Secret Lust Coneflower: Double Echinacea

This Perennial Changes Its Color From Pink to Orange

Image of Echinacea 'Secret Lust,' a type of coneflower.
Echinacea 'Secret Lust' starts out mainly orange, then begins to change, becoming more and more pink. David Beaulieu

Plant Type, Taxonomy

The full botanical name of this plant is Echinacea 'Secret Lust.' The provocative name in single quotes is the cultivar name. The common name used for the genus is "coneflower," so you may also see the plant referred to as 'Secret Lust' coneflower. The plants are herbaceous perennials.

The name, Echinacea derives from a Greek word (echinos) that means "hedgehog." This is an allusion to the bristly cones left behind by this genus in fall (for a closeup picture, see this cone on the classic coneflower, E. purpurea).

The botanical name for globe thistle (namely, Echinops) shares this prickly derivation.

Coneflowers belong to the rich and diverse family known botanically as Asteraceae or Compositae. As if to accentuate the diversity of this plant group, I have seen four common names given to it:

  1. Aster family
  2. Composite family
  3. Daisy family
  4. Sunflower family

Are you familiar at all with any plants from the aster family, other than the namesake asters? Frankly, it would be difficult not to be. The group includes popular landscape plants such as:

  1. Ageratum
  2. Chrysanthemum
  3. Daisies (for example, Shasta daisy)
  4. Goldenrod
  5. Yarrow

There are also some more obscure members of the family whose inclusion might surprise you, at first glance, such as common butterbur.

So Much for "Purple Coneflower"

There was a time when "coneflower" and "purple coneflower" were virtually used interchangeably (although you ran into the occasional one bearing white flowers) -- with justification.

Not so anymore. There are now hybrid plants in yellow (e.g., 'Daydream'), orange (e.g., 'Firebird'), and pink (e.g., 'Fatal Attraction'). Secret Lust coneflower straddles the line between orange-flowered and pink-flowered types; let me explain:

This perennial begins to bloom in July in my zone-5 garden.

Take a look at my picture, paying attention not only to the star at center stage but also to the left and right edges of my photo. See the daisy-like flowers? That is what Secret Lust's flowers look like when they first come out. Notice two things about them:

  1. They are not yet double, as is the flower in the center of my image (showing a mature flower).
  2. Their color is a golden-orange, whereas the mature bloom shown in the center gives an overall appearance of being orangey-pink (if you look closely, the rays are actually of a different color than the center).

But there's one more stage in the flower's development: as it starts to slip past its prime, it loses most of its orange color and becomes more and more pink. You will start witnessing this phenomenon more and more in August.

In other words, the flowers on this coneflower go through a transformation, both in terms of color and shape. For those who enjoy paying close attention to the development of their plants, this change can be entertaining to follow.

When the flowers have matured and take on their "double" quality, I can't help thinking of them as having an exotic, puffy hairdo, as if straight from the salon. The blooms also have a light fragrance.

Secret Lust grows to be 3 feet high with a spread that is similar (or slightly less than that).

Where Does Secret Lust Coneflower Grow Best, How Do You Care for It?

Secret Lust coneflowers will grow best for gardeners located in planting zones 3 to 8. The genus is indigenous to North America. Grow it in full sun and in soil that drains well. It is a drought-tolerant perennial once established. Fertilize with compost.

As a low-maintenance plant, there is not much you have to do to it after it does become established. Deadhead to promote reblooming. Divide in spring if the clump seems to be flagging as the years go by. Happily, coneflowers are deer-resistant perennials.

Other Cultivars

There are too many cultivars even to attempt a complete listing here, but I will mention some notable examples:

  1. E. 'Crazy Pink' has nice pink flowers
  1. E. 'Kim's Knee High' offers floral color that is a more brilliant pink than the prior entry (in spite of the sensationalistic name, 'Crazy Pink')
  2. E. 'Kim's Mop Head' sports clean, white flowers
  3. E. 'Tangerine Dream' is a more basic orange than the 'Firebird' cultivar, which is a more complex reddish-orange
  4. E. 'Big Sky Sunrise' is another choice with yellow flowers
  5. For a double-flowered alternative to 'Secret Lust,' consider the basic pink E. 'Razzmatazz' (truly an unforgettable name)

Medicinal and Landscaping Uses

Have you ever tasted Echinacea extract? Someone told me once to put a few drops in a beverage and drink it to ward off colds. I tried it. Nasty stuff. It is supposed to boost the immune system, but I think what's really going on is that the germs get a taste of it and flee as far away as possible!

I'm more interested in the plant's landscaping uses. It can be used in the yard:

  1. For attracting butterflies.
  2. For attracting birds.
  3. As a xeriscape plant.
  4. And, given its height, in the back rows of flower borders.