Virtues: Echinacea purpurea 'Fragrant Angel' is an older white cultivar of native purple coneflower, first sold to gardeners in 2005. Over the years it has proven itself a reliable perennial that lives up to its name with its large scented flowers. 'Fragrant Angel' was the #1 echinacea cultivar for pollinators in the 2018–2020 Echinacea Trial at Mt. Cuba Center, drawing the most pollinator visits overall as well as the most butterfly visits. It landed within the top 10 for overall garden performance, too—a repeat of the high marks it earned in Mt. Cuba's previous echinacea trial (2007–2009).
Common name: 'Fragrant Angel' coneflower
Botanical name: Echinacea purpurea 'Fragrant Angel'
Exposure: Full sun
Flowers: A frilly ring of overlapping white petals—or, more precisely, ray florets—ring a central cone of orange-gold disc florets. True to the cultivar name, these flowers carry a nice, strong scent. They retain their white color well and the rays stand out from the cones, rather than drooping down. The flowers are large among echinacea, spanning up to 4 inches. The bloom period runs from mid- to late summer and even into autumn, though the heaviest bloom comes in summer.
Foliage: Narrow, deep green leaves are most dense at the base of the plant, with foliage becoming more sparse toward the upper portions of the flower stems, as is typical with echinacea.
Habit: 'Fragrant Angel' coneflower is an upright perennial that reaches about 30 inches high in bloom. The plant's width is about 20 inches. This cultivar's stems are very sturdy and have good branching, leading to a dense floral display.
Origin: The species E. purpurea is native to the Midwest and Southeast regions of the United States, where it grows in open woods and moist meadows. 'Fragrant Angel' was discovered as a sport (genetic mutation) of the cultivar 'Ruby Giant'. It was introduced to the trade in 2005 by Terra Nova Nurseries.
How to grow it: Site in full sun and average to gritty garden soil with good drainage. Avoid feeding this cultivar and other echinaceas, because fertile conditions can lead to floppy growth. Divide every few years to rejuvenate the plant. USDA Zones 4–9.
Image courtesy of TERRA NOVA NURSERIES, Inc.