Echinacea: cultivation and properties

Echinacea is a plant that we can classify as both ornamental and medicinal, since it reflects the characteristics of both types, with its splendid flower and extraordinary beneficial properties.

Its pink bloom is truly splendid and also very loved by butterflies, even for this reason alone it deserves to be introduced in the garden or in some corner of the vegetable garden. In addition to its appearance, echinacea purpurea is particularly sought after for its phytotherapeutic properties, since in suitable preparations it helps us to prevent flu and colds.

Let’s discover the characteristics of the plant and the cultivation techniques that allow this beneficial medicinal species to flourish, coloring the vegetable garden, the garden, or even the balcony pink.

Echinacea purpurea: the plant

Echinacea purpurea, native to North America, is among the most common species that can be found among the whole group of Echinacea, a genus that includes 9 distinct species. It is a multi-year herbaceous plant with a rather small size, and therefore easily cultivable even in confined spaces and even in pots.

After a long summer flowering, in autumn the area dries up and then re-vegetates in the following spring. Echinacea belongs to the composite or Asteraceae family, the same that includes vegetables such as lettuce, chicory, endive, sunflower, thistle, and artichoke. In this family, we also find various other precious species in phytotherapy, such as chamomile and helichrysum.

Its flower is a kind of large daisy with pinkish petals, very pretty.

Ideal terrain and climate

Echinacea adapts easily to any type of soil, but those fertile and rich in organic matter can certainly guarantee more generous blooms. As for the climate, it resists both summer heat and winter colds well.

Sow the echinacea

Echinacea can be grown starting directly from the seed, in spring. In this case, it is advisable to make the seedbed and transplant the best seedlings when the external temperatures have reached about 15-20 ° C, more or less therefore in the same period in which most of the spring cycle vegetables are sown and transplanted in the gardens. summer (tomato, bean, eggplant, courgette, etc.).

The seedlings must be transplanted at distances of about 40 cm from each other and indicatively in an area of ​​one square meter there can be about 4 or 5 seedlings, if well arranged in a quincunx, which will then be destined to expand and sometimes to merge practically together with the respective blooms.

Given its multi-year nature, it is necessary to manage echinacea in a different way from annual flowers such as zinnias, marigolds, and cosmoses: it is better to transplant it in a space where we are sure we want to keep it for a long time.

In addition to sowing, it is also possible to multiply echinacea by dividing the tufts, a technique widely used for perennial aromatic and medicinal plants.

How it is grown

During the spring and summer seasons we will have to dispense some important echinacea treatments, and in particular:

  • Irrigation: Echinacea must be given water regularly, but since it fears water stagnation, particular attention must be paid to avoiding them.
  • Control of spontaneous grass: when the plants are still small, but also later, it is necessary to keep the space around the small echinacea bushes clean, eliminating the spontaneous grass manually or with tools, or directly preventing its birth by means of mulch.
  • Elimination of withered stems: this practice is certainly valid for aesthetic reasons but is even more useful for stimulating the release of new flowers.
  • Cutting of the area part, in autumn, after its withering. There is no need to fear, as in the first warmth of the new spring we will see new shoots appear.

Cultural adversities

Small Echinacea seedlings are a popular food for snails, which can easily devour them. It is advisable to act from the first signs, that is when we notice the nibbled seedlings and the bib of these molluscs on the remains and in the vicinity. In this case, action must be taken using non-polluting remedies, such as the distribution of ash around the seedlings, DIY beer traps, or the use of an ecological snail killer containing iron orthophosphate.

Officinal use of echinacea and properties

Echinacea is a medicinal species contained in many medicinal and cosmetic preparations found on the market, such as the mother tincture. To obtain them, the roots of Echinacea Angustifolia and the flowers of Echinacea purpurea are used in different ways.

In particular, echinacea helps the immune system, helping to strengthen it against the flu, as we mentioned. For this purpose, we find it, for example, in homeopathic preparations, or in pills with echinacea extract. Sometimes we find this flower referred to as “natural antibiotic”, a misnomer but indicative of the beneficial properties of this plant.

Native Americans also used echinacea root preparations to help heal wounds and treat snake bites.

In any case, before using any phytotherapeutic product and echinacea based it is important to be well informed about the properties and contraindications and consult a doctor especially in case of doubts.

For example, it seems that on babies it can trigger allergic reactions, so it would be better to avoid it, as it is not recommended during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

There are also infusions and decoctions containing echinacea, generally obtained from dried roots.

Finally, we mention its applications in the cosmetic field, because it is an effective purifier for the skin and is used in lotions and creams.

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