A native of western Europe, including England, echium is really a biennial, producing flowers the year after planting. Its striking flower form of tall racemes is attractive in the garden. The most common form bears blue flowers, but selections are available with rose, pink, mauve, lilac, lavender, and purple flowers.
Description of echium: Long, hairy leaves support a tall spike of flowers. Buds are purple, with flowers opening to a violet-blue. In other forms, the flowers open pink, then fade to blue. Plants are 12 to 24 inches tall and need about 10 to 15 inches of growing space.
Growing echium: Echiums thrive in full sun in average soil. Too much fertility causes excess foliage to the detriment of flowering. They will tolerate dry soil, but must have good drainage to grow well. Start plants in July or August in order to develop husky plants for wintering over in locations where they are to flower the following season. Space 8 to 12 inches apart.
Propagating echium: By seed. Seeds germinate in 14 to 21 days at 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Too high a temperature will inhibit germination.
Uses for Echium: Echiums can be used to add a vertical note to beds, borders, walkways, and paths in the garden. The pastel colors combine well with other pastels and white, and strike a happy contrast with sunny, warm colors.
Echium related species: Echium fastuosum, known as "pride of Madeira," is a tender, shrubby perennial for Zones 8 and 9. Great clusters of blue-purple flowers stand well above the foliage in May and June.
Echium related varieties: Blue Bedder grows to 12 inches high and has cup-shaped flowers. Dwarf Bedding Mix has a mix of colors in purple, lavender, lilac, light blue, mauve, salmon rose, pink, and rose. Sugar and Spice is a mix of pinks and whites.
Scientific name for echium: Echium vulgare