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Anybody who has been on holiday to the Canary Islands will have probably noticed the flower-heads of this plant growing out of the lush undergrowth. Echium pininana is a stunning plant for any sheltered border providing a tropical touch to the summer. In its first year echium forms a low rosette of silver, hairy, spear-like leaves. The following year it suddenly spurts into growth and produces a single 4m (13.1ft) high flower spike festooned with blue, funnel-shaped flowers. After flowering the plant dies, but not before scattering its seeds. In mild parts of the UK these may germinate where they land, but in colder areas seeds should be sown under glass in spring. Plants flower every second year, so sow seeds every year to ensure a continuous supply of blooms.
Plant type: Biennial
Flower colour: Blue
Foliage colour: Mid-green
Feature: Flowers, Dramatic foliage
Sun exposure: Full sun
Hardiness: Half hardy
Skill level: Experienced
Time to plant seeds: February to May
Echium varieties are a magnet for bees. I grow Echium Pininana and other varieties here in the East Midlands. A good supplier is Echium World where you can buy amazing second year plants on line at www.echiumworld.co.uk
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