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PlantFiles: Tower of Jewels
Echium wildpretii

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Family: Boraginaceae
Genus: Echium (EK-ee-um) (Info)
Species: wildpretii (wild-PRET-ee-eye) (Info)

Synonym:Echium bourgaenum
Synonym:Echium wildprettii

4 vendors have this plant for sale.

27 members have or want this plant for trade.

Category:
Biennials
Tropicals and Tender Perennials

Height:
4-6 ft. (1.2-1.8 m)

Spacing:
24-36 in. (60-90 cm)

Hardiness:
USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)
USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)
USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 C (30 F)
USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 C (35 F)
USDA Zone 11: above 4.5 C (40 F)

Sun Exposure:
Full Sun

Danger:
Handling plant may cause skin irritation or allergic reaction

Bloom Color:
Red

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

Foliage:
Herbaceous

Other details:
This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds
Drought-tolerant; suitable for xeriscaping
Self-sows freely; deadhead if you do not want volunteer seedlings next season
This plant may be considered a protected species; check before digging or gathering seeds
This plant is monocarpic
This plant is resistant to deer

Soil pH requirements:
6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)

Patent Information:
Non-patented

Propagation Methods:
From seed; sow indoors before last frost
From seed; direct sow after last frost

Seed Collecting:
Bag seedheads to capture ripening seed
Allow pods to dry on plant; break open to collect seeds

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There are a total of 56 photos.
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Profile:

6 positives
1 neutral
No negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

RatingAuthorContent
Positive dserrano77 On May 1, 2013, dserrano77 from Chapel Hill, NC wrote:

Last year I got one from Annie's annuals on a lark. We had a relatively mild winter in Chapel Hill, NC (zone 7/8 boundary), but there were several weeks with lows in the low 20s F / highs in the 30s-40s F and plenty of winter moisture. There were also a few nights that dipped into the upper teens. The plant made it through the winter unscathed and is preparing to flower. I suspect that if positioned properly this plant is hardier than commonly thought.

Positive All_Is_HIS On May 3, 2012, All_Is_HIS from Stockton, CA wrote:

I spent a lot of time researching this plant to find out it's name and orgin. We have 2 plants over 9 ft tall and they are certainly amazing. They almost look like something out of a fairytale book. Upon my research (not knowing anything about this plant) we grew by seedling and amazingly sprouted these 2 plants. I took pictures and sent them to various nurserys and bingo we got a hit and we were told they were called echium wildpretii, "tower of jewels". They attract bees lot's of them- after reading these post we will save the seeds and try to grow more, lot's more. They began to flower around March temperature around 60's to 70's full sun. These plants are a sight to see and neighbors have come over to inquire of them and of course the name fits well "tower of jewels"!

Positive IRC On Feb 28, 2012, IRC from Concord, CA (Zone 9b) wrote:

First time I grew this plant it was a volunteer from some nursery dirt I picked up. I was going to pull it but decided to see what it would turn into. Glad I did. It ended up being just over 10' tall and covered in flowers. It attracted both bees and hummingbirds however the hummingbirds didn't spend much time at the plant because it seemed like the bees kept annoying them. There were so many bees that at times we could hear them buzzing around the plant from inside the house with the windows shut. I did not water it during its lifecycle and it didn't seem to be affected by any pests. A wonderful carefree plant. I've grown it every year since in various places in my yard with great results. Seems to do well in all soils, with and without watering though it does seem to grow taller in more fertile soils and when it reseeds.

Neutral echiumfan On Oct 28, 2011, echiumfan from Matthews, NC (Zone 7b) wrote:

Zone 7b

I currently have sprouts of echiums Pininana, wildpretii and fastuosum growing in my garage. So far so good. Is anyone else in zone 7b growing this plant? I would like to know what works and what doesn't. Failure is not an option. All comments are welcome.
12/26/2012
Well "failure" showed me a thing or two as I watched in horror as one by one my Echium turned grey and died. I suspect humidity and/or a fungus. Out of 12 only 4 survived. I lost all my Pininanas. Only Pride of Madera and Wildpretii are left. This is their year to bloom so I am excited. The Pride of Madera I collected seeds from one located at the Golden Gate Bridge. Very special.

Positive MEHGardener On Jul 25, 2009, MEHGardener from Spokane, WA wrote:

My dad grew this plant in Redwood City, CA in the Sixties. It was a traffic stopper. Thousands of seeds were produced -- they grew into beautiful, tall biennual plants. J. Hudson Seedsman, in Redwood City, carries the seeds. I tried them a few years ago here in Spokane, WA and got nothing. I may try again as they are just gorgeous. Try eremurus lilies in the north if you want something similiar that will survive colder weather. It's not the same but they too are lovely!

