The Echium plant [ECH-ee-um] has around 70 different species and subspecies. The flowering plant belongs to the family Boraginaceae which includes:
- Heliotropium arborescens
- Brunnera macrophylla – Siberian bugloss
- Nemophila Menziesii – baby blue eyes
They are native to mainland Europe and Central Asia, the Macaronesian islands, and North Africa.
Canary Islands, Cape Verde, and Madeira are famous for the extensive wild and cultivated Echium plants they have since 27 known species grow there.
Popular Species of Echium include:
- Echium candicans – Pride of Madeira
- Echium pininana
- Echium fastuosum
- Echium wildpretii – Tower of Jewels
The name of the Echium comes from the Greek word ‘echis’ (εχισ), which means viper.
The name comes from the time of Dioscorides, who noticed the shape of the nutlets on the plant was similar to a viper’s head.
The genus was officially published in 1753 by Carl Linnaeus.
Echium Plant Care
Size & Growth
The shrubs of the Echium have a tall crown, and some of the tallest species are able to 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.
They will grow easily from seeds, and the best time to plant them is from February to May.
They’re better suited for soil beds, especially the larger species which need the support of the soil.
Flowering and Fragrance
- In the first year of growth, Echium plants produce a rosette of leaves.
- 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 flower heads are usually large and very beautiful and come in all sorts of colors from 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.
Light & Temperature
To grow Echium plants well they need a good amount of full sun, at least 6 to 8 hours 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 with intense late afternoon sun, it is better for the plant to get a little shade, or the foliage will burn.
If you live in a hot climate, your plants will appreciate a little shade from the intense late afternoon sun.
Watering and Feeding
The plants are drought-tolerant 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.
The soil needs to be well-drained to prevent the roots from rotting.
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, it is better to grow the plants in containers.
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 will also have to tie them to a stake for support and pack the soil around the base gently.
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
Prepare soil using potting soil, organic compost, and horticultural sand in a 3:1:1 ratio, respectively.
Put the soil in metal sheet trays for the propagating process.
Mist the soil until it feels slightly damp to 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 Plant 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.
Some species become invasive such as Echium plantagineum in Australia.
Echium Plant Uses
Echium species are used in many gardens and areas as ornamental plants.
Some species are also eaten, such as the Echium Italicum, which is eaten steamed or boiled in Crete.
They are also used to feed larvae of Orange Swift and Coleophora Onosmella
The high levels of alpha-linolenic acid, stearidonic acid, and gamma-linolenic acid in the seed oil obtained from the Echium Plantagineum are used to make skincare and cosmetic products as well as for food.