How to Grow Echium Plants in your Garden

Gardener's HQ Guide to Growing Viper's Bugloss, Pride of Madeira, and Patterson's Curse

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 candicans
Echium candicans - Pride of Madeira by Mikebaird; creative commons.

Echium auberianum
Echium auberianum - Aubers bugloss by Jörg Hempel.

Echium Growing and Care Guide

Common Names: Viper's Bugloss, Patterson's Curse, Pateroi, Pride of Madeira, Tree Echium.
Family: Boraginaceae.
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.
Flowers: Summer.
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.

How to Grow Viper's bugloss (Echium)

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).

Caring for Echium Plants in the Garden

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.

Common Questions

How many members does the Echium genus have?

The Echium genus contains about 60 species.

Do members of Echium make a good garden or landscaping plant?

Yes, Echium, particularly Tower of Jewels, makes a dramatic addition to a garden with its towering flower spikes.

Which Echium species are most frequently grown by gardeners?

Echium wildpretii (Tower of Jewels) and Echium vulgare (Viper's Bugloss) are often grown by gardeners.

Are members of the Echium plant genus fragrant?

While not typically noted for their fragrance, some species of Echium have a slight scent.

What is the perfect location to grow Echium?

Echium plants thrive in full sun and well-drained soil.

Is Echium invasive in the USA, if so in which states?

Currently, Echium vulgare is considered invasive in certain areas of the western United States.

How do I remove Echium plants from my garden?

Echium can be removed by uprooting the entire plant, making sure to get all roots to prevent regrowth.


The Echium genus consists of flowering plants native to North Africa, mainland Europe, and the Canary Islands. These biennial or perennial plants are appreciated for their stunning spikes of flowers, with species like Echium wildpretii producing towers of red blooms.

Echium plants prefer full sun and well-drained soil. They can be grown from seeds sown in spring or autumn. Despite their tropical origins, many species are surprisingly frost hardy. Their tall flower spikes make them excellent choices for adding height to borders. Be aware, some species can self-seed aggressively and may become invasive.

I hope that you enjoyed this guide on how to grow Echium plants. You may also enjoy the following Gardener's HQ growing guides: How to grow Forget-me-not and Onosma plants.