Echinacea purpurea, purple coneflower, is an adaptable and drought tolerant perennial. Benefits wildlife.
FIRST IMPRESSIONS: Echinacea purpurea ‘White Swan’ is a compact seed grown perennial cultivar. This elegant and popular variety thrives in most sunny sites due to its strong stems and deep roots. Striking summer flowers have prominent golden cones with creamy white reflexed rays. Butterflies flock to the blooms and songbirds relish the seed that follow.
HABITAT & HARDINESS: Echinacea purpurea occurs in the eastern United States from New York and Pennsylvania west to Wisconsin and Iowa. The range extends south to the Florida panhandle, Louisiana and Oklahoma.
The parent species is indigenous to open woodland edges and clearings, savannas, moist to mesic Blackland prairies, meadows, limestone glades and roadsides.
‘White Swan’ is a classic seed grown variety that was among the first Echinacea purpurea cultivars to be named. It was introduced by Thompson & Morgan Seed Company in 1987.
Plants are hardy from USDA Zones 4-9.
PLANT DESCRIPTION: Echinacea purpurea ‘White Swan’ is an upright branching perennial. Plants have fibrous roots and form small colonies from short thick rhizomes.
Stems are sturdy and pubescent with leathery oval or lance shaped leaves. The blades are medium green with a short winged petiole.
3-4” Flower heads are borne on long leafless stalks. Each daisy-like head has ivory colored drooping rays. The ray florets surround a robust golden cone made of many disc florets. In bright sunlight, flower heads are sometimes fragrant.
Flowering occurs in summer for about a month. Prickly clusters of dark achenes form from the disc florets and remain into early winter.
Plants grow 2-3’ tall with 1.5’ spread.
CULTURAL & MAINTENANCE NEEDS: The ideal site for Echinacea purpurea ‘White Swan’ has full sun and fertile well drained soil. Plants tolerate part sun but are less floriferous.
This cultivar is not quite as vigorous or cold hardy as the species. However, established plants endure heat and some drought.
Plants are pest resistant and unpalatable to deer and other herbivores. If soil retains excess moisture in winter, plants may succumb to root and crown diseases.
Deadheading can extend the season of bloom but will remove the desirable seed that are savored by goldfinches.
LANDSCAPE USES: This pristine beauty is one of the few white flowered perennials that bloom in late summer. It is a good choice for a Wildlife Garden, Cut Flower Garden, Prairie or Meadow. Plants are also used as Accent Plants, Butterfly Nectar Plants or as part of a Grouping or Mass Planting. Echinacea purpurea ‘White Swan’ has Showy Blooms and is appropriate for Cottage Gardens, Deer Resistant Plantings, Water-wise Landscapes, Low Maintenance Plantings and Perennial Borders.
COMPANION & UNDERSTUDY PLANTS: Try pairing Echinacea purpurea ‘White Swan’ with Agastache ‘Blue Fortune’, Rudbeckia fulgida var. fulgida, Monarda ‘Peter’s Fancy Fuchsia’, Liatris spicata, Schizachyrium scoparium and Panicum virgatum.
In garden situations, the cultivar ‘Powwow White’ could be substituted.
TRIVIA: Native bees, butterflies and skippers seek the nectar. Caterpillars of the Silvery Checkerspot Butterfly and several moths feed on the foliage and flowers. The Eastern Goldfinch relishes the nutlike seed.
Echinacea cultivars are becoming so popular that the National Garden Bureau declared 2014 as Year of the Echinacea. ‘White Swan’ was on the cutting edge of the Echinacea Movement and after 28 years is still amazingly popular.