Positive birdgrrl On Jul 3, 2007, birdgrrl from North Highlands (Sacto), CA (Zone 9a) wrote:

I started these from seed early summer of last year. The ones I planted out died in the killer frost even with mulch. The smaller ones in pots lived on the patio (covered nightly) over the winter and were planted out in mid-March this year. They have branched out and spread into 3' X 3' plants, but have not flowered yet. I started them last year knowing they were biennials. I grew one about 8 years ago, but it did not branch out; just grew straight up. The stalks have to be staked well or they fall over. People stopped in the street to look at it. Words cannot describe how beautiful it is. It makes tons of seeds, and they were easy to start. When it blooms, I will send a pic.

Positive palmbob On May 5, 2005, palmbob from Acton, CA (Zone 8b) wrote:

This is an amazing plant when it finally flowers (guess that happens every other year)- I have seen these grey, tall, weird plants at the Huntington gardens for several years... most have fallen over by this time of the year, but this time they finally flowered. Amazing. Grown in the drought tolerant garden, I assume these plants are extremely drought tolerant.

I finally obtained a small plant, about 1' in diameter (looked a bit like a puff ball- nearly a complete sphere) in a gal pot. Planted it in the cactus garden and it barely grew over the following 12 months... but then, in April the following year, it shot up, growing over 1" a day and is now, only 6 weeks after it started growing, about 6' tall and an impressive tower of flowers, arranged on unfurling flower stalks that are themselves arranged in a spiral pattern around the plant. Bees are swarming this thing and it's quite a sight. Sadly I know it will die soon after, but perhaps seed will germinate and it will show up somewhere else?

It rained late in the season (May) and the plant was obviously too top heavy to deal with it... and crashed. Recommend, if you water this plant (and it's extremely drought tolerant so no need to when flowering normally), don't water the crown/flowering part of the plant.

These plants appear to monocarpic... all flowering individuals are dried up deceased skeletons just 2 months later... so how do they reproduce?

Here's how: later in the year- once flowers done, they dry up, and the entire tower usually falls over (I staked mine up however). The flower parts dry up and turn brownish, and all end up having a small black seed in the middle of them, about 1-2mm in size. I guess as they fall, the seeds are dispersed (or eaten) and they spread that way.

I cut off the flowering portion of my plant, since the part below seemed healthy still, and I wanted to see if it would live another year and flower again. To my surprise, it did flower again, but middle of the summer. I am sure the entire plant is a goner, now, but if you don't mine haveing a hacked off tower in your yard for a few months longer, you might get a second flowering out of your plant.

Sure enough, by the end of August I had to dig up the carcass and toss it. However, literally thousands of seeds have fallen in the cactus garden... we'll see if any of them make it.

A few years later I can report that once this plant is in your garden (at least in my zone), it is ALWAYs in your garden... seeds fly all over and invariably another few grow up the next year (they have an annoying ability to grow in other plant pots or places I don't particularly want one, though).

If you have one in the wrong spot, I have learned through trial and error (all error, it seems) that transplanting these always leads to plant death. Neither I, nor any of my colleagues in this area of southern California have had any success moving one of these, seedling or adult. It's almost as if the root is even touched, or a hair is disturbed- death will follow. So when these show up where I don't want them, I no longer try to move them somewhere else. Just dig them up and toss them... seems such a waste though. If anyone has success transplanting one of these, let me know.

A word of caution: the dried flower parts are worse than cactus spines; do NOT handle them without gloves or some protection. They easily penetrate skin and are very difficult to remove and quite irritating. 'They' are gazillions of itty bitty little spines that aerosolize as well as adhere to all skin surfaces... so breathing with protection might be recommended, too, when removing one of these dead stalks.

Regional...

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

Anthem, Arizona
Apple Valley, California
Arcata, California
Arroyo Grande, California
Benicia, California
Brentwood, California
Calistoga, California
Clayton, California
Concord, California
Davis, California
Emerald Lake Hills, California
Encinitas, California
Fairfield, California
Ferndale, California
Granite Bay, California
Jamul, California
Lompoc, California
Mckinleyville, California
Mission Viejo, California
Moss Beach, California
North Highlands, California
Reseda, California
Richmond, California
San Jose, California
San Leandro, California
San Marino, California
Santa Clara, California
Sebastopol, California
Stockton, California
Sutter Creek, California
Vista, California
Winters, California
Wailuku, Hawaii
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Austin, Texas



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