Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: Globe Thistle
Echinops ritro

Family: Asteraceae (ass-ter-AY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Echinops (EK-in-ops) (Info)
Species: ritro (RIH-tro) (Info)

Synonym:Echinops bannaticus
Synonym:Echinops exaltatus

4 vendors have this plant for sale.

50 members have or want this plant for trade.

View this plant in a garden


24-36 in. (60-90 cm)

15-18 in. (38-45 cm)

USDA Zone 3a: to -39.9 C (-40 F)
USDA Zone 3b: to -37.2 C (-35 F)
USDA Zone 4a: to -34.4 C (-30 F)
USDA Zone 4b: to -31.6 C (-25 F)
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)
USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)
USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)

Sun Exposure:
Sun to Partial Shade


Bloom Color:
Medium Blue

Bloom Time:
Late Summer/Early Fall

Grown for foliage

Other details:
This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds
Drought-tolerant; suitable for xeriscaping
Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater
Self-sows freely; deadhead if you do not want volunteer seedlings next season
This plant is resistant to deer

Soil pH requirements:
5.1 to 5.5 (strongly acidic)
5.6 to 6.0 (acidic)

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
By dividing rhizomes, tubers, corms or bulbs (including offsets)
From seed; direct sow outdoors in fall
From seed; winter sow in vented containers, coldframe or unheated greenhouse
From seed; stratify if sowing indoors
From seed; sow indoors before last frost

Seed Collecting:
Bag seedheads to capture ripening seed
Allow seedheads to dry on plants; remove and collect seeds

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There are a total of 39 photos.
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10 positives
6 neutrals
3 negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Neutral Wini51 On Jul 26, 2012, Wini51 from Norwich
United Kingdom wrote:

The jury is still out on this plant for me. I live in UK & my mum has a huge 6' x 3' wide growing. I was so envious I purchased a pack of seeds and only half germinated. When large enough I planted in back border of flower bed & waited...& waited...& waited. Then they started to grow.
However, as they grew the leaves were curling under & I searched for affids bugs & worms - nothing.
I believe the problem is root damage due to too much water. We have had a year of constant rain & dull weather.
Many other seeds I put into trays either failed or were late terminating, & became leggy & a poor show.
It's so disappointing after so much hard work!
Next year I shall move them to a more drained site & see what happens.
I have 5 flower spikes so may just save the seed & start again.

Neutral jcbenware On Jul 25, 2012, jcbenware from NORTH BANGOR, NY wrote:

I enjoy the flowers that have been there for years but never knew what it was. It grows quite well in my yard.

Positive darylmitchell On Jun 9, 2012, darylmitchell from Saskatoon, SK (Zone 3a) wrote:

Outstanding tall perennial and not invasive in my zone. Mine actually went dormant for a year and I thought they'd died. But they came back vigourously and have bloomed reliably ever since. The steely blue flowers are beautiful, especially against a backdrop of tall ornamental grass like 'Karl Foerster'. The flowers can be cut and dried, and retain their colour for a long time. I leave mine standing during the winter, and the flower heads add interest to the winter landscape.

Negative jclva On Mar 19, 2012, jclva from Salem, VA wrote:

Incredibly invasive in my zone 7 garden; it reseeds everywhere and seedlings appear throughout the spring and summer. The roots are very deep, so unless you pull it when it first appears, it's a devil to get out. This plant should have warnings against it.

Positive 705Muskoka On Jul 30, 2010, 705Muskoka from Huntsville
Canada wrote:

I've had this plant since 2001 in Muskoka, Ontario (zone 4). I planted it in a garden that runs along a cedar hedge. I allow the hedge to grow as it wishes, so it is now 20 feet high. The thistle grows to five feet and I now have 11 flower stocks. I have no problem with it spreading, I think because of the tree roots and the fact that it doesn't get a lot of water. (We have very sandy soil, which I have amended as well as I can) The tap root is very deep and trying to give someone a piece doesn't always work. I agree that seeds is the way to go. The hummingbirds stand guard and fight over this plant once it has bloomed, which on July 30 it just did. I love the colour against the hedge.

