This week we are taking a look at another member of the daisy family (Asteraceae) – Echinops, commonly known as the globe thistle. This striking perennial usually flowers from midsummer to early autumn with seeds ripening from late summer to mid-autumn. The textures provided by the leaves and the flowerheads bring a new dimension to any border contrasting nicely with plants bearing smoother foliage and smaller flowers.
The origin of the common name for this plant is self-explanatory once you have seen the leaves and flowers. The inflorescence of this plant is globe shaped and the leaves are thistle-like and prickly. As for the Latin name, much like Echinacea, Echinops is derived from the Greek word “ekhinos” which means hedgehog. The –ops part of the name is derived from the Greek word “opsis” which means aspect or “ops” meaning head. This name undoubtedly refers to the spiky-looking inflorescence of this genus of plants.
When growing Echinops keep in mind that they enjoy a sunny position in well-drained soil with a low to medium amount of nutrients present. They will tolerate nutrient poor areas and once established they will also tolerate drought. If need be you can grow them in partial shade, but a sunny spot is preferred. In early spring be sure to cut down damaged stems to the base ready for new growth to emerge.
Echinops spaerocephalus (Great Globe Thistle)
This species of Echinops can grow up to 1 metre in height and bears pale blue flowers with pale green-silver stems.
Echinops ritro (Small Globe-thistle)
Unlike E. sphaerocephalus the flowers of this species are darker and almost indigo in colour. They are also much shorter growing to about 0.5 metres in height. There are a few cultivars available for this species so be sure to check at your local garden centre for various different shades of colour.
Echinops is an excellent addition to a wildlife garden. It attracts so many different pollinators, whether it be bumblebees, honey bees, butterflies or hoverflies, adding some of these plants to your garden will provide pollen and nectar for so many of our pollinator friends.
With such eye-catching flowers and an abundance of food for pollinators, why not plant some Echinops in your garden this year?