Small Globe Thistle Plants

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Misc RHS AGM, Multi Purpose, Wildlife Value
Shade Full Sun
Area Coastal Areas, Exposed Windy Areas
Soil Good, Well Drained, Poor/Dry
Type Pot Grown
Also Good Repeat Flowering, Seedheads, Foliage, Vase Life
Flowering Jul, Aug

Echinops ritro ruthenicus

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SIZES 1-2 3-910+
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Small Globe Thistles

If you live in an exposed, sunny site, especially on the coast with salt-laden winds, you may struggle to find plants that survive, let alone flourish. However, Echinops ritro (globe thistle) will shrug off such difficult conditions and be a star performer in your garden. It does well in normal conditions as well, of course. It looks stunning at the back of a sunny border.

The magnificent drumstick pom-pom flower heads, up to 5cm in diameter, are steely-blue with hints of violet. They are held on silvery, branched stems with jagged, prickly dark green leaves, whitish beneath - an imposing sight! As an extra bonus, the seed heads are both attractive and long-lasting.

You may know its many common names - globe thistle, blue hedgehog, globeflower, steel globe thistle and Southern globe thistle (you'll also sometimes see it listed as E. ritro Veitch's Blue but this name is misapplied - it has darker blue flowers). Whatever the name, it holds a Royal Horticultural Society Award of Garden Merit.

Great In Your Garden...

Like wild thistles you often see in sand dunes and coastal areas, Echinops ritro loves a well-drained, poor soil in full sun, although it will tolerate a little bit of shade. An exposed site doesn't phase it - it's a tough cookie! If you have a new-build garden full of rubble or a coastal plot with salt-laden winds, this is one of the first plants to grow, along with Achilleas and Coreopsis grandiflora Early Sunrise.

Being drought-tolerant, it's easy to grow and undemanding, making it perfect for low-maintenance and gravel gardens and suitable for large containers.

Designers love its architectural form, so you'll often see it in contemporary plantings alongside large grasses such as Stipa tenuissima and the similar hues of Eryngium, or sea holly.

Echinops are total bee-magnets - you'll rarely see them without visitors, so they're a must for wildlife gardens.

And last but not least, Echinops' architectural forms are loved by florists, whether used fresh or dried in modern arrangements, providing a contrast in form to lilies, peonies and roses.


  • Colour: Steely-blue globular flowers.
  • Flowering: July to August.
  • Foliage: Green-silver, white underneath.
  • Height: 90cm.
  • Spread: 50cm.
  • Spacing: 50cm.
  • Position: Sun, tolerates some partial shade.
  • Soil: Well-drained, rocky and poor.
  • Royal Horticultural Society Award of Garden Merit.

Did You Know...

Echinops' name is taken from the Greek words 'ekhinos', meaning hedgehog and ‘opisis’, meaning head. In folk medicine, globe thistle root has been used as an anti-inflammatory in the treatment of mastitis.

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Bareroot planting is best done between October and April
Bareroot and potted - what's the difference?

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