Echium wildpretii

Echium wildpretii is grown primarily for its flower spike, but grown as a ‘pack’ plant it becomes a head turner par excellence.

Echium wildpretii is given a cold tolerance of -7ºC (19.4ºF) but this is for its native habitat on the dry, sunny, volcanic peaks of the Canary islands. Such tolerances do not translate well to gloomy, wet northern European winters.

Grow this plant for its pre-flowering rosettes and you won’t be dissapointed. Flower spikes should be viewed as a bonus. The flower spikes achieved in Northern climes pale a bit in comparison to their wild counterparts (Think of a nice healty fox tail compared to one with mange). The spikes still grow tall but lack the bushiness of plants grown in strong light and as such the colour of the spike is diluted. (They’re still not bad though). The plants are typically triennial ie. fowering in their third season, with the rosettes looking most impressive at the end of year two.

Relative to Echium pininana the rosettes of Echium wildpretii are much more compact. They tend to stay where you planted them and, if you so desire, would be easier to construct them a rain shelter.

Echium wildpretii from seed

Growing Echium wildpretii from seed is straight forward and requies no special treatment.

  • Surface sow the seeds in seed trays of multipurpose compost, anytime after mid February (northern hemisphere).
  • Place them in a position in good light, preferably a greenhouse.
  • No bottom heat is required.
  • Seeds should begin to germinate after two weeks.
  • When the seedlings have their first pair of true leaves, prick them out and pot them up indivudually.
    (A guide to pricking out can be found here.)

  • The newly germinated seeds at the pricking out stage (on the left). They closely resemble Echium pininana seedlings but have a slighlty mottled appearance. Knowing this variation will help you to differentiate between any wildpretii and pininana self-sown seedlings that are bound to pop up around the garden in future years.
  • The same seedlings five weeks later (on the right).

Planting out

  • The seedlings were planted out directly from the seed tray (Late May). In hindsight it would have been better to prick out the seedlings into individual pots (as recommended) at an earlier stage and allow them to develop new roots prior to planting. As it turned out, a daily watering for the first week was enough to get the plants to pull themselves together.
  • Once the plants established themselves they survived on rainfall alone.
  • The picture on the right shows the plants in early September.

The following winter was exceptionally mild with only a few nights barely below freezing. The majority of the Echiums survived in various parts of the garden even if they did look a little scruffy come the spring. The hope was that there would be a veritable forest of wildpretii flower spikes. The plants however had different ideas. Not a single plant flowered. They did however go on to look even more impressive than they looked the previous year.

  • The plants in the picture above are the main group whose development has been followed on this page. Some overhead protection was provided by a group of nearby Cordylines. They received virtually no sun all winter.
  • (The plants at the top of the page received almost no sun during the winter either and limited overhead protection was provided by Tetrapanax.)
  • The plants below were planted just a few meters away but received no sun all winter. Protection was provided by Bamboo.

The following winter was almost as mild as the previous one. Soon after these pictures were taken there was a very wet spell. The attrition rate was very high and a lot of plants died well before any signs of frost.

Growing conditions for Echium wildpretii

To maximise the survival rates of your plants in an ideal world:

  • Position your plants where they will receive maximum winter sun.
  • Use well drained soil.
  • Plant close to a wall.
  • Protect from winter rains.
  • Plant in raised beds.

The more of these criterea you can meet the greater the chances of you ever seeing flowers.

To find out what happened next in this fascinating saga, Spoiler Alert! click here: Echium wildpretii flowers.

Echium Tower of Jewels Flower: Tips For Growing Tower Of Jewels Plants

One flower that is sure to make jaws drop is the Echium wildpretii of tower of jewels flower. The amazing biennial can grow from 5 to 8 feet tall and is coated in the second year with brilliant pink flowers. If sheer size doesn’t impress you, the silvery foliage and prominent anthers, give the flowers and foliage a sparkle when sunlight hits them. Keep reading for information on tower of jewels plant care.

About Tower of Jewels Plants

This variety of Echium is native to the Canary Islands off the coast of Morocco. In this region the weather is mild with sunny warm sea breezes in summer and cool, but not freezing, winters. Echium tower of jewels starts its first year of life as a grayish to silver rosette set low to the ground.

In the second year, it produces a tall, thick flower spire with slightly ragged silver foliage below. The spire bursts with cerise to salmon pink-cupped flowers arranged in rows upon rows. Each of the nearly one hundred blooms has white anthers reaching out from the throat of the flower. These catch the light and along with the foliage, making the plant appear to be dipped in pixie dust.

