Members of the Echium genus tend to be half hardy perennials or hardy biennials, but are usually grown as hardy annuals in the garden (as they are short lived).
They are shrub-like in nature and carry brush like flowers of blue, or cup shaped pink flowers (depending on the species) in the summer.
Common names for Echium include Viper's bugloss and Pride of Madeira.
They reach a height of between 30cm and 1.2 m, this makes them ideal edging or border plants.
Echium auberianum - Aubers bugloss by Jörg Hempel.
Common Names: Viper's Bugloss, Patterson's Curse, Pateroi, Pride of Madeira, Tree Echium.
Life Cycle: Half hardy perennial. Hardy biennial. Often grown as a half hardy annual by gardeners.
Height: 48 to 96 inches (120 to 240 cm).
Native: Europe, North Africa.
Growing Region: Zones 1 to 10. As a perennial in zones 9 and 10.
Flower Details: Blue (red stamens), purple, red, pink. Bottle brush-like.
Foliage: Evergreen. Herbaceous.
Sow Outside: 1/4 inch (6mm). Annuals: spring. Perennials: autumn. Spacing 10 to 24 inches (25 to 60cm).
Sow Inside: Use Peat pots. Germination time: one to three weeks. Temperature 65 to 70°F (18 to 21°C). Transplant outdoors a few weeks after the last frost.
Requirements: Full sunlight. Good drainage. Soil pH 6.5 to 7. Regular watering during prolonged dry periods. Does not tolerate frost so supply a winter mulch.
Viper's bugloss and other Echium members should be sown at a depth of 7mm in the spring. Viper's bugloss prefer to be grown in an area that is sunny and has good drainage. Ideally the pH that Viper's bugloss grows in should not be rich and have a pH of 6.5 to 7.
If you first plan to grow Viper's bugloss indoors then they should be prepared about six to seven weeks before they are due to be put outdoors in the middle of spring. It takes from one to three weeks for the seeds of Viper's bugloss to germinate at a temperature of 15 to 21 degrees Celsius. Once ready, they should be transplanted into the garden at a spacing of about 20 cm (small varieties) or 50cm (large).
Viper's Bugloss is easy to look after; they require to be watered during prolonged dry spells. Echium species should be dead headed to stop them scattering seeds as they may take over the garden otherwise.