Germination was evaluated in six seed lots of purple coneflower purchased from four different seed companies. Standard germination percent ranged from 28% to 90% depending on the seed lot. For seed collected in 1989, seed size and stage of development of the seed at harvest could not account for the wide variability in seed germination observed in the purchased seed lots. preconditioning the seed with either cold stratification (10°C for 10 days) or osmotic priming (PEG or salt solution at -5 bars for 5 days) increased the rate of germination and the overall percent germination for all seed lots and dramatically improved germination in the poor germinating seed lots. Preconditioning appears to overcome either a shallow physiological dormancy or compensates for seeds with poor vigor or quality. In either case, seed preconditioning drastically improved seed germination (rate and percent) in greenhouse and field tests for purple coneflower.