Small globe thistle, Echinops ritro, is a perennial member of the Asteraceae family that includes sunflowers and globe artichokes.
Also called Southern globe thistle, this wildflower is native to Europe and Asia.
The Echinops group is a broad one with many subspecies, including the blue, E. bannaticus; the great, E. sphaerocephalus; and the tall, E. exaltatus, varieties. The most noteworthy differences among them are color, size of the flower heads, and height.
Some are naturalized across the US, most notably E. sphaerocephalus, which is considered to be a noxious weed in Illinois.
Ornamental and Practical
Small globe thistle is a sturdy and attractive flower. Its compact, round flower heads are approximately one and one-half to two inches in diameter, or about the size of a golf ball. Each one perches atop a spiny-leafed stem.
This plant grows with full sun in dense clumps, reaching over three feet in height. It makes a striking ornamental accent, an eye-catching anchor for smaller foreground plantings, and a stunning monochromatic display when planted en masse.
Small globe thistle is not only attractive, it’s low maintenance too. Once established, its water needs are modest. It’s also drought tolerant, making it a practical choice for xeriscaping, in which plants thrive with minimal care and moisture supplementation.
Please Note: This plant has a thick and lengthy taproot, so be sure to plant it where you want it. Once it takes hold, it may be very difficult to successfully relocate.
E. ritro Plant Facts
- Average to dry soil
- Full sun
- Heights exceeding 3 feet
- Introduced species
- Late summer bloomer
- Zones 3 to 8
Where to Buy
Small globe thistle seeds are available on Amazon from Hirt’s Gardens.
Each package contains 50 seeds for plants with violet-blue flower heads that reach a mature height of between 2 and 4 feet.
A Cut and Dried Winner
E. ritro is a fun plant to grow. Our kids love the whimsical pom-poms, and how they tower over the littlest among them.
And, besides being a great xeriscape plant, it’s a must-have for the cutting garden.
What’s not to love? This plant deserves a place on your garden to-do list, for sure!
You’re going to enjoy small globe thistle, especially late in the summer, when other flowers begin to fade.
There’s no garden project more rewarding than harvesting, and I don’t just mean vegetables and fruit. Arranging foliage from the garden is fun for the whole family, especially when the flowers are an amazing shade of blue.
For enjoyment through the winter months, this flower may be dried for use in decorative arrangements. Please see our article, “Anise Hyssop is a Honey of an Herb in Border Gardens,” for instructions.
We like to hear from our readers. Are you familiar already with the plant featured in this article, or is a new one to you? Tell us about your experiences in the comments section below, and follow us on Facebook for more gardening ideas you can use at your house.
Product photo via Hirt’s Gardens. Uncredited photos: Shutterstock.
About Nan Schiller
Nan Schiller is a writer with deep roots in the soil of southeastern Pennsylvania. Her background includes landscape and floral design, a BS in business from Villanova University, and a Certificate of Merit in floral design from Longwood Gardens. An advocate of organic gardening with native plants, she’s always got dirt under her nails and freckles on her nose. With wit and hopefully some wisdom, she shares what she’s learned and is always ready to dig into a new project!