Echium Pininana

Discussion in 'General Gardening Discussion' started by Bilbo675, Jun 8, 2011.

  1. Bilbo675

    Bilbo675 Total Gardener

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    A couple of months ago I found some old (10 years) echium seed and decided to sow them and have ago once more at growing these magnificent plants. I've just potted up 6 seedlings and moved them out of the cold frame; they're a little floppy, hence the small cane, but otherwise looking good so far.

    I managed to get a couple through the winter a few years ago in large pots and they did flower, but being in a pot their height was restricted to just 5/6ft :D but still stunning :thumb:



    Anybody else had success with them? :gardening:
     

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  2. bambooruth

    bambooruth Gardener

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    sorry never grown them ,would love to have some but our area doesnt have enought sun and to much rain :gaagh: such stunning plants
     
  3. Aesculus

    Aesculus Bureaucrat 34 (Admin)

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    I've never grown them per se but they self seeded alot at Ventnor Botanics and the gardens are full of them =] I'e collected and cleaned the seed as well it's one of the things I'm going to try when I get back to my own garden!

    unfortuantley I don't have any great photo's although I have this one just before the flowers open I think

    [​IMG]
    Echium pininana by kalmia latifolia, on Flickr
     
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    • Madahhlia

      Madahhlia Total Gardener

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      I did the same as you and grew them in pots for a few years but never got them to flower.They succumbed the first February after planting out. I wouldn't mind trying again, though.
       
    • PeterS

      PeterS Total Gardener

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      Bilbo - nice to see someone else growing Echiums.

      [​IMG]
      This the first E. pininana that has recently flowered for me. Its in its third year and an inch under 6 feet. I have another third year one that hasn't made any attempt to flower, so I am hoping that it will flower next year and be bigger. Do you have any tips on how to get them big? And how long did they take to flower for you?

      [​IMG]
      E. russicum taken a couple of weeks ago. I had flowers last year for the first time, and it appears to be reliably biennial. Actually some survived and flowered again for a second time this year. But I wouldn't rely on them coming back. Last year I had a couple up to 5 feet. But if they branch, because the leading tip dies over winter, they have several spikes but only 2 or 3 feet high. I keep some of these in a cold frame over winter and they didn't seem fazed by the -12C that we had. I gave one to a neighbour and he left it outside with a poly bag over it - it was quite happy. But apparently they do not like winter wet.

      [​IMG]
      E. candicans (syn E. fastuosum), in its second year, has also just started to flower. I understand that this one may be truly perennial. This is a strong grower. It reached this size at the end of its first year, when all the other types of Echium were nothing more than rosettes.

      I also have some second year E. wildpretti and boissieri, but they don't seem inclined to flower yet.

      I love these gooky plants. Are there any other good ones to grow?
       
    • pete

      pete Growing a bit of this and a bit of that....

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      I've not managed to grow a decent Echium outside since 2008, its been too cold the last three winters.
      I get them self seeding all over the place though from previous years.

      I like the russicum Peter.:dbgrtmb:
       
    • Bilbo675

      Bilbo675 Total Gardener

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      I now have three super healthy echiums in 10lt pots and a good 2ft+ across and 2.5ft tall; if only they stayed looking this good after the winter.....
       

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    • PeterS

      PeterS Total Gardener

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      They are looking really great Bilbo. And I do know what you mean about getting them through the winter.

      [​IMG]
      As this seems to be an Echium thread, I am showing above a picture of Echium boissieri, which is the first time I have seen one in flower. This one is a second year plant, but I have other second year plants that didn't flower.

      [​IMG]
      My only E. pininana to have flowered for me (in its third year) reached 6 feet - which is not really trying. So I am trying a new approach of feeding a selection of Echiums every day, to see if I can improve on this. The picture above shows (left to right) wildpretti (2nd year), boissieri (2nd year), pininana (3rd year - in a 50 litre pot) and candicans (2nd year). They are all on the diet. :hapfeet:
       
    • Simon.K

      Simon.K Gardener

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      In the ground they will always be bigger than in pots. I don't grow them myself but one of my customers loves them and hers get up to 9 ft. They self seed every year and she takes her chances with their survival but she seems to have them in the border every year. Her garden is about 100 meters from the sea at Selsey so they go through some very Harsh conditions but seem to cope.
       
    • Bilbo675

      Bilbo675 Total Gardener

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      A small village I used to go on holiday to in Devon had a small wall garden open to the public, they had them flowering to about 10ft outside and they had some in the old victorian greenhouse that must have been 14ft+; they'd taken a piece of glass out to let the flower stick out of the top :D

      They also self seeded freely...

      As well as being a walled garden and a sun trap it was also protected from prevailing winds by a dense pine forest on 2 sides...:thumb:
       
    • PeterS

      PeterS Total Gardener

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      Bilbo - As you said, I suspect what they really need is heat - and thats in short supply in Yorkshire.

      Simon - I would agree that plants in the ground normally do better than ones in pots. However I have one third year Echium in the ground and it's actually smaller that the third year Echium in the 50 litre pot in the picture above.

      I suspect there is a reason why plants in the ground do better, such as more root space, constant supply of food, an even moisture level etc. If only we could identify exactly what a plant needs we might be able to make pot plants grow even bigger. So I have decided to follow a regime of 'extreme gardening' for a few selected plants. In essence this means identifying every aspect that can influence plant growth and optimising it.

