only four flowers, but I'm not complaining), but the "White Swan" only flowered the second year.

Good luck,

(Zone 5b)

Would it be better to pot the seeds up and set them outside since they like the cold or would there be a problem with the sprouted seeds freezing?

This message was edited Mar 29, 2008 1:28 PM

Thorne Bay, AK(Zone 6b)

The seedlings are pretty susceptible to frost.If you have a cold frame,that's the best way to harden them off.I do that with all my seedlings.If you want to start them outside,wait til the ground warms up,then direct sow them into ground.I've just treated them like any other seedling-start indoors,harden off when ready & put in ground.

Conneaut, OH(Zone 5a)

Hi,I have direct sowed them in the beginning of june several times.Rough up the soil a bit,toss some seed and lightly cover with pet moss. Keep moist.Easy.They will flower the second year.They will still be short and stocky.The third year,they will look better then any plants you will see for sale.Edge

(Zone 5b)

Well this is good news but what about the fact that they require cold stratification to germinate?

Thorne Bay, AK(Zone 6b)

Throw the seeds in the freezer for a few days.

Galesburg, IL

Rose, for cold stratification, you can't just throw the seeds in the freezer - number one, it is too cold and secondly, the seeds need to be moist while they are in the cold. Many people recommend putting them in a baggie with some moist potting soil, saw dust or vermicullite for stratification. I prefer to go ahead and plant them in whatever size cell packs, moisten them and then put them in refrigerator (40 degrees) for recommended time. Some recommend as little as 2 weeks for E. purpurea, some as much as 8 weeks. I typically stratify mine for about 4 weeks, or until I have time to pull them out and deal with them. Depending on the age of the seed, you might get OK germination without stratification, but you will often only get 30-40% germ within 3-4 weeks. I prefer to stratify all the Echinacea that I start and often get 85-90% germ. I usually pull my E. purpurea from the cold to the warm in early February and usually get over 50% of them blooming the first year.

As far north as you are, you would probably get decent germination if you planted them outside now in the ground. You don't have to worry about them germinating and freezing as they won't germ if you only get a few days of warm temp. They need a prolonged warm period before they will germ outside.

Why not plant some of the seed outside now and also start stratifying some of the seed in the refrigerator. If you give them 2-3 weeks in the fridge, you still have time to get them germinated and some get some growth before you transplant them.

Cincinnati (Anderson, OH(Zone 6a)

On another seed supplier's website I read an interesting article about cold stratification in the freezer: They said to freeze an ice cube tray half full of water. Then sprinkle your seeds in it and top off with a bit more water and freeze again. Leave it in the freezer for a couple of days. Then defrost and sow your seeds. Has anyone tried this?

I didn't cold stratify my echinaceas (from Renee's Garden Seeds) and all came up in no time. I read somewhere the echinacea germination rate and timing depends on the specific type of echinacea you are growing. Some are bred for short or no stratification and quick germination.

(Zone 5b)

Wow lots of info!
Does anynody know a website which discusses the strat. time for different Echin. ?

Galesburg, IL

Tabasco -
Thanks for the link, I hadn't heard of that method. Just to clarify though, the paragraph in which they discus using ice cubes is to scarify seeds, not stratify. The scarification process involves physically scratching or scaring the seed coat so the seed can absorb water. The freezing of seeds in ice would help to break the seed coat so they can imbibe.

Stratification involves the treatment of seeds at different temperatures to help break down germination inhibitors present in the seed. For seeds that need true stratification to germinate, a couple of days would not be long enough.

Another way to think of it is this - scarification is a physical or mechanical treatment which takes place on the outside of the seed and stratification is a chemical reaction that takes place within the seed itself and is driven by temperature (and moisture).

These are very simplistic definitions, but it is important to distinguish between the two terms.

I also agree that different species of Echinacea and even different varieties and seed sources (and age of seed) all affect the need (or lack there of) for stratification. A good rule of thumb (unless otherwise noted by seed source) is to try germination using your normal methods and if you get low or no germination after about three weeks, move the un-germinated seed to the fridge for 2-4 weeks and then back into the warmth. If you do this, be sure to check the seeds in the fridge for germination on a regular basis.

I know of no source that lists germination requirements for different selections of E. In fact, instructions from seed companies vary widely. Reading various comments in this thread shows me that no single method is "the best". If in doubt, I usually will start some seed in the warmth at the same time I put some in the fridge for stratification.

I hope some of this information helps instead of muddying the water. It can be very confusing particularly when you find so many differing recommendations from different sources.

Try some of the methods, but most of all, keep records of what you have done and what works/fails and let us know. It's not a sin if you fail, for you will benefit from the knowlege gained (especially if you share the info with all of us and prevent us from making the same mistake).

