Companion Plants for Echinacea | What to Grow with Coneflower

Echinacea, commonly known as coneflowers, are eye-catching, daisy-like perennials native to North America. The name ‘coneflower’ comes from each blossom’s pyramidal centre which becomes more pronounced as the seeds mature.

Their popularity in the United States and beyond largely stems from their visual appeal and ability to attract pollinators. While Echinacea can create an impressive display on its own, incorporating a variety of companion plants can enhance the overall beauty of your garden. 

In this article, I’ll share my favourite companion plants for Echinacea and provide straightforward tips to help you create a vibrant, more diverse garden.

What Is Companion Planting?

According to the University of Minnesota, companion planting is a gardening technique where different plants are grown together to benefit each other in some way. Potential benefits gardeners can gain from companion planting include:

Pest control

Increased pollinator activity

Better soil quality

Less wasted space

Natural shade and structural support

Fewer weeds

What to Plant with Echinacea in Your Garden

Crafting a garden centred around Echinacea can offer both visual charm and practical benefits. These flowers boast continuous blooms from summer to frost, with a constantly growing palette of colours to choose from. They also entice vital pollinators, which may visit nearby fruit and vegetable plants as well.

When choosing companion plants for Echinacea, focus on varieties that thrive in the same conditions. Opt for plants that prefer well-drained soil and full or partial sun exposure. Since Echinacea can reach heights of up to 5 feet, I recommend pairing them with smaller plants for a more balanced landscape design.

Ornamentals for All-Season Interest

There’s nothing wrong with creating a garden that is first and foremost beautiful to look at. Echinacea offers many weeks of colour but tends to fall short early in the year. 

I recommend combining them with spring-blooming perennials for maximum impact. For even more visual interest, add some summer- and fall-blooming plants with contrasting shapes and colours to the mix. 

Don’t forget the role foliage plays in good garden design. Ornamental grasses and other leafy perennials can make a huge difference in the overall look and feel of any landscape.

Catmint: Plants within the Nepeta genus — which includes catnip — feature fragrant foliage and an upright, shrubby growth habit. The flowers are usually pink or purple and bloom in early summer.

Catmint is well-loved by pollinating insects but resistant to grazing deer and rabbits. It looks best planted toward the front of the garden, especially when paired with taller perennials.

Columbine: This early bloomer fills the gap between the year’s very first flowers — e.g., crocus and snowdrops — and the typical summer fare. Cut the plant to the ground when the flowers fade to make room for the rest of the season’s growth.

Columbine plants readily self-seed, making native varieties ideal for use in naturalized landscapes. 

Coral Bells: Using ow-growing coral bells as companion plants means they can be planted as a border at the front of a garden bed or tucked between larger perennials like coneflowers. They are very adaptable and available in many different colours.

Though predominantly grown as foliage plants, coral bells also produce delicate flower stalks that attract bees, hummingbirds, and other wildlife species. 

Ornamental Grass: Clumping ornamental grasses like Foerster’s feather reed grass or pink muhly grass will add much-needed variety to your perennial garden. These plants tend to be as tall or taller than Echinacea, so should be used as a backdrop in the landscape.

Companion planting with cone flowers and ornamental grass
Companion planting with cone flowers and ornamental grass

Anemone: Also known as windflowers, anemones are simple perennials that closely resemble poppies. They are typically shorter than 2 feet tall but can vary greatly in height.

Each anemone species blooms at a specific time of year. To add spring intrigue to a bed planted with Echinacea, I personally recommend the poppy anemone (Anemone coronaria) or snowdrop anemone (Anemone sylvestris).

Daylily: Coneflowers and daylilies typically bloom around the same time. However, the two plants are so different in overall form that I think they make wonderful companions all the same.

Plant daylilies in front of your Echinacea, ensuring that both plants receive adequate sunlight. Some daylily varieties will bloom repeatedly if deadheaded throughout the growing season.

Sedum: Sedum, sometimes known as stonecrop, brings unique texture and colour to the garden through both its flowers and foliage. Creeping sedum is one of my favourite groundcover plants to grow with Echinacea. 

Wildflowers that Attract Pollinators

One of the best things about coneflowers is their ability to attract pollinators of all kinds to the garden. Plus, in the fall and winter, the flowers’ seed heads provide a great food source for small songbirds.

If your primary goal is to increase pollinator and wildlife diversity in your garden, I recommend planting the following perennials alongside your Echinacea.

Garden Phlox: Garden phlox is an extremely popular perennial for cottage- and prairie-style garden beds. Echinacea and phlox have very similar needs, making them ideal companions even in low-maintenance landscapes.

Both plants can grow several feet tall and wide when given ample room. I recommend placing garden phlox (also aptly called tall phlox) toward the back of your garden for the best results.

