Fantastic Design Plant: Globe Thistle

Globe thistle (Echinops rito) is a plant with star power; put it on centre stage in your backyard and it will not disappoint. An herbaceous perennial native to central and eastern Europe and central Asia, it’s well adapted to a lot of regions of the U.S. It’s a dramatic, sculptural plant which features beautifully shaped bicolor foliage and striking blue blossoms. Globe thistle blooms for weeks during the latest period of summer — you won’t need to put this baby in the corner!

Jocelyn H. Chilvers

Botanical name: Echinops ritro
Common name: Globe thistle
USDA hardiness zones: 3 to 9 (find your zone)
Elevation range: To 7,000 ft
Water requirement: Moderate to non
Light requirement: Total sun
Mature size: 2 to 4 feet tall and 2 to 3 feet broad
Fun fact: The genus Echinops derives its name from the Greek word for “just like a hedgehog.”

Jocelyn H. Chilvers

Benefits and tolerances: Bold, architectural type; long-blooming blossoms that are acceptable for cutting or drying; tolerant of full sun, poor soils, heat and drought
When to plant: Spring through fall
Seasonal attention: Unique blue flowers July through October, peaking in late July into mid-August
Distinguishing traits: Stiff white blossom stems emerge out of a foundation of large, deeply lobed, spiny leaves that are green on the upper surface and white and woolly below. Blue blossoms form a round inflorescence that looks like a golf ball coated with blue bugle beads.

Jocelyn H. Chilvers

The best way to utilize it. Plant globe thistle as an accent plant in a perennial border, cottage garden or garden. Its coarse texture and intriguing blooms stand out in both formal and informal designs. Position globe thistle where you can enjoy seeing the bees and butterflies which will come to visit. You’ll also wish easy accessibility to take cuttings for new bouquets and dried arrangements.

To wash the globes, cut them until the flowers fully open and then hang the stems upside down.

Globe thistle will show to best advantage when it’s paired with plants with contrasting foliage textures, such as daylilies (Hemerocallis spp), tall garden phlox (Phlox paniculata) and ‘Powis Castle’ sage (Artemesia ‘Powis Castle’).

Group some lower-growing plants — like sun rose (Helianthemum nummularium) or Missouri evening primrose (Oenothera macrocarpa) — round the bottom of earth thistle to hide the lower foliage, which can find a bit ratty looking.

Jocelyn H. Chilvers

Planting notes. Place world thistle in full sun and plant it in well-drained soil. Porous, sandy loam is perfect, but world thistle is fairly elastic. Plants may require staking if they are grown in a rich, moist soil. Deadhead to reduce self-sowing.

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