Echium: viper’s bugloss
Height 60-90cm (2-3ft)
Planting distance 23-45cm (9-18in)
Flowers early to late summer
Any well-drained garden
Hardy annuals and biennials Echiums are invaluable in summerwhere their bright upturned bell add colour throughout the summer and are especially attractive to bees. Although of biennial habit, they will flower in their first year from seed and frequently seed themselves.
Popular species and varieties
Echium lycopsis (syn. E. plantagineum) is a bushy erect annual growing to a height of 90cm (3ft), its stems set with mid green oblong leaves. From early summer onwards, 25cm (10in) long flower spikes are closely packed with purple or blue tubular blooms. Several seed selections, ideal for containers, are available, includeing ‘Blue Bedder’ (30cm/12in high), with deep blue flowers; and ‘Dwarf Hybrids’ (30cm/12in tall) in a mixture of white, pink, rose and various shades of blue and purple.
Echium vulgare is a biennial usually grown as an annual. It is about 60cm (2ft) high, of bushy but compact habit, with leaves that are lance-shaped and dark green. The tubular flowers are borne in shorter but dense and profuse spikes; they are purple in bud and open violet-blue.
Sow seeds in the flowering site in early spring – or in early autumn, covering the site with cloches during winter. Thin the seedlings when large enough to handle, to stand 45cm (18in) apart for Echium lycopsis and 23cm (9in) for dwarf varieties and E. vulgare. Echiums will grow in any kind of soil and site, but flower most profusely in light, well-drained soil and in full sun.
Pests and diseases