Globe Thistles for the Home Landscape

Globe Thistles for the Home Landscape
The following species of globe thistles are recommended for home landscapes. The plants are ideal for pollinator gardens.

Small globe thistle (Echinops ritro) has escaped in Washington and Oregon. This is hardy in zones 3 through 10. With woolly stems, the stiff, compact, erect, clump forming perennial reaches 2 to 4 feet in height with a spread of 3 feet. The woolly stems can be white or silvery-white. They branch towards the top.

The plant features large, shiny, woolly, deeply lobed, oblong to elliptic leaves, 8 inches in length. These are typically spiny, but are sometimes spineless. They’re generally deeply cut. The undersides of the foliage is covered with soft hairs.

Very free flowering, this species bears flower heads, nearly 2 inches wide. Initially metallic blue, these age to bright blue or purplish-blue. The plant can have 4 to 10 flower heads per stem.

This globe thistle is a better honey plant and also more ornamental than some other globe thistles. In addition, the leaves aren’t quite as spiny. However, the floral bracts can be sharp to the touch.

Southern globe thistle does best in zones 3 through 8. Preferring a poor, dry soil, it is native to Eurasia. This species can be grown from seeds.

Great globe thistle (Echinops sphaerocephalus) became widely known as Chapman’s honey plant when it was introduced to American around 1885.

In some parts of Europe, the plant can reportedly bring up to 350 pounds or so of honey per acre.

Hardy in zones 2 through 9, this bushy, vigorous plant is native to Europe and Russia. It is typically 2½ to 3 feet in height with a 2 to 3 foot spread.

The sturdy, stiff, thick, erect stems are mahogany to gray. The thistle-like, lance-like to oblong leaves are lobed. Up to 14 inches long, these can be gray-white to gray-green with spines along the margins. The undersides of the foliage is hairy.

The large, terminal, globular flower heads can be white or blue. Flowering is from June through September.

Tall globe thistle (Echinops exaltatus) has escaped in Washington and along the coast of Maine. This is also known as Russian globe thistle. The plant is native to Europe and Russia.

The tough, unbranched, erect plant can reach 3 to 8 feet in height with a 4 foot spread. The 6 to 8 inch long, gray-green leaves are more spiny than those of small globe thistle.

The spherical flower heads can range from silver-white to pale blue, but is typically metallic blue. Flowering is from July through September, slightly later than small globe thistle. This species can be grown from seeds.

White globe thistle ( Echinops niveus) is a slender, clump forming, very leafy perennial. It is native to Eurasia.

Hardy in zones 3 through 8, this features gray stems and is 6 feet in height with a spread of 2 feet. The finely divided, spine tipped leaves are lanceolate to nearly ovate, up to 8 inches long. The underside is covered with soft white hairs. The leaf margins are curved.

The white to blue-gray flower heads appear in late Summer, and are 3 inches wide.

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This content was written by Connie Krochmal. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Connie Krochmal for details.