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PlantFiles: Miss Willmott's Ghost, Giant Sea Holly
Eryngium giganteum

Family: Apiaceae (ay-pee-AY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Eryngium (er-RIN-jee-um) (Info)
Species: giganteum (jy-GAN-tee-um) (Info)

5 vendors have this plant for sale.

17 members have or want this plant for trade.


36-48 in. (90-120 cm)

12-15 in. (30-38 cm)

USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 C (-20 F)
USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 C (-15 F)
USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 C (-10 F)
USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 C (-5 F)
USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)
USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)
USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)
USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)

Sun Exposure:
Full Sun

Plant has spines or sharp edges; use extreme caution when handling

Bloom Color:
Medium Blue

Bloom Time:
Late Spring/Early Summer
Mid Summer
Late Summer/Early Fall


Other details:
Drought-tolerant; suitable for xeriscaping
Self-sows freely; deadhead if you do not want volunteer seedlings next season
Flowers are good for cutting
Flowers are good for drying and preserving

Soil pH requirements:
6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)
7.6 to 7.8 (mildly alkaline)

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
From seed; direct sow outdoors in fall

Seed Collecting:
Allow seedheads to dry on plants; remove and collect seeds

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3 positives
1 neutral
1 negative

Gardeners' Notes:

Positive coriaceous On Jul 4, 2013, coriaceous from ROSLINDALE, MA wrote:

Beautiful and subtle. Most sea hollies have conspicuous spiny blue bracts, but this ones' are green and silver. So far my plants have been under two feet tall.

Biennial, but mine have self-sown as advertised. Eryngium seed are notoriously ephemeral, so most purchased seed is hard to germinate. I started with a purchased plant. I've allowed two seedlings to live, and the first to reach bloom is a little over a foot high. Perhaps it will be taller under more favorable conditions---it only gets a few hours of direct sun. Or perhaps it is a seed strain bred for compactness.

If you're wondering how it got its common name, Ellen Wilmott (1858-1934) was an influential and famously eccentric English horticulturist who exhausted her substantial inheritance on her gardens. She was known to scatter seeds of Eryngium giganteum surreptitiously when visiting others' gardens, whose owners would later wonder where these plants had mysteriously come from---a ghost of her presence.

Neutral lehua_mc On Oct 9, 2010, lehua_mc from Portland, OR (Zone 8b) wrote:

Impatiently, I tried to start seeds of this Sea Holly outside in spring, even though all sources, including Botanical Interests, couldn't ensure results. Then we had a very wet spring, and cool summer, and not a ghost of a seedling. These are popular in the area, so, now that it is fall, I shall try my hand at it again.

Positive hortensia On Jun 29, 2006, hortensia from Langley, BC, BC (Zone 8b) wrote:

thank goodness there are lots of gardening styles!!! I love all eryngia and this biennial form is a favourite. Its true it sows itself around, but that just means it puts itself in some places I wouldn't have thought of. A fabulous dried plant and an essential in a silver border!

Negative PurplePansies On Jun 6, 2005, PurplePansies from Deal, NJ (Zone 7a) wrote:

I think Eryngiums this one included are HIGHLY overrated. I don't think they look like much. Maybe its compared to the lushness of flower and the like in NJ but Eryngium here just looks sort of bare and odd and not all that showy. They get alot of attention these days and alot of raves reviews but I still believe they're an acquired (and I've acquired a taste for other things but not this) taste. Don't be surprised if you plant them and are dissapointed.

Positive ladyannne On May 3, 2005, ladyannne from Merced, CA (Zone 9a) wrote:

One of the most unusual plants. I sold eight babies at a flea market within an hour. I can't WAIT to see it bloom.


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

, British Columbia
Merced, California
San Leandro, California
Dover, Delaware
Roslindale, Massachusetts
Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania
Ogden, Utah

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