Negative Btic On Jun 25, 2010, Btic from Ann Arbor, MI wrote:

Echinops reseeds prolifically. Helping a sister in her 4 year old bed dozens were pulled from every hole in the barrier fabric not packed to extreme. The tiny young plants have rounded tips while the thistle weed has more pointed leaf tips. Cutting off flower heads is NOT enough. Next year we will learn if irradication may leave room for new plants. Echinops needs to come with a forewarning about its invasiveness.

Neutral lehua_mc On Mar 25, 2010, lehua_mc from Portland, OR (Zone 8b) wrote:

I sowed these from seed last spring, delicately called "Platinum Blue Flower" by Seed Savers Exchange. I was excited by the audacity of the flowers and vaguely threatening foliage. As a perennial, they were slow to start and slow to grow, topping out before a frost at small 1' mounds. I could say they didn't have the best germination rate for me, or I could say I might have weeded a good many since they looked for all the world like a something you really didn't want. Thankfully they outgrew that phase, and are now coming out of winter dormancy as quite the lookers. Since I saw how large the mature plants could get in the neighborhood, I'll be transplanting them to the back of a hot dry bed this spring. You have to like the foliage for its own, because the flowers are pretty small compared to the onslaught of the plant itself.

Positive JanFRN On Aug 29, 2007, JanFRN from St. Albert
Canada wrote:

I put one of these in my original front flowerbed in 2003. I live in Zone 3a with fairly heavy clay soil. This year the monster is as tall as my daughter, who is 5'6" tall, and is a good four feet across. I've put a peony ring in for it, but it's not enough. I view this plant positively because it makes a dramatic statement in my yard and needs no attention. I'm going to dig up the babies and give them to my coworkers.

Positive bmuller On Jul 2, 2007, bmuller from Albuquerque, NM (Zone 7a) wrote:

I'm really enjoying this plant. I started it from seed three or four years ago and now have two big, healthy, blooming plants (all I really have room for in my small yard). So far, it hasn't been invasive at all; but it's planted densely with some other large plants--knautia macedonica, catananche, etc.--so maybe it just can't get a toehold.

The globes are beautiful in the garden and in the vase, and they dry nicely, too, retaining their shape, texture, and color for a long time. I love that steely blue.

Positive Ladyfern On Sep 20, 2006, Ladyfern from Jeffersonville, IN (Zone 6a) wrote:

This is a wonderful texture plant. The foliage and flowers are both striking.
If starting seed in a seed-tray, choose one with really deep cells. The seedlings need a lot of root room to get started.

Positive Gabrielle On Jan 16, 2006, Gabrielle from (Zone 5a) wrote:

I love these flowers. The plant itself looks wicked, and most people mistake them for a vicious weed. When the flower is forming, it reminds me of a toy I had when I was little - Bristle Blocks. I have had a hard time transplanting them; it is easier to just plant some seeds, which readily germinate. My information says it is hardy in zones 2-9.

Positive bigcityal On Dec 7, 2005, bigcityal from Menasha, WI (Zone 5a) wrote:

This plant is something different, sort of a texture plant. The leaves to flower ratio is probably high to grow just for flowers.

Neutral flowercrazy39 On Aug 26, 2005, flowercrazy39 from Manchester, NH wrote:

I planted it last year and haven't seen a bloom yet so we'll see this year. We're entering September and I'm still waiting!

Neutral Shorebilly On Jul 15, 2005, Shorebilly from New Milton, WV (Zone 6a) wrote:

A purple version of this plant grows wild in my area. It appears to grow under various conditions, Full Sun, Part Sun, & it seems to tolerate shade. Found on hillsides and upland meadows, but not around wet areas (near creeks/streams/runs). Also seems to be quite drought tolerant.

Freely self seeding, I do not consider it to be invasive, I just mow over them.

Neutral lmelling On Nov 5, 2004, lmelling from Ithaca, NY (Zone 5b) wrote:

As a dried flower for use in arrangements, I love this flower, however, it will not grow for me - anywhere it seems - in my gardens. It's probably the fact that we have heavy clay soil that tends to stay moist, and wet in some areas - although all area's I tried this plant in were well drained.

