How to Grow, Harvest & Use Echinacea for your Home Apothecary

January 13, 2019

How to Grow, Harvest & Use Echinacea for your Home Apothecary

Echinacea, or coneflower, is a perennial plant that gets it name from the greek word 'ekhinos', which translates to 'hedgehog' because of its spiky appearance. There are around 10 species of echinacea that are found in Central and Eastern North America that are often grown on the homestead for its beautiful blossoms and use in the home apothecary.

Why you should grow Echinacea

Other than being a beautiful late summer flower that will bring you joy each time to spot it, Echinacea is great because:

  • it is a great cut flower for a homemade farm bouquet
  • it's showy flower head feeds & attract precious pollinators to your yard
  • dried flower heads contain seeds which small birds will love when food is scarce
  • it is plant medicine & has immune boosting properties
  • it is also plant medicine for the bees!

How to Grow, Harvest & Use Echinacea for your Home Apothecary

How to grow Echinacea from seed

Echinacea is a sun loving perennial that will tolerate some shade. It grows a woody and study stem that can grow up to 60cm with flower heads that can get up to 10cm across.

Although, if you are growing Echinacea from seed and want to be blessed with these bold blossoms, you will need to start your seeds indoors 8 to 10 weeks before planting outside after the risk of frost has passed. 

You can also direct sow your seeds in the spring after the risk of frost has passed but depending on your climate and length of your growing season, blossoms may not appear until the following year. 

Seeds can also be direct sown in September to October to give the plant's roots a head starts for blossoms the following year.

Plant your seeds about 1/8" deep in well draining soil. If starting seeds indoors, transplant into a 4" pot once the first set of true leaves appear. When planting them in the garden, space them 18 - 24" apart in a sunny location. They can be divided, and replanted in a couple years.

How to Grow, Harvest & Use Echinacea for your Home Apothecary

Saving Echinacea seeds

Once your Echinacea plant has grown to full maturity and begins to dry in the fall and winter, the stem, petals, and flower head will turn brown, the leaves will begin to fall and your seeds are ready to harvest. Simply snap the stem 10cm below the flower head and turn upside down in a paper bag or on a plate and gently tap the flower head to loosen the seeds. For stubborn seeds, you can gently rub the flower head to loosen but be careful, its sharp! Store your seeds in a cool, dark and dry location.

How to Grow, Harvest & Use Echinacea for your Home Apothecary

Ways to use Echinacea in your Home Apothecary

Echinacea is well known for its immune boosting and wound healing properties because it is antimicrobial, antibacterial, antiseptic and antiviral.

This is not to be taken as medical advice. Before using echinacea, speak to your family doctor and read our disclaimer.

All parts of the plant can be used in your home apothecary, the root, the stem and the flower. But if you dig up your establish echinacea plant to use the the roots, you will be taking the life of the plant and won't be able to enjoy it next year, unless you start more plants from its seeds. Luckily, you can use the stems and flower!

Use echinacea only when you are beginning to feel under the weather as it is not meant to be used daily. When you are feeling unwell, drink echinacea tea a couple times each day for no more than three days in a row and people who have a compromised immune system shouldn't use echinacea.

Echinacea Tea

Make a tea with 1 teaspoon of dried flower petals and leaves steeping 8 ounces of hot water for around 10 minutes and enjoy!

Echinacea Salve

Using this DIY Salve tutorial, you can make yourself a skin healing salve for your home apothecary.


How to Grow, Harvest & Use Echinacea for your Home Apothecary


Sources:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Echinacea

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