Globe Thistle

This perennial's blooms add a splash of purplish-blue color to gardens and flower arrangements.

Globe Thistle Overview

Description The globe thistle resembles a weed until bloom time when the plant explodes with perfect steely blue spheres. They're beautiful in the garden, but these peppy little pop-poms also make pretty cut flowers in fresh arrangements. Snip a few for drying, too, and you can enjoy globe thistle long after the growing season.
Genus Name Echinops
Common Name Globe Thistle
Plant Type Perennial
Light Sun
Height 1 to 3 feet
Width 1 to 2 feet
Flower Color Blue
Foliage Color Blue/Green, Gray/Silver
Season Features Summer Bloom
Special Features Attracts Birds, Cut Flowers, Good for Containers, Low Maintenance
Zones 10, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9
Propagation Division, Seed
Problem Solvers Deer Resistant, Drought Tolerant

Color Combinations

Globe thistle offers one of the most beautiful blue colors in the plant world. The spherical flowers start as spiky balls atop long stems. As each steel blue bud opens, the spheres become covered in star-shaped, sky-blue blossoms. When they are fully open, these blossoms will bring in all sorts of pollinators. If you are planning on drying globe thistle, the best time to cut them is just before they open.

Even the foliage of globe thistle is unique. While the plant may look like a weed when young, its coarse texture can add a unique look to the garden. The soft green leaves have bright white undersides, creating a bicolor effect.

Globe Thistle Care Must-Knows

This hardy perennial doesn't just tolerate poor soil conditions, it prefers dry soils with little organic matter. In sites that are too rich, globe thistle can struggle. It also needs full sun; any amount of shade will likely result in floppy plants. Too much shade will discourage blooms on the plants, as well as a looser plant habit.

These plants produce a lot of seeds as they finish up their flower show, which means there's a good chance that they will self-seed in your garden. If you're worried about them overtaking, deadhead the spent flowers before they have time to scatter their seeds. However, you will miss out on some lovely late fall interest, as the globes look stunning when kissed with morning frost.

More Varieties of Globe Thistle

01 of 05

'Blue Glow' Globe Thistle

globe thistle Echinops bannaticus 'Blue Glow'
Peter Krumhardt

Echinops bannaticus 'Blue Glow' is a seed-propagated variety that grows 4 feet tall with deep blue globes of flowers in midsummer. Zones 5-9

02 of 05

Small Globe Thistle

Globe Thistle
Peter Krumhardt

Echinops ritro grows 2-3 feet tall. Its silvery leaves resemble those of a thistle. Spiny globe-shaped flowers open slivery-blue and mature to bright blue. Cut them just before they fully open to dry them. Zones 3-9

Globe Thistle Companion Plants

03 of 05

Coneflower

detail shot of purple coneflower echinacea blooms with butterfly resting on petals
Greg Ryan

Purple coneflower is so easy to grow and attractive and draws so many birds and butterflies that you simply must grow it, if you have the room. Valued for its large sturdy daisy-like flowers with dropping petals, this prairie native will spread easily in good soil and full sun. It is bothered by few pests or diseases. It's a great cut flower—bring in armloads of it to brighten the house. And birds and butterflies love it. Allow it to spread so that you have at least a small stand of it. Let the flowers go to seed and the goldfinches will love you, coming to feast on the seeds daily. Butterflies and helpful bees also love purple coneflower. It used to be that rosy purple or white were the only choices in flower color. Recent hybrids have introduced yellow, orange, burgundy, cream, and shades in between.

04 of 05

Coreopsis

Coreopsis verticillata 'Zagreb'
Scott Little

One of the longest bloomers in the garden, coreopsis produces (usually) sunny yellow daisy-like flowers that attract butterflies. Coreopsis, depending on the variety, also bears golden-yellow, pale yellow, pink, or bicolor flowers. It will bloom from early to midsummer or longer as long as it's deadheaded.

05 of 05

Yarrow

yellow yarrow (Achillea), purple Penstemon
Tim Murphy

Yarrow is one of those plants that give a wildflower look to any garden. In fact, it is indeed a native plant and, predictably, it's easy to care for. In some gardens, it will thrive with almost no care, making it a good candidate for naturalistic plantings in open areas and along the edges of wooded or other wild places. Its colorful, flat-top blooms rise above clusters of ferny foliage. The tough plants resist drought, are rarely eaten by deer and rabbits, and spread moderately quickly, making yarrow a good choice for massing in borders or as a groundcover. If deadheaded after its first flush of blooms fade, yarrow will rebloom. If left to dry on the plant, flower clusters of some types provide winter interest. Flowers of yarrow are excellent either in fresh or dried arrangements.

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