Echium wildpretii

Common Name: tower of jewels 
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Boraginaceae
Native Range: Canary Islands
Zone: 9 to 11
Height: 3.00 to 6.00 feet
Spread: 2.00 to 3.00 feet
Bloom Time: May to June
Bloom Description: Coral red to violet
Sun: Full sun
Water: Dry to medium
Maintenance: Medium
Flower: Showy
Attracts: Butterflies
Tolerate: Deer

Culture

Winter hardy to USDA Zones 9-10 where it is best grown in light, dry to medium moisture, well-drained soils in full sun. Thrives in arid and dry conditions. In its native habitat, it typically grows in rocky and volcanically-soiled slopes in cool summers. It tolerates temperatures down to 25 degrees F. Performs well in average soils as long as drainage is superb. Avoid rich or damp soils. Where winter hardy, this plant will remain in the landscape by self-seeding.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Echium wildpretii, commonly known as tower of jewels or red bugloss, is a biennial or short-lived perennial that is native to volcanic slopes on Tenerife Island in the Canary Islands where it is commonly found at elevations of 4,200 to 6,500 feet. It grows as a basal rosette (to 2-3’ wide) of silvery linear-lanceolate leaves (each to 8” long) in the first year followed in the second year (but sometimes not until the third year) by a single, bold flower stalk rising from the leaf rosette to as much as 5-6’ tall topped by a three foot long cylindrical panicle containing hundreds of showy, rich, funnel-shaped, densely-packed, coral-red to violet flowers. Flowers bloom in late spring to early summer in Tenerife. Plants set seed after bloom and then die.

Tower of jewels was awarded the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit in 2002.

Echium is the Greek name for this plant. It is derived from echis which means viper in reference to (a) the nutlet shape which resembles the head of a viper and (b) the ancient medicinal use of the plant root as a treatment for snakebite.

Specific epithet honors Hermann Wilpret (1834-1908), one time curator of the botanic Gardens at Orotava, Tenerife.

Problems

No known serious insect or disease problems.

Garden Uses

Showy biennial for sunny dry locations in Zones 9-11.