Good Luck

Cincinnati (Anderson, OH(Zone 6a)

Whoops, trc, that got right by me. I have to wear my glasses more often! Thanks for differenciating 'scarification' and 'stratification'.

I checked my wintersowing boxes outside and I have 'Magnus' and 'Starlight' echinaceas just sprouting in them. And all of my 'Starlights' under lights have germinated now. Am still waiting for my unnamed Echinaceas (from a Walmart seed packet) and one other echie (can't remember the name) to sprout.

I wish I had a cold frame. Maybe I'll make one today. I saw an old window sitting by the curb and that would be a good start!

(Zone 5b)

I really do appreciate everybodys advise!
I will try starting them both ways...after all its just a pack of seeds.

Is it okay to put Echin. seeds in those little peat pellets that puff up when you add water for the refrigerator method?

Do these processes work for all seeds that require strat.?
I have some Columbine seeds too.

Anybody here know of a really good online source for Echinacea plants. So many new colors I would like to buy.

This year I will plan to try more winter sowing so i don;t have to go through all this.

Tabasco...I need a cold frame too! Good grief how hard is it to make one? A box with a lid! I'd like a green house to but....$$$$$$

Indianapolis, IN(Zone 5b)

Those peat discs that swell up are peat pellets, and I hate them with a passion. I never have anything good to say about them, ever, so you can take this all with a grain of salt, but I would say Echinaceas would be the Number One *worst* seed in the world to put in one of those.

Referencing my post above, Post #4724684, The hardest thing about growing these pups is getting the soilless mix right. I suspect if I could get it right, I would have them coming out my ears instead of hobbling along as they are now. Peat pots hold too much water...and they hold it for a long time, long enough to mold. Then, all of a sudden, they are dry as a bone with very little warning. Of all the seeds I can think of right this second, Sunflowers are the only ones I can think of that would be good candidates for them

Once having said all that, there are people who love them. Love how clean and easy they are. BUT I still stand by the fact that they would not be good for Echinaceas. :))


Cincinnati (Anderson, OH(Zone 6a)

Isn't it 'Plant Delights' that has the relationship with the Saul's (the Echie hybridizers) and they carry an extensive line of coneflowers. Here's the link:

It it's not Plant Delights it could be another nursery but I can't think of the name...I'm sure others would know.

What do you mean about the planting mix, Illoquin? Can't we just use Miracle Grow with moisture crystals or is that a no-no?! Mine have germinated but they are just an inch high...should I be doing something to them? (I have them under flourescents in the basement).

By the way, does anyone have a good recipe for a homemade (inexpensive) seed starting mix? I am getting tired of buying Miracle Grow...

Indianapolis, IN(Zone 5b)

Tab, This is a long and boring story ---

Are you getting the Miracle Grow with all the sticks in it in Cinty?? A number of people have been complaining. I got a big bag of it and was horrified because it drained too fast, even with the moisture control crystals. Seeds would not do well in it at all. So I used it up (wasted it, really) and bought the ProMix BX. AWFUL STUFF for the home gardener. It mus be for greenhhouse people who mist cuttings and/or use a drip emitter for each individual pot, like pointsettia growers. It is not for seed starting, however, it's not ProMixes fault -their website says what it's for (they say containers) and I am a dummy and didn't know there were more than one or two kinds of Pro Mix to even look for the right one.

Back to the ranch............I bought 2 bales of this stuff. They are big and were $35.00 each. I do not have money to put them away and go buy something else, so I have been trying differnet things to get the BX to work for seed starting. Adding about 1/4 or 1/5 perlite and moisture crystals plus fertilizer seems to be working okay, but ya never know until you start to really to top water. (That was why I asked you how much of the Moisture crystals to add yesterday. I had made a batch of soilless mix and after usig the whole thing, wasn't sure if there were enough crystals.)

My Echinacea sowing has been split...doing them in differnet batches, so they have all gotten a slightly different mix. They don't like ANY of the mixes I've made with this stuff! I wish I had my MG with sticks and moisture crystals back!!!! I'm thinking it would be perfect!

A round about way of saying your MG mix will probably work, but I don't know for sure..they are being persnickity.


Columbia, MO(Zone 5b)

I have used Scott Prem. started indoors with no stratification and I have about a 50% germ rate so far. They are just starting so I am hoping ot riase that number. I placed half on top and I wish I would have buried them all. It is not that the ones on top are not germinating it is just that they are not standing as firm when the tap root goes in. This is my first time starting seeds so I am learnign as I am going.

Oh and I am not a big fan of Scotts. If I don't watch it closely it will get hard on top quick and then it takes a few waterings to soften it up again.

