These well-behaved, decorative thistle relatives are great for the perennial border. The rugged-looking plants are erect, rigidly branched to 2–4 ft. tall and 2 ft. wide, with coarse, prickly, deeply cut gray-green leaves to 1 ft. long. Their distinctive flower heads are spherical, about the size of golf balls, and they look like pincushions stuck full of tubular metallic blue pins. Globe thistles bloom from midsummer to late fall. Flowers are excellent for dried arrangements; cut them before they open and dry them upside down.
Plants may be offered as E. bannaticus, E. exaltatus, E. ritro, or possibly E. sphaerocephalus. Whatever name you encounter, you’re likely to get a plant closely resembling the general description above. ‘Arctic Glow’ and ‘Star Frost’ have white flowers on 3–4-ft.-tall plants. ‘Blue Globe’ (‘Blue Glow’) has intense blue flowers on 4-ft.-tall plants. ‘Taplow Blue’ has bright blue blossoms on 3–4-ft. stems. ‘Veitch’s Blue’ has darker blue flowers on a plant 2 1/2–3 ft. high.
Grow from divisions planted in spring or fall, or sow seeds in flats or open ground in spring. Provide average, well-drained soil and moderate water. (With enriched soil and regular moisture, may grow too robustly and require staking.) Clump can be left in place, undivided, for years.
Native to much of the northern hemisphere. Flat, basal rosette spreads vigorously by underground runne...
Native to Europe. Plants grow 1–3 ft. tall. Nodding flowers to 2 in. across; short, knobby spurs...
Grows 20 in. tall and wide, with gold and green variegated foliage. You can get selections with blue, ...