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Echinacea 'Firebird,' an Orange Coneflower

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My picture shows the orange coneflower, 'Firebird.' It's a type of Echinacea.

Picture: the orange coneflower, 'Firebird.'

David Beaulieu

Plant Taxonomy of The Orange Coneflower, 'Firebird':

Plant taxonomy classifies this orange coneflower as Echinacea 'Firebird.' The cultivar name, 'Firebird' was chosen as being indicative of its fiery color.

Plant Type:

This plant is categorized as an herbaceous perennial.

Characteristics:

Echinacea 'Firebird' is touted as having red flowers -- and under certain growing conditions, this is doubtlessly true -- but mine have exhibited reddish-orange flowers. Likewise, the flower is described by its promoters (and by other sources) as having a "shuttlecock" shape (i.e., like the birdie used in badminton), but mine failed to assume this form until the plant had matured.

The perennial will reach 34 inches tall at maturity, with a spread only about half that. The leaves are dark green, the habit clumping. When the flowers first form, they, too are green.

The plant blooms from June through October, making it a long-blooming perennial.

Planting Zones for Echinacea 'Firebird':

Echinacea 'Firebird' is meant to be grown in planting zones 4-8. Coneflowers are indigenous to North America.

Sun and Soil Requirements:

Firebird Echinacea plants like to grow in a well-drained soil but are otherwise tolerant of a number of soil types, including ground that is poor in nutrients. They are full-sun plants. These reddish-orange coneflowers are drought-tolerant perennials once established.

Uses in Landscaping:

Given its Echinacea parentage, this orange coneflower cultivar can be treated as if it were a type of wildflower and used in a meadow planting. But the average grower is perhaps more likely to use it in rock gardens, considering its drought resistance. For the same reason, it is useful for xeriscaping. Its medium size would recommend it for the middle row in many flower beds, assuming the front row consists of short perennials and groundcovers.

The Echinacea genus boasts uses beyond the landscaping arena. You may be familiar with the extract, for example, which reputedly helps the human immune system. Such medicinal uses cause some to classify these plants as "herbs."

Wildlife, Pests Attracted by This Orange Coneflower:

One July day I opened my back door and stepped out to find a goldfinch perched on the cone of one of my Firebird coneflowers. The perennial is considered a veritable bird magnet, reputedly attracting hummingbirds, among other types. It's also a plant that attracts butterflies.

With all this wildlife drawn to the plant, I know what you folks in Bambi country are asking: Do deer eat this plant? Luckily, the answer is no: Firebird Echinacea is a deer-resistant perennial. We're not so lucky, however, when it comes to Bugs Bunny, as the perennial is not one of the rabbit-proof flowers.

Then there's the insect world's fascination with Echinacea. For example, slugs, snails and cutworms are all known to eat coneflower leaves. To grow these flowers successfully, be prepared to remain vigilant, inspecting your plants on a daily basis, and keep some neem oil or other herbicide handy at all times. Otherwise, you'll have to put up with having the foliage look like Swiss cheese (assuming the rabbits don't get to it first).

Care for Firebird Coneflower:

Divide in spring whenever your patch of Firebird coneflower seems to be losing vitality, due to overcrowding. I deadhead mine not to promote reblooming (they will rebloom on their own) but for aesthetic reasons.

Outstanding Features of This Orange Coneflower:

I daresay that the namers of the cultivar got it right: the chief selling point of Firebird Echinacea is its flower color. But it has a few other noteworthy qualities, including its:

  • Drought tolerance
  • Ability to draw wildlife
  • Winter interest
  • Suitability as a cut flower

Echinacea, generally speaking, makes for a good cut flower, and this reddish-orange coneflower is no exception. So cut a few stems and bring them indoors to enjoy the vibrant color of the flowers. Likewise, winter interest is a trait associated with coneflowers in general, owing to the dried cones left behind on the flowers at the end of the growing season.

Interesting Facts: Origin of the Common Name, Latin Name:

The genus name, Echinacea derives from echinos, which is Greek for "hedgehog." The flowers' cones, which consist of a network of tiny needles, inspired the name.

Likewise, as already alluded to (and as is more obvious), the origin of the common plant name, "coneflower" lies in the so-called "cone" found at the center of each bloom.

 

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