We’ve been looking to plant more flowers in our garden and we’ve settled on coneflower as one of them. However, we wanted to make sure our coneflowers grow well with our existing plants, so we looked into the best companion plants for them. Here’s what we found.
The best companion plants for coneflowers are lavender, yarrow, catmint, cabbage, and canadian goldenrod. Some mutual benefits between these plants are attracting more pollinators, repelling pests, and preventing weeds. Avoid planting coneflowers in wet soils or near plants that completely shade them.
While these are just a few of the companions for coneflowers, what are some others, and exactly which benefits do they offer? Let’s take a closer look.
Companion Planting Pro Tips (Before You Start)
Companion planting is selecting specific plants to place together for benefits such as increasing pollination or controlling pests. Sometimes these benefits are one-sided, while others are mutual.
A famous example is The Three Sisters—planting corn, beans, and squash together. The corn provides a trellis for the beans to climb, the squash provides a ground cover, and the beans fix nitrogen in the soil. Plus, all of them provide food!
Here’s how to get the most from companion planting:
- Find your USDA hardiness zone
- Select plants that do well in your zone
- Choose the plants that fit each niche or layer in the graphic above (canopy, understory, herb layer, etc.)
- Plant support species first to establish a microclimate and build the soil. For example, before planting fruit trees, grow nitrogen-fixing trees, shrubs, and flowers. Plant one nitrogen fixer for each productive plant (such as fruit trees or berry bushes).
Now, let’s take a look at the best companion plants, their benefits, and other tips to place them in your garden.
Lavender is an aromatic perennial herb in the mint family. Its tiny purple flowers are prized for their fragrance and soothing, sleep-promoting benefits. The flowers and leaves are commonly used as essential oils or in teas, desserts, and herbal remedies.
Echinacea and lavender have similar soil and water requirements. Their flowers, blooming in shades of purple, look beautiful together and attract beneficial insects and birds to the garden.
But lavender isn’t just for looks or pollination; it also repels rabbits who like to munch on nutritious echinacea leaves. If rabbits are a problem in your area, planting lavender will help keep them away.
Other companions for lavender:
- Mediterranean herbs like oregano, thyme, rosemary, and sage
- Artemisia (mugwort, wormwood)
Lavender enjoys hot, dry climates and sandy or rocky well-drained soil.
Some, like Portuguese and Phenomenal Lavender, tolerate more humidity. Lavender grows in zones 5-9 but can be grown in hotter zones as long as extra care is taken.
English varieties like Hidcote, Alba, and Munstead tolerate freezing temperatures, given proper care.
Planting along south-facing walls or with large stones can create a warmer microclimate to help keep lavender alive through a cold winter.
Yarrow, Achillea millefolium, is a perennial medicinal herb known by many names such as devil’s nettle, milfoil, sanguinary, thousand seal, old man’s pepper, and soldier’s woundwort.
This plant has feathery-soft leaves and flower heads composed of many tiny blossoms. It’s commonly used in first aid among many other uses.
Echinacea and yarrow grow well together because they’re both meadow plants with similar water and soil requirements.
Other companions for yarrow:
- Fruit trees
Yarrow is also extremely drought tolerant. In times of low rainfall, its feathery leaves spread over the ground and can help conserve soil moisture for your coneflowers.
Additionally, yarrow improves topsoil with its deep taproots that mine for essential minerals and nutrients. Those minerals are available to your echinacea when the plant dies back in winter.
Yarrow attracts beneficial insects, including those that eat aphids. Because aphids are known to be a pest to echinacea, planting yarrow nearby will help control and eliminate any aphids.
Yarrow thrives in hardiness zones 3 to 9, in full sun and well-drained soil. As a pioneer plant, it can establish itself and thrive in low-fertility soil, helping to rehabilitate and enrich that soil over time.
For more great reasons to grow yarrow on your property, see this post on yarrow from Tenth Acre Farm.
3. Catmint (Nepeta Mussini)
The common name “catmint” refers to various perennial plants in the Nepeta genus, including catnip (Nepeta cataria). Mussini has a compact growth habit, reaching only about one foot in height, with gray-green leaves and light purple flowers.
Mussini grows well with echinacea because it has a low-spreading habit. It doesn’t compete for sun and can be used as a mulch plant to help conserve soil moisture.
It’s also good for repelling pests, especially aphids. Planting Mussini alongside Echinacea can help keep away the aphids that could otherwise weaken and damage the plant.
Other companions for catmint:
- Collards/cabbage family
Catmint tends to spread, so if you’d prefer to avoid this, you can put it in a pot or raised bed in your garden.
