Echinops sphaerocephalus

Common Name: great globe thistle 
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Asteraceae
Native Range: Southern and central Europe to Russia
Zone: 3 to 9
Height: 2.00 to 3.00 feet
Spread: 2.00 to 3.00 feet
Bloom Time: June to August
Bloom Description: White
Sun: Full sun
Water: Dry to medium
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Naturalize
Flower: Showy, Good Cut, Good Dried
Attracts: Butterflies
Tolerate: Drought, Dry Soil

Culture

Easily grown in average, consistently moist, well-drained soils in full sun. Tolerates a wide range of soils, including poor dryish ones, as long as the soils are well-drained. Plants may be grown from seed and will self-seed in the garden if not deadheaded. Deadheading the flowers will extend the bloom period, however. Once the taproot has matured, this plant is very difficult to transplant or divide without seriously damaging the taproot. Plants may be trimmed to the ground in late fall or left as is for winter interest.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Echinops sphaerocephalus, commonly known as great globe-thistle, is a bold, woolly-stemmed perennial in the thistle tribe of the composite (sunflower) family. It is native to meadows, fields, rocky brushy places and disturbed habitats in Europe and western Asia, but has been introduced in other places around the world including North America where it has naturalized over time in a number of locations in Canada from Quebec to Saskatchewan and in the U.S. from Maine to Minnesota south to Illinois, Kentucky and Virginia plus Wyoming, Colorado, Washington, Oregon and California.

Upright-branching gray stems typically rise to 3’ tall and to 2-3’ wide, but infrequently in the wild soar to as much as 4-7’ tall. Stems are clad with coarse, glandular, sinuate-pinnatifid, deeply dissected, thistle-like, green to gray-green leaves (to 14” long) which have spiny-toothed margins and white tomentose undersides. Each stem is topped in summer (late June- August) with a showy, thistle-like, spherical inflorescence (to 2” diameter) filled with lilac-white disk florets (rays absent). Fruits are hairy cylindrical achenes (1/3”) which ripen from September to October.

Genus name comes from the Greek words echinos meaning a hedgehog and ops meaning appearance in reference to the flower heads.

Specific epithet comes from the Greek words sphaera meaning round and kephalos meaning head in reference to the flower heads being of spherical shape.

Problems

No serious insect or disease problems. Taller stems may need staking, particularly if grown in rich, fertile soils.

Garden Uses

Sunny borders, cottage gardens. Accent or small groups.