Eryngium variifolium

Common Name: variable-leaved sea holly 
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Apiaceae
Native Range: Northern Africa
Zone: 5 to 9
Height: 1.00 to 1.50 feet
Spread: 0.75 to 1.00 feet
Bloom Time: June to August
Bloom Description: Grayish-blue
Sun: Full sun
Water: Dry to medium
Maintenance: Low
Flower: Showy
Leaf: Colorful
Tolerate: Drought, Dry Soil, Shallow-Rocky Soil


Easily grown in dry to medium, gritty, well-drained soils in full sun. Tolerates some light shade. Tolerates poor soils. This is a taprooted plant that transplants poorly and is best left undisturbed once established. Plants do not spread. Foliage is evergreen in warm winter climates. May be grown from seed.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Eryngium variifolium, commonly called Moroccan sea holly, is a clump-forming, evergreen perennial that is perhaps best noted for its glossy, white-marbled foliage and its thistle-like grayish-blue flower heads. This is a somewhat coarse plant that features basal rosettes of oblong, cordate-based, serrate, dark green leaves (to 2” long) that are marbled with white. Smaller, spiny-lobed stem leaves. Tiny, grayish-blue flowers tightly packed into egg-shaped heads (umbels) resembling thistles appear in summer in branched clusters at the top of stiff, branching stems rising from the centers of the basal rosettes to 12-16” tall. Each flower head is subtended by a narrow, spiky collar of pale blue bracts (to 1” long).

Genus name comes from an ancient Greek name used by Theophrastus for a plant which grew in Greece (probably Eryngium campestre) or is a Greek reference to the prickly or spiny nature of plants in this genus.

Specific epithet means variable foliage.


No serious insect or disease problems.


Rock gardens, borders and beds. Perhaps best massed or in small groupings.