Raised beds are often the most expensive item in the garden, but a little secret is there are some nice, affordable ones. See which raised beds we use and recommend.
This plant likes to grow in zones 4-8 with at least 6 hours of full sun. In hot climates, planting in an area with afternoon shade is helpful.
4. Cabbage (Mustard Family)
Planting fast-growing kale, radishes, or turnips near your echinacea helps provide a leafy ground cover to retain moisture while suppressing weeds. Brassicas also emit glucosinolates, which are reported to inhibit weed growth.
Brassica Oleracea is a species in the mustard family that includes the common vegetable cultivars we know and love, like cabbage, kale, broccoli, turnips, and cauliflower.
Keep coneflower close to your favorite greens to help protect against pesky white cabbage moths. The echinacea will attract songbirds and parasitoid wasps that feast on the moths and their caterpillars, preventing them from putting holes in your veggies.
Other Companions for brassica cultivars:
Brassica cultivars are ideally suited to colder climates with mild summers. In warmer zones, they can be started indoors in winter and summer to yield spring and fall harvests.
5. Canadian Goldenrod (Solidago canadensis)
Canadian Goldenrod is a perennial wildflower and medicinal herb native throughout Canada and the United States.
Goldenrod and coneflower are both meadow plants requiring full sun and similar soil conditions. Their colors complement one another when they are both in bloom in September.
Since echinacea blooms from July to September and goldenrod from September to November, you’ll have butterflies, bees, and songbirds in the garden throughout summer and fall.
Goldenrod attracts more beneficial insects than almost any other wildflower, including ladybugs that feed on echinacea-eating aphids.
Other companions for Goldenrod:
- Fall Asters
While Canadian Goldenrod has a vast range and tolerates a wide variety of climates and growing situations, there are more than 100 other Solidago species to choose from. From the compact Little Lemon to the showy Fireworks, there’s a goldenrod for every garden, just about everywhere.
Solidago species readily self-seed and spread by rhizomes, so you may want to pot them or plant them in an area where you don’t mind them going wild.
6. Citrus Trees (Esp. Lemon & Orange)
We have a lemon tree in our backyard and it loves all of the flowers around it. The bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds that visit the nearby flowering sage, rosemary, and lavender visit our lemon blossoms and help pollinate them.
Similarly, plant citrus and echinacea together to provide the mutual benefit of increased pollination for both. Coneflower should be planted within 25 feet of your citrus trees to ensure maximum pollinator benefits.
Echinacea also attracts beneficial predatory insects like ladybugs that can help control populations of pests on your lemon tree. It can also help increase nutrient distribution, and its thick roots help break up the soil.
If you plant them close together, ensure that your citrus trees are well-pruned, allowing sun-loving echinacea to thrive.
Other companions for citrus trees:
- Bee Balm
Lemon, orange, and other citrus trees grow best in zones 9-11. They can be grown in a greenhouse or potted to overwinter indoors in cooler zones. Citrus trees need full sun and well-drained loamy soil to thrive and produce the most fruit.
Mulberry is a medium-sized tree that produces masses of small fruits from late spring well into the summer months, depending on the variety. The fruit looks similar to blackberries, has a sweet-tart taste, and can vary in color from white to red to black.
Coneflowers and mulberries grow well together because they’re both low-maintenance and have similar soil requirements.
Their roots do not compete, as mulberry has a shallow root system and echinacea has deep tap roots. Echinacea actually breaks up compacted soil to help the mulberry roots thrive.
Planting coneflower near your mulberries will help attract beneficial insects that can help keep pest populations from consuming the fruit or damaging the tree.
When planting echinacea near mulberry trees, keep the mulberries well-pruned to allow plenty of light through.
Other companions for Mulberries:
- Lemon Balm
Hardy in zones 4-10, Mulberries can grow across most of the United States and often sprout up on their own in meadows and unmowed lawns. Because they are self-fertile, they produce a crop with just one tree.
They prefer full sunlight but will also fruit in partial shade. Mulberries often produce more fruit than you can gather, so share some with the birds and attract them away from your other berries and fruit trees.
The name sedum refers to a genus of about 600 plants with thick, fleshy leaves and small, star-shaped flowers. Sedum is also commonly known as stonecrop. Many sedum cultivars are edible and have medicinal benefits.
Choose a low-growing sedum as a ground cover for echinacea, especially in hot, dry climates. Sedum will help preserve moisture in the soil during dry spells.
Coneflower and sedums are both low-maintenance and have similar soil requirements. Sedum’s thin, fibrous roots will not compete with echinacea for water or nutrients.
