Echium pininana is undeniably an eye stopper, a magnificent inflorescence with dense panicles of deep blue flowers borne above branches of dusty linear leaves, When in bloom, it is a magnet for hummingbirds, bees and butterflies.
Echium pininana is native to La Palma where it is a highly threatened species in the mountainous laurel cloud forest. In this country, unlike in its native Canary Isles, 'Blue Steeple' needs to survive two winters before coming into flower. It requires a partially shaded spot and always moist, slightly peaty, yet well drained soil.
The rosettes of large leaves are attractive even as a non-flowering plant and the flower spire can reach over 4m (12ft) when grown in mild areas so it is worth waiting for. On a sunny day, as you approach the spire you can hear the hum of hundreds of bees feasting on the flowers.
- Awarded the RHS Award of Garden Merit
In 2002 Echium pininana was awarded the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit (AGM).
A key indicator that this variety is worth growing in your garden.
Sowing: Sow in late spring to early summer.
Sow 3mm (1/8in) deep in good seed sowing compost from late May-late July.
Germination takes 21 to 45 days at 21°C (70°F)
When large enough to handle, transplant the seedlings to 7.5cm (3in) pots and over-winter in a cool greenhouse, conservatory or on a well lit windowsill with a temperature of around 7°C (45°F). Plant out the following spring 1m (3ft) apart, into a sunny site with well drained soil.
Although this species is proving to be quite cold hardy, its best to cover the base of the plants with a little bracken or similar over the winter. They can also be grown in 30cm (12in) pots to flower in a conservatory or cool greenhouse.
Be careful when handling this plant and consider using gloves. As with most of the Echium family, the leaves have tiny allergenic hairs that may prove an irritant in some sensitive individuals.
If a plant is not going to flower, it can be made to branch by cutting the growing tip out with a sharp knife in October. This will create a multi-headed plant which will produce up to 6 flower spikes the following year.
Beds and borders, Cottage/Informal, Drought Tolerant, Greenhouse, Low Maintenance, Planted in groups, Sub-Tropical, Wildflower.
Echium pininana is native to La Palma where it is a highly threatened species in the mountainous laurel cloud forest.
The stately towers of a number of Echium species came to English gardening first in the Scillies, where they slowly colonised the lanes and front gardens near the famous Abbey Gardens on Tresco. Visiting Cornish gardeners fancied growing it, and this spectacular tourist happily jumped to the mainland.
The genus Echium is named from the Greek echis meaning "a viper," it is thought to derive from the shape of the seed, which resembles a viper's head.
Both the species name pininana and the synonym pininifolium come from the botanical description "pinnate" which describes the arrangement of the leaves on either side of the stem.
It is occasionally known as Viper’s Bugloss. Officially, the name Viper’s Bugloss is reserved for the plant Echium vulgare. In gardening circles, it is also used for this slightly divergent species.
The name bugloss is of Greek origin, from a word signifying an ox's tongue, and alluding to the roughness and shape of the plant's leaves. The viper part of the name may derive from the spotted stem, said to recall marks on a snake, or an imagined resemblance between the dead flower-head and the head of a snake.
The plant belongs to the borage family, Boraginaceae.
- Awarded the RHS Award of Garden Merit
- Additional Information
Packet Size 25 Seeds Seed Form Natural Seeds per gram 200 seeds per gram Family Boraginaceae Genus Echium Species pininana Cultivar Blue Steeple Synonym Echium pininifolium Common Name Tower of Jewels Other Common Names Tree Echium, Pine echium and Giant Viper's Bugloss Hardiness Tender Perennial Hardy Minimum temperature: -2°C (28°F) Flowers Blue Natural Flower Time Summer Foliage Dark green Height to 4m (12ft) Spread 90cm (3ft) Aspect Full sun. Soil Moist soil, Coastal Germination 21 to 45 days at 21°C (70°F)