Globe thistle is a perennial plant that has a stunning personality and makes a grand statement in any garden.

Its scientific name is Echinops ritro and it produces steely blue globe flower heads the size of golf balls. The blooms begin in mid-summer and continue for weeks attracting bees and butterflies.

Plant height is 2 to 4 feet and the foliage is glossy green with silver grey undersides. The unusual color and shape add texture and contrast to a garden. The flowers are hermaphrodite — having both male and female organs — and are pollinated by insects.

Select a planting site in full sun that you won’t have to disturb because these plants have long tap roots. The tap roots make it a good choice for dry areas and like the true thistles along the roadsides, globe thistles flourish in poor and dry soils. Another attribute is deer don’t find them tasty.

We started globe thistles from seed fifteen years ago and they still are thriving in our border. The blue globe blossoms are great cut flowers for bouquets and they also dry very nicely for use in dried arrangements. They will re-seed readily if the weather conditions are just right. To keep them in control, dead head the flowers when their color starts to fade.

If you are looking for an enchanting, trouble-free perennial that bees and butterflies find irresistible, deer don’t eat, and once established are remarkably carefree, I highly recommend Echinops. Plant these blue globe thistles with yellow or white flowers and you will have a show-stopping area in your garden.

Readers ask:

“How often should I have my soil tested?” Take a soil test of new gardens as soon as the ground thaws. Retest the soil in established gardens every three to five years.

“Where can I get my soil tested?” Your local University Extension Office will give you information about how to take a sample and where to send it for analysis. It will take a little over a week to get the results. There is a nominal fee for soil testing.

“Why should I get my soil tested?” Using chemical fertilizers every year can increase pollution as well as waste money so it is wise to know what nutrients your soil has and what might be used to improve it. Testing eliminates guesswork.

“Can I test the soil myself with one of the soil testing kits I see for sale?” I don’t have experience using one of these kits. I recommend using the University for soil testing. The Soil Testing  and  Research Analytical Laboratory at the University of Minnesota provides a high level of analytical precision, quality and accuracy with timely results.   

Sharon Quale is a master gardener from central Minnesota. She may be reached at (218) 738-6060 or

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