Tips for Growing and Caring for Globe Thistle Plants: A Comprehensive Guide

Tips for Growing and Caring for Globe Thistle Plants: A Comprehensive Guide

Globe thistle plants, scientifically known as Echinops, are hardy perennials that are native to Europe and Asia. They are prized for their unique globe-shaped flower heads and attractive foliage. These plants thrive in well-drained soil and are perfect for adding texture and color to your garden or landscape.

There are several types of globe thistles, including the Echinops ritro, Echinops bannaticus, and Echinops sphaerocephalus. The most popular species is the Echinops ritro, also known as the ‘Scottish thistle’. It has stiff, spiky blue flowers that fade to a beautiful grayish color as they mature.

Globe thistle plants are relatively easy to grow and care for. They prefer full sun to partial shade and require minimal watering once established. These plants can tolerate a variety of soil types, including sandy and clay soils. However, they do not like to be overwatered, so it is important to make sure the soil dries out between waterings.

When it comes to planting globe thistle, it’s best to space them around 2 to 3 feet apart to allow for their spread. They have creeping roots, so be sure to give them enough space to grow. You can start globe thistle plants from seeds, or you can purchase young plants from nurseries or online sources.

Globe thistle plants are generally healthy and resistant to pests and diseases. However, they can occasionally be affected by aphids or mealybugs. If you notice any signs of infestation, you can treat the plants with neem oil or other natural insecticides.

When it comes to pruning globe thistle plants, it is generally recommended to prune them back in late winter or early spring. This helps to maintain their shape and prevent them from becoming leggy. Simply cut down the old flower stems to the ground, taking care not to damage the emerging new growth.

Overall, globe thistle plants are a beautiful addition to any garden or landscape. Their unique and eye-catching flower heads will surely become a focal point in your outdoor space. Whether you choose to grow them for their beauty, as a foodplant for butterflies, or to attract bees and other pollinators, globe thistle plants are a worthy addition to your garden.


– Alan Titchmarsh: How to garden – Garden plants and flowers that attract bees (2012)

– Carlina vulgaris (2004)

– Robertson, Stuart (2007). The Nature of the Cairngorms: Diversity in a changing environment

How to Grow and Care for Globe Thistle

Globe thistle, scientifically known as Eryngium, is a group of flowering plants that belong to the Apiaceae family. Among the most common species are Eryngium alpinum, Eryngium planum, and Eryngium bourgatii. These plants are native to Europe and are popular in gardens for their unique globular flower heads.

Globe thistle is a hardy perennial that is easy to grow. Here are some tips on how to grow and care for globe thistle plants:

  1. Choose the right location: Globe thistle prefers full sun but can tolerate some partial shade. It thrives in well-drained soil and can even grow in sandy or loamy soil. Make sure to space the plants around 12 inches apart to allow for proper air circulation.
  2. Prepare the soil: Before planting, amend the soil with organic matter like compost to improve drainage and fertility.
  3. Planting: Dig a hole slightly larger than the root ball of the plant. Place the plant in the hole, making sure the crown is level with the soil surface. Backfill the hole and gently tamp down the soil around the plant.
  4. Watering: Globe thistle is somewhat drought-tolerant, so water sparingly. Once established, they only need occasional watering. Avoid overwatering as it can lead to root rot.
  5. Fertilizing: Fertilize globe thistle plants once in late spring with a balanced fertilizer. Avoid over-fertilizing, as it can cause excessive leafy growth at the expense of flowering.
  6. Pruning: Remove faded flower heads to encourage new growth and prolong the flowering season. Cut back the stems to the basal rosette in late fall or early winter to help the plant overwinter.
  7. Overwintering: Globe thistle is hardy to USDA zone 4 and can withstand cold temperatures. However, providing a layer of mulch around the base of the plants can help protect the roots during extreme cold. In colder regions, consider growing globe thistle as an annual or dig up and store the plant’s root crowns in a cool, dry place.
  8. Pest and disease control: Globe thistle is generally pest and disease resistant. However, keep an eye out for aphids, spider mites, and powdery mildew. If necessary, treat the plants with an appropriate insecticide or fungicide.
  9. Propagation: Globe thistle can be propagated from seeds or by division. To collect seeds, let the flower heads dry on the plants, then shake or rub them to release the seeds. Sow the seeds in spring or fall. To propagate by division, use a sharp knife to separate the plant into smaller clumps, making sure each division has roots.

