What is Echum? The Echium plant, or Echiums, is a genus of flowering plants in the family Boraginaceae. The genus consists of around 70 different species and subspecies of annuals, biennials, or perennials.
They are native to mainland Europe and Central Asia, the Macaronesian islands, and North Africa. Canary Islands, Cape Verde, and Madeira are famous for their extensive wild and cultivated Echium plants since 27 known species grow there.
Common Echium varieties include:
- Echium candicans – Pride of Madeira
- Echium pininana – a parent of the popular Echium Pink Fountain
- Echium amoenum – “Red Feathers” vibrant red blooms
- Echium fastuosum
- Echium vulgare – suitable for grouping in mixed flower borders
- Echium wildpretii – Tower of Jewels – A biennial with a dense grayish leaf rosette; a tall 3 ft. flower spike rises from the center, bearing rose-colored flowers.
The Echium [ECH-ee-um] name originates from the Greek word ‘echis’ (εχισ) for viper. Dioscorides first noticed the resemblance of how the seeds look like a viper’s head. Carl Linnaeus officially published the genus in 1753.
Echium Plant Quick Care Tips
- Botanical Name: Echium
- Common Name(s): Echium plant, Viper’s Bugloss
- Synonyms: N/A
- Family & Origin: Boraginaceae family, native to mainland Europe, Central Asia, the Macaronesian islands, and North Africa.
- Type: Annuals, biennials or perennials
- Growability: Easy to grow from seeds
- Growing Zone: Winter hardy to USDA Zones 9-10, as perennials
- Size: Varies, some species can reach up to 12′ feet
- Flowering: Large, colorful flower heads; blooms in the second year or later
- Light: Full sun, at least 6 to 8 hours daily
- Humidity: Drought-tolerant
- Temperature: Warm temperatures with a low around 45° degrees Fahrenheit.
- Soil: Well-drained soil, can grow in sandy soil and barren soil; avoid heavy clay soil
- Water: Only when the soil is dry; less frequent watering after a few weeks
- Fertilizer: Not necessary if grown in good multi-purpose potting compost
- Pests & Diseases: Slugs and snail infestations may occur
- Propagation: Sow seeds in a well-lit area, transplant seedlings outdoors when they reach 4″ inches, space them 1′ foot apart
- Uses: Ornamental plants, some species are edible or used in skincare and cosmetic products
Echium Plant Care
Size & Growth
The shrubs of the Echium have a tall crown. Some of the tallest species reach an astounding height of 12′ feet.
You will be able to find smaller and more manageable varieties for your garden. Research the different types of Echium to see which one fits your garden.
Echiums are popular ornamental plants. The recommended Echium growing zone is USDA hardiness zone 9-10.
They’re better suited for soil beds, especially the larger species that need the soil’s support. When you plant echium, give them 12-24″ inches space to encourage healthy growth.
Flowering and Fragrance
- Echium plants produce a rosette of leaves in the first year of growth.
- In the second year (or more), they begin to produce woody flowering stalks.
- The stalks are covered in rough leaves to protect the wood.
- The large echium flower heads come in various colors, such as purple, blue, white, pink, and more!
- The flowers are also visited by butterflies and bees for nectar.
- Some species of the Echium plant have fragrant flowers, while others do not.
Growing Echium: Light & Temperature
The best Echium growing conditions include at least 6 to 8 hours of full sun daily.
It is vital for growers to observe the amount of sunlight the garden receives before planting Echium.
Ideally, you should plant the Echium in an area that receives sun from morning till early afternoon for at least 8 hours.
For hotter climates, it is better for this flowering plant to get a little shade, or the foliage will burn. Your plants will appreciate a little shade from the intense late afternoon sun.
Echiums love warmth and can handle temperatures down to around 45° degrees Fahrenheit.
Echium Care: Watering and Feeding
The plants are drought-tolerant and only need watering when the soil is dry.
Once the seedlings or seeds have been in the ground for a few weeks, you should start watering the plants less frequently.
If you live in an area with regular rainfall, you don’t need to water the plant unless dry spells occur.
The plant doesn’t like soggy soil at all.
The Echium plant doesn’t need any sort of feed to flourish as long as it has good multi-purpose potting compost to grow in.
Soil & Transplanting
The best hardiness type for the soil is half-hardy. But, they need well-drained soil to prevent root rot.
You will not need to prepare the soil too much before adding a seedling or new seeds.
Echium plants are known to survive even in well-drained barren soil in the wild and grow well even with sandy soil in gardens.
It is better to avoid heavy clay soil since it needs a lot of preparation and drainage management.
If you have heavy clay soil, grow Echium as a potted plant.
Grooming and Maintenance
If you are planting taller species, it is important to pack the soil to avoid them from falling or uprooting.
If they start to lean, you must tie them to a stake for support and gently pack the soil around the base.
The best thing is to choose a planting spot near a fence or a wall since it will support the plants.
Any spent flowers should be deadheaded to control reseeding and encourage blooms.
Deadheading also extends the blooming period of the flowers from 2 to 4 months.
How to Propagate Echium Plant
Echiums grow easily from seeds, and the best time to plant them is from February to May.
- Prepare soil using potting soil, organic compost, and horticultural sand in a 3:1:1 ratio respectively.
- Put the soil in trays for the propagating process.
- Mist the soil until it feels slightly damp to the touch but not soggy.
- Sprinkle the seeds on the soil and place the tray in a well-lit area but not in direct sunlight.
- Make sure the soil remains moist until the seedlings grow to around 4” inches.
- Transplant them into an outdoor area with plenty of sun.
- Do make sure the new seedlings are spaced out in the soil at a distance of 1’ foot.
Echium Problems: Pest or Diseases
While Echium has no major pest or disease problem, slugs and snail infestations sometimes occur.
You will have to check for them regularly and remove any you find on the plant.
They are especially susceptible to moving along the stems of the plant.
There are also some pesticide pellets that you may use to remove an infestation.
NOTE: Some species such as Echium plantagineum are considered an invasive plant in Australia.
What Is Echium Used For?
Echium plants are popular in gardens and other spaces for their eye-catching flowers and unique growth style.
Echium flowers also attract pollinators like bees and butterflies. This makes them excellent garden additions.
Some echium species, like Echium Italicum are edible and eaten steamed or boiled in Crete.
Other species may have allergenic properties or be toxic. So it’s essential to identify the species before consuming it as echium food.
They are also used to feed larvae of Orange Swift and Coleophora Onosmella
With its high amounts of alpha-linolenic acid, stearidonic acid, and gamma-linolenic acid, Echium oil, from the seed of the Echium plantagineum plant, is used in:
Other members of the Boraginaceae family include:
Growing an echium crop requires proper care, including providing adequate sunlight, well-drained soil, and occasional watering.