Growing and Marketing Echinacea in East Africa
Answered by: Richard Alan Miller
Question from: Cindy Cosens
Posted on: August 10, 1998

I am looking for information on the growing and marketing of echinecea commercially. My brother owns farms in East Africa in an area that is good for growing echinecea. It also grows wild in the area where he lives. He is interested in knowing more about the propagation of this herb and marketing it.

Do you have any information regarding this herb and the growing and marketing of it either nationally or internationally? Do you know of other sources that would be able to provide this information?

I have personally grown E. purpurea as 20 and 40 acre parcels for more than nine years. It can be propagated from seed, crown divisions or root cuttings. It is a strong, drought-resistant perennial and generally requires low maintenance. It does well in well-drained soils (5.9 - 8 pH). It prefers full sun in dry, compacted, alkaline or slightly acid soil.

The seeds exhibit some embryo dormancy and germinates more readily if stratified for a month in moist sand. Simply mix the seeds in moist sand, place in plastic bags, and refrigerate. At the end of a month, rinse the sand off in a screen mesh strainer and then sow. It germinates more readily with light, although it is not absolutely necessary for success.

It is best to start seeds on the surface of a soil mix. Start them in a greenhouse, and then move transplants at 6 weeks old. Soil mix can be equal parts sand, peat and sterile potting soil. Seeds will germinate in five to seven days. Stratified seeds, covered with one eighth inch of soil mix will take from two weeks to a month to sprout. If the plant is grown from seed, vegetative development is very slow the first year. By the second year, however, plants bloom and become robust.

When the plants are dormant in fall or early spring, the budding rosettes on the crowns can be sliced off or carefully peeled from the main rootstock. Plant them in directly. You can divide up to seven plants from one root crown, in either spring or fall. A four to five inch section of root, broken off an older plant can be used to propagate new plants as well.

Soil should be well drained. No irrigation is given to this crop after initial establishment, or early spring rains. If plant begins to look stressed, a light sprinkler irrigation may be used on a limited basis (like from a water truck). Frequent shallow cultivation encourages vigorous growth.

I wrote some detail on the marketing of this crop on 06-17-98 when asked about it and Mormon Tea. The two largest buyers include MAFCO and Wilcox Natural Products, both East Coast exporters. Each will buy up to 400,000 lbs. for export alone in the last two years. My concern is the recent large cultivation of Echinacea in Canada last year, possibly creating a major surplus of inventory next year and the year 2000.

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