Globe thistle is a low-maintenance plant that adds texture and interest to gardens. Its unique globe-shaped flower heads make it a perfect addition to cottage gardens, prairie-style landscapes, or even xeriscapes. Whether you choose the species Eryngium planum or the more commonly known Eryngium alpinum, globe thistle will be a striking feature in your garden.


Globe Thistle Care

Globe thistle, also known as Echinops, is a group of flowering plants that are commonly grown as perennials. These plants produce unique and visually striking globular flower heads, making them a popular choice for gardeners.

When growing globe thistle, it’s important to find a suitable location. They prefer full sun but can tolerate some shade. Globe thistle plants grow best in well-drained loam soil, with a pH range of 6.0 to 7.0.

To start growing globe thistle plants, you can either sow the seeds directly in the garden or start them indoors. If you choose to start them indoors, sow the seeds in a seed-starting mix about 8-10 weeks before the last frost date.

Once the seeds have germinated, you can transfer the young plants to larger pots or directly to the garden. If transplanting, make sure to space the plants about 3-4 feet apart to allow for their spreading growth habit.

Globe thistle plants require regular watering, especially during the growing season. However, be careful not to overwater them as they are prone to root rot. Water them deeply once a week, or more often during hot and dry weather.

Feeding globe thistle plants is not necessary, as they are generally low-maintenance. However, you can apply a balanced fertilizer once or twice a year to promote healthy growth.

One common issue that gardeners encounter with globe thistle plants is powdery mildew, a fungal disease. To prevent this, make sure to provide good air circulation by spacing the plants adequately and avoiding overcrowding.

Globe thistle plants are generally pest-free, but they might attract some pests like aphids or mealybugs. Keep an eye out for any signs of infestation and treat as needed.

In terms of pruning, you can remove spent flower heads to encourage continuous blooming. Additionally, it’s a good idea to cut the plants back in late winter or early spring to promote new growth.

Globe thistle plants are deer-resistant, making them a great option for gardens where deer are common. However, keep in mind that they can be toxic to cats and dogs if ingested.

Overall, globe thistle is a lovely addition to any garden. Its unique appearance, resistance to deer, and relatively low maintenance make it a favorite among gardeners worldwide.


Echinops, commonly known as globe thistle, is a plant that thrives in full sun or partial shade. It prefers at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day, but can tolerate some shade in the afternoon. In colder climates, globe thistle plants may benefit from full sun exposure to help them grow and bloom to their full potential.

If you are propagating globe thistle from sets, you should be looking for a sunny spot in your garden. The plants can grow up to 3 feet in height and will benefit from as much sunlight as possible. Globe thistle plants can also tolerate some light shade, especially in hotter climates.

When grown from seed, globe thistle plants require full to partial sun to germinate properly. The seeds need light to sprout, so make sure they are not covered by too much soil when planting.

In terms of watering, globe thistle plants prefer well-drained soil and do not tolerate wet feet. They are drought-tolerant once established, but may benefit from regular watering during hot, dry periods, especially in southern regions. It is best to water deeply and infrequently rather than shallowly and frequently, as this will encourage deep roots and help the plant withstand periods of drought.

Globe thistle plants are relatively pest-free, but they can attract aphids and other common garden pests. If you notice any insect infestations, you can try to control them by spraying the plant with a mixture of water and dish soap or using a commercially available insecticidal soap.

Some gardeners also recommend using a slow-release fertilizer in early spring and again in mid-summer to help globe thistle plants grow and maintain their overall health. However, keep in mind that globe thistle plants can thrive in poor soil conditions and may not require fertilizer at all.

In terms of care, once globe thistle plants are established, they require very little maintenance. You can deadhead the faded flowers to encourage more blooms, but leaving the spent flowers on the plant can be useful for slender purposes, as they add texture to the garden. In the fall, you can leave the basal foliage in place to provide winter interest.

In conclusion, globe thistle, or Echinops, is a native flowering plant that thrives in full sun or partial shade. It prefers well-drained soil and can tolerate some shade in hotter climates. These plants are relatively low-maintenance once established and can add texture and interest to your garden.

✿ Read More: Gardening Tips and Advice.

Dr Heidi Parkes

By Dr Heidi Parkes

Senior Information Extension Officer QLD Dept of Agriculture & Fisheries.