Cincinnati (Anderson, OH(Zone 6a)

Thanks for the planting mix details. I went to a few places to buy more Miracle Grow with Moisture Crystals yesterday and they were out. I basically like the stuff and found no sticks, but I'm a newbie and I don't know much about what is really good and what is junk as far as seed starting mix goes.

I did buy a couple of bales of Promix BX for my WS bins (and I mixed in some Watersorb--too much, I think) a month or so ago (paid $26 per bale except the second one I got 'half off' because of a rip in the bag from our Feed & Seed store) and it seems to be just fine--lots of germination going on outside, anyway.

Today I went to the landscapers and he sold me a bag of Fafard planting mix for $16.00 to use for seed starting . He said it's what they use and I think LeBug uses it, too. He said he normally sells something else to his customers, but he would sell me the Fafard and he really liked it. I guess I will add some watersorb and osmocote to it.

I know 'Tapla' posted several posts on good planting mixes to make from scratch for containers. I wonder if they could be used for seed starting. I'll have to look them up...

I would like to find a recipe for it that would save me some $$.

Indianapolis, IN(Zone 5b)

Happy Birthday, Miss Cottage Rose! I hope it's a happy one!


Thumbnail by Illoquin
(Zone 5b)

Why thank you Suzy and what a delightful photo! :)

Gainesboro, TN

hello folks, am new to all this. never have tried to germinate any echanacea, but i have germinated magnolia seeds, and you do them by way of freezing for a few wks. then start them like any other seed. as well as dog wood seeds.

Greentown, IN(Zone 5b) white swan have exploded in their peat pots, they are up about three inches or so. I did nothing except put them into soil and watered them. About 75% came up. I am watering all my pots every second day. They seem ok. I will continue to keep them in the greenhouse until June and harden them off then. If they do not flower...ok. I think then I am going to put more into the soil and direct seed them. or is that sow? Apparantly I am not too scientific in this seed thing this year (my first year starting from seed). I am reading everything and learning so very much.


Thumbnail by dovebydesign
Cincinnati (Anderson, OH(Zone 6a)

Geez, dovebydesign--

I would have never guessed this is your first year for seed sowing looking at your set up! Your seedlings are beauties and everything looks so professional (and lots of it, too!) (My seed sowing project looks like a mess compared to yours so I won't post a pic. (I'm new to it too)

I will want to follow along your progress as the springtime progresses!

Greentown, IN(Zone 5b)

Well, I just went to a hardware store and bought an inexpensive plastic greenhouse that was on clearance for 55 dollars. Then I bought walmart shop lights (12 of them) for 8.88 each and 3 cases of full spectrum flourecent light bulbs 10/case. Then I went to it!! I borrowed the trays and liners, except the peat ones, from a lady who has greenhouses commercially around here. She was nice enough to lend them to me!!

I do not know much yet, but have gardened for years and always wanted a greenhouse. But I could not afford one. I have some windows I am saving and now this could be used for shelving inside my greenhouse once I build it!


Cincinnati (Anderson, OH(Zone 6a)

LOL well, it sounds like you have a plan! You really scored getting your twelve shop lights for $8.88 too.

I'm going to cruise the hardware stores and Big Lots for some of those inexpensive greenhouses. I will definitely want to hear about your building project.

I just went out to check my WS echinaceas and I see my 'Starlights' and 'Magnus' are all germinating. It's nice and sunny today and if it holds out for a few more days we could have a pretty garden by the end of the week.

The Echies in my butterfly garden look pretty beat up and I'll be surprised if they come back.

Greentown, IN(Zone 5b)

I found it at Menards in Kokomo Indiana. They had two left as of last week. They are like those four shelves on a metal frame with plastic covering but in a 5' x 7' greenhouse!!! Complete with pitched roof and tie downs.

I plan to use it this year and then use components for the 'real' greenhouse.


Sarasota, FL

This looks like a very old post, but just in case anyone else comes across the comments below, I wanted to let you know that I am not sure cold stratification is necessary. I live in zone 9a (coastal Sarasota, FL). I always put my seeds in the freezer to keep them dry and preserved. I do not remember for sure whether I did that with the purple coneflower, but I germinated them in peat pellets, indoors, in a south-facing window this winter without going through any extreme measures. Not all of the seeds germinated, but most did and I have the plants growing well in my yard now, in partial sun. They have not yet flowered, but they look robust and have endured the hot summer well.

On the subject of using the freezer to get cold weather plants to germinate, I successfully did this intentionally with red wonder strawberries a couple years ago and the plants did very well. I think the seed packet recommended putting them in the freezer or germinating them at an impossible temperature for my region ... so putting seeds in the freezer to aid germination does work. To be clear, you put the seeds in the freezer for a day or so and then plant them immediately after removing them. You don't actually germinate them in the freezer. Not sure this works for everything.

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