      Possible plant requirements are :- (forgive me I am thinking aloud here)

      1) An early and warm start. I have a light box where I can start off seeds in January or even December or earlier, and I have no doubt that this helps plants enormously. In the case of Echiums, one pininana flowered in this, its third year, at 6 feet. But the one in a big pot won't flower till its 4 th year, and is already bigger than the one that flowered. So somehow delaying flowering is like giving them a start of a year earlier. But how do you delay flowering?

      2) Plenty of root space. I am a great believer that plants in big pots grow much larger than plants in small pots. So my pininana is in a 50 litre pot - that's the largest that I can lift.

      3) Heat. This must be the key difference between the UK and the hot countries where tropical plants grow. There is not much that can be done. But I took the decision to move the selected Echiums to the front of the house to a South facing position against a brick wall, which will reflect some heat during the day and hold it at night. If the pots are black and fully exposed to the sun, the compost and hence roots should warm up more than the soil.

      4) Soil. I am not sure of the ideal composition, but a light compost with extra sharp sand for drainage is good for most things. On one Canna site I read that a council would fill the bottom half of the pot with pure manure.

      5) Feed. Plant generally grow better with feed, So I am taking this to the limit by feeding every day. I gather that this really works with Brugmansias and Cannas, but I am not sure about Echiums. There must be plants that grow in dry poor soil and may not like moist rich soil. Heck - this is an experiment.

      6) Daylight. I have read about huge cabbages being grown in Alaska as a result of almost 24 hours of daylight during the growing season. Short of outside grow lights there is not much that you can do. But perhaps the north of the country does have some advantage.

      7) Water. I think Pete said that he has seen Echiums growing in Nevada in the desert, so I am wary of over watering them. But even so, many drought resistant plants grow better with more water. So regular watering is a must.

      8) Insects and disease. Echiums don't seem to suffer from them. But I think 'extreme gardening' would involve preventative spraying for any vulnerable plants.

      Can anyone else think of any aspect that could effect growth. I am determined to hit double figure height with my pininana next year. :wallbang:
       
    • Bilbo675

      Bilbo675 Total Gardener

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      "There must be plants that grow in dry poor soil and may not like moist rich soil. Heck - this is an experiment."

      I have noticed that my plants that are in pots of moist rich compost (the ones pictured) are lovely and healthy but when allowed to dry out a little; conditions they allegedly favour, they start wilting, is this because they adapt to the conditions given to them?

      Also because they are growing in moist rich compost does this make them 'too' happy and perhaps delay flowering long term in favour of the plant producing more and more healthy leaves?

      Questions that will in time be hopefully answered :D :thumb:
       
    • PeterS

      PeterS Total Gardener

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      Bilbo - good point about being too happy and delaying flowering. They always say that a plant under stress tends to flower as a means of preserving the species. So perhaps a happy fat flower will delay flowering.

      I don't think plants can adapt to altered growing conditions - not under a few hundred years or so. But perhaps some plants survive drought because they send roots down 20 feet. In a pot they don't have this option.

      I am trying this experiment, but I also have some controls that I am just treating normally. They are back ups in case I kill my selected plants with too much kindness, but they will also serve as comparisons.
       
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      • pete

        pete Growing a bit of this and a bit of that....

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        Oh blimey Peter, I hope i didn't say this:"-7) Water. I think Pete said that he has seen Echiums growing in Nevada in the desert, so I am wary of over watering them.
        But even so, many drought resistant plants grow better with more water. So regular watering is a must."

        I think that might have been something else.:what:

        Am I right in saying the plant in question comes from the Canary Islands?
        A varying climate I believe, but I've never been there so cant really say.

        I've been growing Echiums on and off for about 20yrs and I would not say they like drought, the opposite in fact, just bear in mind where they grow best in the UK.
        The mild but damper SW parts, in the SE we get more summer heat but its dryer, and colder in winter.

        I've always watered pot plants copiously when in growth and they take up feed like crazy.

        Being monocarpic my aim has always been to feed and water as much as possible in the summer, the bigger the plant before flowering starts the taller the flower spike will be.

        If it takes two years or more a well fed and watered plant will have a bigger spike.

        When growing them outside in my clay soil watering is never a real problem once established, but two summers are normal before flowering for me.

        Pot grown plants will flower when ready, but I've found going over to tomato feed in late summer helps flowering the following spring.
         
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        • PeterS

          PeterS Total Gardener

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          My apologies Pete if you didn't say you had seen Echiums growing in the desert. I am sure someone said they saw them growing just outside Las Vegas. I remember that this implied they were very drought tolerant. And I have seen them described, on the internet, as drought tolerant. I thought of you, being the person who had most experience with them. My apologies.

          You are quite right that they like growing in the South West. I have seen them growing in a garden in Devon.

          Thats very interesting that you said that you fed and watered your pot Echiums heavily. I have been doing it recently, but I have been rather wary. I have never been to the Canaries, but had a mental picture of Echiums growing in poor dry soil. So you have encouraged me a lot.

          I have only ever upped the Potassium feed level as plants (in general) start to flower. It never occured to me that I should do this the summer before with these. You mentioned it in connection with Geranium maderense, and have reinforced it again here. Thats very helpful. :love30:

          I am much encouraged and will continue with my intensive culture.

          One final minor point - Pete. If the growing point of an Echium rots off over the winter, it tends to grow two or three more. But you won't get big spikes if the energy is spread over several of them. If you remove all but one of these extra growing points, will the plant carry on with just one point, or will it waste its energy trying to grow more spikes again?
           
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