I planted 3 plants in 1999, amended the soil in one of my gardens in back where the soil stays more on the average to moist side. With only average rainfall, they grew nicely and I was able to harvest lots of flowers. Two of them started to die back a little when the fall turned rainy. The following spring, only one came back - feebly, then died during the rains in early summer.

The following year I tried planting two more in another location that was drier, again with the same result. Finally, in 2003 I again purchased 1 plant and put it into a front garden that has well drained garden soil (trucked in) in which I grow many of the annuals I cut for drying. Again, it died out over the summer. So, I've given up on this plant and will buy a package of the globe thistles, 'cause they just don't want to grow for me!

I believe the problem here is our climate - Ithaca tends to get strings of cool rainy weather or rain followed by a number of sunless days. I think it's possible that were we to have a sunnier climate, this plant might have made it.

Positive Heartnsol57 On Jul 26, 2004, Heartnsol57 from Lansing, MI wrote:

This plant took 2 years to bloom for me. I love it. I have 4 of them. And from what I have been reading, I will have more(to share).

Positive jhyshark On Jul 18, 2004, jhyshark from Scottville, MI (Zone 4b) wrote:

One of my favorites for the back row! Fills in nicely, and I love those prickly blue balls in July. They actually are softer than they look. I love to just carefully feel of them too. The stems and leaves are prickly, but not painfully so like some of the wild thistles. It's not invasive here, 4b in sand.

Negative shortcm On Jul 17, 2004, shortcm from Wilmington, DE (Zone 7b) wrote:

This is an unusual color and structure, so it's a conversation piece. I loved it the first year. But, thereafter it became a royal pain. I am typically tolerate of "invasive" plants, but this one I ditched. It has so many blooms, and they become sharp, it's too much for me to deadhead thoroughly. It has long, thick, tough tap roots at least 3 times it's height. So, even 1-2" small babies are hard to uproot. Like dandelions, if you don't get the whole root, you've wasted your effort, it'll come back. It even thrives in the cracks of my cement driveway, and if left, will be impossible to get out (I don't use herbicides, but that may work). I've been trying 2 years to get rid of it.

Positive kooger On May 24, 2004, kooger from Oostburg, WI (Zone 5b) wrote:

I enjoy this plant very much. New gardeners love the blue globes and this one sends off enough babies that I share every spring. It gets about 3 1/2 ft. tall with no special care. Deadhead if you don't want babies. Mine is 5-6 yrs. old and is a clump close to 2 ft. wide now.


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

Centre, Alabama
Englewood, Colorado
Wilmington, Delaware (2 reports)
Jacksonville, Florida
Cordele, Georgia
Chicago, Illinois
La Grange Park, Illinois
Mount Prospect, Illinois
Washington, Illinois
Bloomington, Indiana
Jeffersonville, Indiana
Warren, Indiana
Inwood, Iowa
Barbourville, Kentucky
Frankfort, Kentucky
Salvisa, Kentucky
Litchfield, Maine
Westford, Massachusetts
Dearborn Heights, Michigan
Grand Rapids, Michigan
Lansing, Michigan
Ludington, Michigan
Mason, Michigan
Scottville, Michigan
Tecumseh, Michigan
Traverse City, Michigan
Minneapolis, Minnesota
Morris, Minnesota
Saint Paul, Minnesota
Florence, Mississippi
Dover, New Hampshire
Manchester, New Hampshire
Plainfield, New Jersey
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Elephant Butte, New Mexico
Elmira, New York
North Bangor, New York
Wallkill, New York
Belfield, North Dakota
Hamilton, Ohio
Lewis Center, Ohio
Newark, Ohio
Newalla, Oklahoma
Chiloquin, Oregon
Eugene, Oregon
Portland, Oregon
Johnsonburg, Pennsylvania
Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania (2 reports)
North Scituate, Rhode Island
North Augusta, South Carolina
Franklin, Tennessee
Vonore, Tennessee
Essex Junction, Vermont
Linden, Virginia
Nellysford, Virginia
Roanoke, Virginia
Olympia, Washington
Port Townsend, Washington
Seattle, Washington
New Milton, West Virginia
Menasha, Wisconsin

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