Growing Guide
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Globe Thistle

Herbaceous Perennial Flower

Echinops ritro
Asteraceae Family

This tall upright perennial's steely purple-blue, spherical flowerheads and spiny leaves command attention, even from the back of the border. Flowerheads attract bees and make great cut- and dried-flowers arrangements, too.

Site Characteristics
  • full sun

Soil conditions:

  • tolerates droughty soil
  • requires well-drained soil
Performs well in hot, dry climates.

Hardiness zones:

  • 3 to 9

Special locations:

  • xeriscapes
Plant Traits

Lifecycle: perennial

Ease-of-care: easy

Height: 2 to 4 feet

Russian Globe Thistles (E. exaltatus) can grow 5 to 6 feet tall.

Spread: 1.5 to 3 feet

Bloom time:

  • mid-summer
  • late summer
  • early fall

Flower color:

  • blue
  • violet

The flowers are a steely purple-blue.

Foliage color: dark green

Leaves are a deep, shiny green, lobed, and covered with prickly hairs. Margins are roughly toothed. Closely resemble thistle leaves.

Foliage texture: coarse

Shape: upright

Shape in flower: flower stalks with flowers as globes

Spherical flowerheads rise above the foliage on thick, tough stems.

Special Considerations
Special characteristics:
  • deer resistant
  • non-aggressive - May self-seed, but not very aggressively.
  • non-invasive
  • not native to North America - Native to Central Asia, South-Central and Southeastern Europe.
  • bears ornamental fruit - Spherical seedheads are attractive.
  • beneficial insects - Bees.
  • butterflies - A host for painted lady butterflies.
Special uses:
  • cut flowers
  • dried flowers - Can be dried for everlasting arrangements. For best drying results, cut the flowerheads just before the blooms expand.
Growing Information
How to plant:

Propagate by seed, division or separation - Self-seeds readily. Sow seed in beds in mid-spring.

Do not divide plants until they are at least 3 years old and basal plantlets are visible. Divide in spring. Cut the roots back to about 8 in length.

Make 2- to 3-inch long root cuttings in spring.

Maintenance and care:
May require staking if planted in fertile soil.

Deadhead to prevent reseeding. Cut back to basal foliage after flowering to encourage rebloom.

Don't cut back for winter. Wait until spring.

More growing information: How to Grow Perennials

Melon aphid
Fourlined plant bug
Celery (greenhouse) leaftier
'Taplow Blue' bears 2-inch-wide steel-blue flowerheads.

'Taplow Purple' is similar to 'Taplow Blue' but with bluish-purple flowerheads.

'Veitch's Blue' is common, grows 3- to 3.5-feet-tall, has gray-green leaves and flowerheads that are darker blue than most other varieties.

Related species:

Russian Globe Thistle (E. exaltatus) Similar to E. ritro but grows to 5 feet tall and leaves are spinier.

Siberian Globe Thistle (E. humulis) Many plants sold as E. ritro are really Siberian Globe Thistles or hybrids of the two. Grows up to 4 feet tall and has leaves that are cobwebby on top and white-hairy underneath.