How To Harvest Coneflower Roots
The coneflower plant, also commonly known as Echinacea, is a popular plant not only for its ability to create a beautiful backdrop for smaller growing annuals, but is known for the proven ability of the roots and blossoms to boost the immune system and even help with a few common ailments. Additionally, it is hardy and strong even in fairly cold climates, and grows regularly as far north as Ohio and Iowa.
If you have coneflower and wish to grow more, or know of some nearby growing naturally or in a friend’s garden, it is relatively easy to harvest the seeds for growing the following year or make cuttings from the roots.
Step 1: Propagation
Before you can harvest the roots, you need to have a number of plants to harvest from (assuming you don’t already have a garden full of coneflowers). One of the finer points of coneflower is that they are very good about self-propagating. If you already have a couple coneflower plants, let some of the blossoms naturally dry and fall to the ground. The following spring, as you weed your plants, keep an eye out for coneflower seedlings, which you may need to transplant to a better location.
If you don’t have any, harvesting seeds from elsewhere is an easy way to get your coneflower. Simply cut off a few healthy blossoms, leaving a long stem, and hang them upside down with the blooms in plastic bags. The seeds will fall out when they are ready. Once the seeds have been collected, put them in a jar with a tight lid. They can survive this way in a refrigerator for up to a year, to be planted the following spring.
Step 2: Cut the Root
The best roots to get root cuttings from plants that are at least 2 or 3 years old, as they are strong enough to survive a cutting. Wait until the fall, when the tops have gone to seed and a few frosts have passed. Use a sharp knife to cut part of the root off the top, but leave enough for the plant to continue growing the next year.
Step 3: Drying Root Pieces
Before storage, coneflower roots need to be properly dried. Roots should be no larger than 1 inch pieces, as mold may form on them while drying if they are too big. Cut the roots to smaller pieces, and spread them out on screens or newspaper to dry. Keep them well ventilated and out of direct sunlight.
Depending on the size of your roots, drying may take as long as several weeks.
Step 4: Storage
Store your dried coneflower roots in tightly sealed jars. Mark them with the date, as they won’t keep past a year, and store them in a cool, dry place.
As you can see, harvesting your coneflower roots, whether for medicinal purposes or otherwise, is a fairly simple process.