The

plants are not terribly hardy, but a greenhouse is a great method for how to grow Echium. Temperate and warmer zone gardeners should try growing tower of jewels as a centerpiece for the exterior landscape. The Echium tower of jewels flower will give you years upon years of breathtaking beauty and architectural delight.

How to Grow Echium

The tower of jewels plant can survive temperatures below 20 F. (-6 C.) if given some protection but is generally a warm to temperate weather specimen. Cooler areas should try to grow the plant in a solarium or greenhouse.

The best soil is sandy to gritty and a cactus soil works well for potted plants. Site the Echium tower of jewels in full sun with some protection from the wind.

These plants are quite drought tolerant but superior tower of jewels care will include regular watering in summer to help produce a strong spire that doesn’t tip over.

Echium Tower of Jewels Life Cycle

The smitten gardener doesn’t have to worry in the second year when tower of jewels dies away. After the flowers are spent, hundreds of tiny seeds release to the ground below. Investigate carefully in spring and you will see many volunteer plants, starting the whole biennial cycle over anew.

Growing tower of jewels seeds in colder zones may require sowing in flats indoors at least eight weeks before the date of the last frost. Lay the seeds on top of the soil, dusting with fine sand, and put the flat on a seed heat mat or other warm location. Keep the medium lightly moist until germination and then ensure the seedlings get bright sunlight and daily water.

Tower of Jewels Care

These plants take care of themselves for the most part. Watch for slug damage to rosettes in the first year and indoor plants may become prey to whitefly and red spider mites.

Moderate water will help the plant grow strong and prevent it from tipping over. You may have to provide a stake if it gets too top heavy, especially in potted Echium.

Don’t cut back the flower until the seeds have had a chance to sow themselves. This plant will become the jewel of your garden and is both rewarding and low maintenance.

ECHIUM WILDPRETII

Sowing Advice

Seeds are best sown in spring or before mid summer to enable a full season of growth and are best sown where actually needed, preferably in a well-drained and sheltered spot. Otherwise, sow seeds, covering very thinly, in early spring onto a good soil-based compost in a frost-free place. No artificial heat is needed to help germinate these seeds, just a cool, varying, background temperature, in good light. Seedlings usually appear in 2 to 3 weeks. Pot on into a gritty compost containing very little organic material before planting out as small plants in a well-drained sheltered spot, or a large container that may be taken in during the winter in severe frost. Plants usually flower 24 months after sowing and can occasionally vary in habit and flower colour as we have numerous species growing here, and very many busy bees…. Sow seeds before mid summer where actually needed, preferably in a well-drained and sheltered spot, otherwise, sow seeds in spring onto a good soil-based compost at 12 to 20C, seedlings appearing in between 2 and 6 weeks. Pot on into a gritty compost containing very little organic material before planting out in a well-drained, sheltered spot or a large container that may be taken in during the winter. Plants usually flower 24 months after sowing. You will almost certainly get hybrids with E. pininana amongst these seeds which have broader leaves at the seedling stage, but make attractive plants nonetheless.

Echium wildpretii or Pink Fountain belongs to the Boraginaceae family and is an herbaceous biennial plant that grows up to 3 m in height. The species is endemic to the island of Tenerife in the Canary Island, and is found mainly in Las Cañadas del Teide. This evergreen plant can be found as a garden ornamental but is intolerant of low temperatures. As for most Echium it is favored by bee-keepers for its high nectar and pollen content. Wildpretii is short-lived but is an interesting plant that produces a basal dense rosette of narrow hairy silvery leaves during the first year and in the third year produces an erect inflorescence between 1 and 3 m tall (50 cm). The plant blooms from late spring to early summer. The plant dies after fruiting, leaving lots of seeds. This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and birds! Echium wildpretii is a very showy tower indeed. This amazing plant can grow up to 10 feet tall (150-300 cm), but 6 feet is more usual. It doesn’t grow much in its first year, but concentrates on sending down a very thick tap root. The next year it grows a lot but usually they don’t flower in year two. The narrow silvery-grey leaves have a stiff texture. You can expect flowers in year three, and these are impressive and worth the wait. The wildpretii flowers from March to May in the lower regions or August in the mountains. From the centre of the Tower of Jewels rosette, grows a stately inflorescence with thousands of coral-pink flowers, which forms a thick column, sometimes up to 1 foot thick. Then the plant dies! If you have this plant, be sure to collect the seeds so you can re-sow them next spring! Hardiness zones: 8-11(-10c/15f, 4c/40f). The plant grows in the sub alpine zone of the ravines of Teide. It requires a lot of sun and is found in arid and dry conditions but is frost tolerant down to -5 ºC. This plant prefers a well-drained soil, made up of 10% humus 30% sand and 60% crushed lava or pumice, and is drought-tolerant, making it suitable for xeriscaping. It is an excellent plant for; seaside garden, shrub borders and containers. Be careful, handling the plant may cause skin irritation or allergic reaction.