Some sedums, like Autumn Joy, bloom in the fall, attracting butterflies and bees that will also pollinate your coneflowers.
Other companions for sedums:
- Russian Sage
- Black-Eyed Susan
Sedums are hardy perennials that grow across various climates and situations and can thrive in zones 3-11. They prefer full sun and well-drained soil and may rot if grown in wet soil or overly humid conditions.
Beeblossom is a perennial wildflower native to Texas, Louisiana, and Mexico. Other common names are wandflower, appleblossom grass, or gaura. This plant is beautiful, with pink and white flowers clustered on waist-high stems that emerge from a base of green leaves.
Echinacea and beeblossom are excellent low-maintenance companions due to their similar sun, soil, and water needs.
Both plants bloom throughout the summer and will attract mutually beneficial insects to each other and the rest of the garden.
In addition, beeblossom can be used as a sacrificial plant for Japanese beetles, meaning the beetles will go to the beeblossom and leave your echinacea alone.
Other companions for beeblossom:
- Rock Rose
While native to the deep south, beeblossom is hardy in zones 5-9. Be sure to plant your beeblossom in full sun, and don’t worry about watering it except in extended dry periods. Remove spent blooms to extend the flowering season and mulch in cold zones to ensure its reemergence in spring.
10. Alliums (Garlic, Onion, and Chives)
Allium refers to one of the largest genera of plants in the world, containing more than 900 species. Common alliums include onions, garlic, chives, shallots, and leeks.
Not only do these plants provide culinary delight, but they are also medicinal and create lovely globe-shaped blossoms in the garden.
Plant alliums alongside echinacea for their pest-repellant and weed-blocking benefits. Alliums emit odors that repel aphids and rabbits, which are common cornflower pests.
Alliums’ thick bulbous roots can also be a barrier to grasses and other weeds when grown close together. Plant them in a ring around your echinacea bed to keep the weeds from closing in.
Other companions for Alliums:
Alliums can grow in zones 3-9, depending on the variety.
They need full sun and good drainage to prevent rotting their roots. Try the Egyptian Walking Onion for an exciting cultivar that will spread itself around the garden quickly.
What Not To Plant With Coneflowers
While echinacea makes an excellent companion to a wide variety of garden and orchard species, there are some you’ll want to avoid.
As a general rule, don’t plant your coneflower with plants that will eventually shade them. This includes large trees like maple, walnut, and oak, shrubs like hazelnut or elder, tall herbaceous plants like okra, and aggressive vines like morning glory.
Echinacea won’t do well around plants that require wet soil conditions. This includes Iris, hardy hibiscus, swamp sunflower, and horsetail weed, among many others.
Other Names for Coneflower
Names for echinacea include purple coneflower, eastern purple coneflower, or hedgehog coneflower.
Other plants in the Asteraceae family are also known as coneflowers due to their cone-shaped centers. These include the genera known as Rudbeckia (Black-Eyed Susans) and Ratibida (Prarie Coneflower), and Dracopis (Clasping Coneflower).
Note that the above Asteraceae family plants are not the same as echinacea and may have different requirements and benefits in the garden.
Recommended Coneflower Varieties
For Herbal Uses:
- Common Purple Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea) – Easy to grow in zones 4-9, with large purple flowers and easy-to-harvest roots.
- Narrow Leaved Coneflower (Echinacea angustifolia) – Grows in zones 3-8 but is very drought tolerant and favors cool and dry climates. Native to Colorado.
- Pale Purple Coneflower (Echinacea pallida) – Grows up to 4 ft tall in zones 3-8. Pale purple petals with orangey-brown center cones.
For Appearance and Pollination:
- Cheyenne Spirit – Lots of blooms with multiple colors, including red, orange, and white. Perennial in zones 3-8.
- Fragrant Angel – Large white blossoms on relatively compact plants.
- Pica Bella – Purple flowers on compact plants rarely exceed 2ft in height.
Need More Help?
You can always ask us here at Couch to Homestead, but you should know the other resources available to you! Here are the resources we recommend.
- Local Cooperative Extension Services: While we do our best with these articles, sometimes knowledge from a local expert is needed! The USDA partnered with Universities to create these free agriculture extension services. See your local services.
- 7 Easy Steps to Grow Fruit Trees (Free Guide): Need more fruit tree help from the ground up? See our free guide to make growing fruit trees a breeze.
- Ask the Free Community: Join The Couch to Homestead Community and connect with other members discussing gardening, homesteading, and permaculture.
- 30-Day Permaculture Food Forest Course: Learn how to turn your backyard into a thriving food forest in just 30 days with our online course.