Echium wildpretii [EK-ee-um, wild-PRET-ee-eye] is a biennial flowering plant with tall rosettes of leaves and colorful inflorescences.
This Echium plant is native to the Canary Islands, where it thrives in dry, arid conditions with lots of sunlight.
Echium wildpretii belongs to the large Boraginaceae family of plants along with the Pride of Madeira (Echium candicans).
It’s also acquired several common names, including:
- Tower of jewels
- Red bugloss
- Mount Teide bugloss
- Tenerife bugloss
The former two names come from the regions where it grows.
It’s not the easiest plant to cultivate, requiring special care to achieve fuller blooms.
Tower Of Jewels Care
Size & Growth
Echium wildpretii is a short-lived plant, typically lasting two or three years before dying out.
During the first year, it produces a dense rosette of green leaves.
The leaves are thin, measuring about 2” to 3” inches wide and up to 8” inches long.
The leaves are typically green but may develop a silvery hue.
Flowering and Fragrance
- The flower spikes arrive during the second year and occasionally during the third year.
- The single stalk rises from the center of the leaf rosette and may reach up to 6’ feet tall.
- The top of the spike features a dense cylindrical panicle with hundreds of funnel-shaped flowers.
- The flowers are violet or coral-red and densely packed.
- The bloom typically comes in late spring or early summer.
- After the flowers wilt, the plant sets its seeds and dies.
Light and Temperature
Grow Echium wildpretii in full sun. It thrives in dry, arid regions where it stays warm throughout most of the year.
It’s recommended for outdoor growth in USDA hardiness zones 9 to 10, which includes most of Mexico and the southern tips of the U.S. border.
If grown as a houseplant, it should be brought outside during the warmer months, especially between June and August.
The outdoor exposure to sunlight helps bring out the colors in the inflorescences.
Watering and Feeding
Echium wildpretii doesn’t require lots of water except during the summer.
It grows best with dry to medium moisture.
During the warm summer months, water the plant regularly.
Scale back on watering as the temperatures drop.
Established plants require less water and become more drought tolerant.
To help increase growth during the first year, add liquid fertilizer when watering throughout the summer.
Soil and Transplanting
Use well-drained soil to ensure the soil doesn’t remain too damp.
Cactus soil or succulent soil works best.
To increase the drainage of regular soil, combine one part sand with two parts of soil.
As the plant doesn’t live long, it rarely needs transplanting.
Cut back the flowers after the seeds ripen when propagating the plant.
Wait for the seeds to fall to the ground.
How to Propagate Echium Wildpretii
Echium wildpretii self-propagates by seed.
After the flowers wilt, the plant lays hundreds of small seeds.
The scattered seeds allow the life cycle of the plant to continue after the mother plant dies.
To propagate by seed, wait for the seeds to fall or collect them before they fall.
- Tying plastic bags around the seed pods allows them to ripen without scattering to the ground.
- After the seed pods ripen, remove them and allow them to dry.
- Rip open the pods and collect the seeds.
- Sow seeds outdoors at the start of spring or use starter trays indoors several weeks before the last threat of frost.
- Sow in standard potting soil combined with sand.
- Keep the soil moist until the seedlings appear.
- After a few leaves develop, transplant the young plants to their permanent homes.
It’s also possible to propagate the offsets.
In the spring, search the ground around the plant for seedlings from the scattered seeds.
Carefully remove the young plants.
Transplant them to containers or permanent spots in the garden.
Echium Wildpretii Pest or Disease Problems
Outdoor plants may suffer from slug damage during the first year.
Use slug bait to protect the plant.
Indoor plants are prone to spider mite and whitefly infestations.
Maintaining higher humidity helps keep the pests away.
If the mites or flies appear, use an insecticide or sprays of water to remove them.
Other issues to consider include spread and toxicity.
The fast-growing Tower of Jewels has become an invasive species in some areas, including California.
The roots quickly spread and may crowd out other plants.
All parts of the plant are also considered toxic.
While the effects are not considered life-threatening, ingesting any part of the Tower of Jewels may cause nausea and severe discomfort.
Skin irritation may occur when touching the foliage.
Use gloves when handling the plant to avoid exposure.
Suggested Tower Of Jewels Uses
Tower of Jewels is a showy plant adding lots of color to gardens in the late spring and early summer.
The short-lived Echium wildpretii is also an interesting houseplant, offering several years of colorful growth before dying.