Bold and Beautiful: The Life of Echium Wildpretii

Tower-of-jewels, Echium wildpretii, in the Conservatory at Longwood Gardens. Photo by Yoko Arakawa.

The beauty of our spring display would not be complete without the towering, striking, and unusual plant, Echium wildpretii, ‘tower-of-jewels’. While this plant stands at nearly seven feet tall, its tiny, salmon-colored flowers are what make it truly magnificent. As each tassel of flowers blooms into graceful curves along the plant, the stamens stick out as if dancing from the tiny flowers, transforming this tower-of-jewels into a whimsical display of beauty.

Inflorescence of Echium wildpretii. Photo by Yoko Arakawa.

The tower-of-jewels is native to the Canary Islands, specifically the island of Tenerife. Located just off the coast of Morocco, this tiny island is only 20 miles north to south, and 30 miles east to west. Amazingly, the plant’s native land has many significantly different climates. Echium wildpretii thrive at elevations of 4,200-6,500 feet above sea level, in the sub-alpine zone.

E. wildpretii growing in its natural habitat in the Canary Islands. Photo by Yoko Arakawa.

E. wildpretii, Canary Islands. Photo by Yoko Arakawa.

In its natural landscape, Echium flowers from late May to June and is pollinated by bee-like insects. Photo by Yoko Arakawa.

Echium wildpretii is classified as a monocarpic plant, meaning that once it has flowered, it dies. More commonly, however, the plant is viewed as a biennial since it typically flowers in its second year, depending on the length of cold treatment. In the wild, Echium wildpretii will bloom in late May or June. Then after flowering and setting seed, the island’s dry climate transforms the plants into skeleton-like spikes.

Skeletonized plants jut upward in the native landscape, Canary Islands. Even when dead, Echium wildpretii can be described as having a graceful beauty. Photo by Yoko Arakawa.

According to our records, the first seeds of Echium came to Longwood in 1983, and it took years of extensive research on how to best grow this remarkable plant until it was first displayed in Longwood’s Conservatory in 1991. Now, more than two decades later, the tall tower-of-jewels has become essential to our spring display. When compared to the plant’s native habitat—with rocky and volcanically soiled slopes, dry, cool summers and wet, cold winters—our hot, humid summers and cold, dark winters pose quite a challenge when growing Echium at Longwood. Since it takes about 15-16 months to flower, we begin growing the plant from seeds more than a year ahead of time. Our gardeners then carefully monitor the plants’ growth to ensure we have a beautiful display for the spring.

E. wildpretii seedlings in the propagation house. The twin leaf seedlings’ rounded and spotty leaves are drastically different from the mature Echium plants that go into our displays. Photo by Yoko Arakawa.

We continue to grow the Echium through summer and into fall in our greenhouses where we plant them into larger sized pots as they grow. At its largest, an Echium wildpretii plant will fill a 7-gallon pot.

Echium growing in the Production Greenhouse before spiking to flower. Photo by Yoko Arakawa

While exquisite at all stages in the growing process, when the plant produces flowers it becomes exceptionally magnificent and is a highly-anticipated event. Right before blooming, the plants resemble a silver fountain, with thin whorled leaves extending outward. In the first week of November, when the plants are nearly a year old, we give them a cold period (about 45 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit) for four to six weeks minimum. This is meant to simulate the winter climate so the plants will set flower buds. By February, the plants start spiking in preparation for flowering.

This is a sign that a flower will begin to bloom. Photo by Yoko Arakawa.

The center of the plant begins to twist beautifully like a little whirlpool signaling the coming bloom. Not long after, Echium wildpretii flowers into a true tower-of-jewels and are planted into the beds of our Conservatory.

Large pink flower spikes add unique interest to the spring display. Photo by Yoko Arakawa.

As you walk through the Conservatory in the coming days and weeks, take notice of this exceptional plant from the Canary Islands only on view during Spring Blooms.

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