For anyone who wants something different for the border next year, I should like to introduce Echium russicum. A remarkable species from Russia it has a unique flower colour for its genus. In July to August multiple throngs of striking upright spires, bearing crimson flowers emerge from a basal rosette of hairy leaves.
The rich sanguine hue of its bold columns is tempered slightly by a dusting of tiny whitish hairs. The sheer number of flowers makes an impressive sight, and like all members of the genus, they attract bees from far and wide. Below their abundant display, lance-shaped leaves decorate the flowering stems.
Unlike many of the larger species Echiums, this one is very easy to grow and is hardy to a remarkable minus 20°C (-4°F). It likes well-drained soil and full sun.
By nature a biennial, when planted in well drained soils in mild climates this eastern European native is proving reliably perennial (with winter temperatures around minus 12°C / 10°F). Like many biennials, they make a big rosette in the first year followed by flowering occurring from the second year. It will grow to around 75cm (30in) tall and 38cm (15in) wide.
Not easily available from seed, it is a plant that is well worth growing and something to tease the neighbours with.
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.
They can also be grown in 30cm (12in) pots to flower in a conservatory or cool greenhouse.
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 to protect it from severe frosts. Keep dry over winter if possible.
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.
Beds and borders, Cottage/Informal, Drought Tolerant, Greenhouse, Low Maintenance, Planted in groups, Sub-Tropical, Wildflower.
Native to the grassy slopes, in open pine forests and rocky hills from Turkey north to Russia and west to Austria.
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.
The species name russicum means of or from Russia
Synonyms include Echium rubrum. Echium russicum, Isoplesion rubrum and Pontechium maculatum var. maculatum.
Common names include Red Viper's Bugloss and False Pink Liatris
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 plant belongs to the borage family, Boraginaceae.
- Additional Information
Packet Size 20 Seeds Seed Form Natural Seeds per gram 720 seeds per gram Family Boraginaceae Genus Echium Species russicum Synonym Echium rubrum. Echium russicum, Isoplesion rubrum,
Pontechium maculatum var. maculatum.
Hardiness Hardy Biennial Hardy Minimum temperature: -20°C (-4°F) Flowers Crimson Natural Flower Time July to August Height 75cm (30in) Spread 38cm (15in) Aspect Full sun. Soil Moist soil, Coastal Germination 21 to 45 days at 21°C (70°F)