Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Plant profile: Echium

Echium fastuosum
"Pride of Madeira"
By popular demand (i.e. Matt pestered me) this week's plant profile is the Echium (ECK-ee-um), a smallish genus of 60 species of flowering plant, which I had never heard of before. Matt is a big fan though, and we have collected half a dozen types. They self seed easily too, so I expect we'll see a lot more of them at P. Garden in the future - sweet!

Latin name: Echium spp. ("EK-ee-um")
Common name: Viper's Bugloss, among others. Dangerous sounding!
Originally from: Native to North Africa, Southern Africa, Europe, Madeira and the Canary Islands, as well as parts of East Asia.
Blooms: Usually blue/purple, but can also be white, pink or red. Some species shoot up one tall (12'!) spike, others create a bush of multiple spikes about 4-8' tall.
Light: Full sun.
Water: Don't need extra water.
Where to find in P. Garden: We have* a variegated one (pictured) in the bed with Moby Dick (our biggest Agave), several types on the bed next to the cactus wall, and a red one in the very top bed.
Watch out for: The leaves, whose hairs might irritate your skin.
Echium fastuosum
"Pride of Madeira" variegated
The hummingbirds, bees and the butterflies love them - and so do we. The Echiums of P. Garden get no extra water, and will put on a thrilling display of flowers, after which some of them die. Such drama! We have the following:

Biennials with perennial tendencies:
- Echium gentianoides "Tajinaste" (blue)
- Echium russicum (red)*
- Echium fastuosum "Pride of Madeira" (blue/purple)
- Echium fastuosum "Pride of Madeira" variegated (ditto)*
- Echium simplex (white)

Echium pininana
"Tower of Jewels"
Biennials, or maybe triennials:
- Echium hybrid "Mr. Happy" (one tall, pink, column)
- Echium hybrid "Snowtower" (one tall, white, column)
- Echium pininana "Tower of Jewels" (one tall, blue, column)
- Echium wildpretii (one tall, red, column)
* UPDATE: The Echiums with an asterisk failed in a spectacular way for us. Echium russicum just didn't thrive. The rest all grew SO fast, and SO huge that they fell apart due to their own excessive weight: the columnar ones just keeled over, and the shrub-type perennials lost branches until there were none left, or just split in half. What we learned from this is that Echiums need to be grown in very poor quality dirt with no water at all, and hate to be deadheaded - they won't flower next year if you remove spent flowers this year it seems.

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