Echium pininana – Giant Viper’s Bugloss
Magnificent, enormous spike of purple/blue flowers is a focal point in any garden.
This is a stunning biennial plant, growing a stem and rosette of leaves to about 1M in the first year, then sending up a flower spike to as much as 4M in the second year. After flowering the plant dies, scattering seeds generously. Varieties with white or red/pink flowers are also available. All varieties are particularly attractive to bees.
E. pininana is endemic to the Island of La Palma in the Canaries, where it is endangered due to loss of habitat to agriculture. Echis is Greek for Viper, and the 1st century physician Dioscoridesbe believed Echium to be a remedy for a viper’s bite. The English name “Bugloss” is given to any member of the Borage family. It is “Giant” by any standards, but especially by comparison to the more common Echium vulgare.
Soil / Aspect:
This plant does not tolerate any but the mildest frosts and should be grown in full sun to flower best. In the wild it grows in poor soils with limited direct competition – so do not allow the seedlings to be overwhelmed by vigorous herbaceous plants nearby.
The trick with this plant is to ensure succession once the flowering plant has died. A good shake of the spent flower head, before you pull it out in late summer, will ensure a profusion of seedlings. Most of the seedlings will be weeded out over time, and you just have to place a few chosen ones where you wish them to flower in two years time.