Echinacea and garden phlox companion planting
Echinacea and garden phlox companion planting

Black-Eyed Susan: This bright yellow flower closely resembles Echinacea but belongs to a separate genus. Planting the two side by side is a great way to add some subtle variety to your wildflower garden.

Delphinium: Delphiniums are tall and showy perennials that produce spikes of large, brightly-coloured flowers. Planting coneflowers around the delphinium may protect the lanky flower stalks from strong winds.

Companion planting with echinacea and Delphiniums
Companion planting with echinacea and delphiniums

Prairie Clover: Prairie clover produces spiky, purple-pink flowers that resemble miniature bottlebrushes. It looks nothing like the clover most of us are familiar with.

Prairie clover is a legume that fixes nitrogen in the soil, which can benefit nearby plants by improving soil nutrition. The flowers provide a valuable food source for pollinators while the foliage offers shelter to a number of butterfly and moth species.

Companion planting with Echinacea and Prairie Clover
Companion planting with echinacea and prairie clover

Butterfly Weed: As its name suggests, butterfly weed is a magnet for butterflies and other pollinators. 

Butterfly weed (which is a type of milkweed) produces clusters of orange flowers in mid-summer. Combining this perennial with Echinacea is a great idea if you want to create a pollinator-friendly garden.

Blanket Flowers: Blanket flowers produce daisy-like blossoms in shades of red, orange, and yellow. The petals have distinctive rings that resemble small fireworks. These vibrant colours contrast beautifully against most varieties of coneflower.

Like Echinacea, blanket flowers prefer full sun to partial shade and well-draining soil. They are also drought-tolerant and low-maintenance.

Bee Balm: This aromatic plant is a member of the mint family that primarily attracts bees and butterflies. It thrives in the same conditions as Echinacea and many other pollinator-friendly wildflowers.

Goldenrod: Goldenrod has bright yellow flowers that bloom in late summer, attracting all kinds of pollinating insects. Many people mistakenly blame this wildflower for triggering fall allergies when ragweed is actually at fault.

Despite its benefits, goldenrod can spread aggressively. I recommend planting it in an area where it has room to grow and won’t spread to unwanted parts of the garden.

Fruits, Vegetables, and Herbs

Companion planting Echinacea with vegetables and other edible crops not only makes your garden more aesthetically pleasing but can also offer practical benefits. 

In some cases, growing these plants near coneflowers benefits the fruits, vegetables, and herbs. In other cases, it’s the Echinacea that benefits most.

Either way, these are the best edible companion plants for your vegetable patch or cottage-style garden bed.

Dill: Dill is a tall herb with delicate leaves and small, yellow flowers that bloom in the summertime. The flowers attract beneficial insects, such as hoverflies and parasitic wasps, which can help control common pests like aphids and caterpillars.

Growing dill may decrease the number of aphids that feed on coneflowers and other plants in the same garden bed.

Oregano: Oregano is a popular culinary herb with pink or purple flowers that emerge in mid-summer. Its strong aroma may repel pests. Meanwhile, the flowers attract beneficial pollinators.

Oregano can be planted around the base of Echinacea to create a low-growing border or as a ground cover in between other plants.

Onion & Garlic: Onions and garlic belong to the allium family, which also includes vegetables like chives and shallots. In the average vegetable and herb garden, alliums are most easily recognized by their globular purple flowers.

Onions and garlic are popular companion plants for many perennials because pests hate the smell they give off. The high sulfur content of these plants is also believed to stave off fungal disease in the soil.

Strawberries: I love strawberries and think they’re underutilized as an edible groundcover! You can use Echinacea to draw in pollinators that are needed to produce a large strawberry harvest.

To get the most out of this combination, I highly recommend planting day-neutral or ever-bearing strawberries. Earlier varieties will likely bloom before your Echinacea, negating most of the benefits of companion planting the two together.

Sage: Common sage can be planted in between Echinacea plants or as a foreground plant in a larger garden bed. Its pollinator-friendly flowers usually appear in late spring or early summer, so I recommend interplanting sage with other crops that bloom at the same time.

Worst Companion Plants for Echinacea

Coneflowers are naturally susceptible to aphids and shouldn’t be grown too close to other plants that commonly attract these pests.

To prevent an aphid feeding frenzy, it’s a good idea to avoid planting other members of the Asteraceae family in the same area as your Echinacea. Popular examples include sunflowers, marigolds, zinnias, cosmos, and dahlias.

Other flowers that may prove problematic if grown right next to Echinacea include nasturtium and alyssum. While these plants are frequently used as aphid ‘trap crops’, I’ve seen mixed results when grown alongside coneflowers.

Citations

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Ben's horticultural interest grew when graduating from Hertfordshire University in 1997. Having contributed to numerous publications including Better Homes & Gardens, Garden Design Magazine, and The English Garden. He is also the author of Propagating Houseplants Made Easy.