Globe Thistle Echinops ritro L.

👤 Non-toxic to humans
🐾 Toxic to pets
🌸 Blooming
🍪 Not edible
‍🌱 Easy-care
small globe thistle


The plant known as the globe thistle is a striking and sculptural perennial that is easily recognized by its unique spherical, spiky flower heads. These flowers are usually a deep, steel blue color and are quite attractive to butterflies and bees. The blooms are held aloft on stems which are sturdy and branching, commonly showcasing a greyish-green hue. Surrounding these blooms, the foliage is deeply lobed, with leaves that can have a somewhat prickly feel to them. The leaves are typically a silvery-green, giving off a slightly metallic sheen. The overall appearance of the globe thistle is one of drama and intrigue, with the contrast of the bold flower heads against the softer, textured leaves creating quite a statement in any garden setting. The striking blue blooms of the globe thistle can add a rare color and structural diversity to garden environments.

Plant Info
Common Problems

About this plant

  • memoNames

    • Synonyms

      Globe Thistle, Southern Globethistle, Blue Globe Thistle.

    • Common names

      Echinops ritro subsp. ruthenicus (Fisch. & C.A.Mey.) Nyman, Echinops ruthenicus Fisch. & C.A.Mey.

  • skullToxicity

    • To humans

      The plant Echinops ritro L., commonly known as globe thistle, is not typically known for being poisonous to humans. There is limited information about its toxicity, and it is generally considered to be safe when touched or handled. However, like many plants, it may cause irritation or allergic reactions in some individuals, particularly if they have sensitive skin or allergies to certain plant families. Ingesting parts of the plant is not commonly reported, and there is little documentation on the consequences of ingestion. As with any non-food plant, it is not advisable to eat globe thistle, and doing so could potentially cause stomach discomfort or other digestive issues.

    • To pets

      Globe thistle is not widely recognized as a toxic plant to pets. However, the spiny leaves and stems can cause physical irritation if pets come into contact with them. While the risk of toxicity from ingestion seems to be low, ingestion of plant material by pets, especially in large amounts, can lead to gastrointestinal upset, such as vomiting or diarrhea. It is always prudent to prevent pets from ingesting garden plants as a precautionary measure, since individual animals might have specific sensitivities or reactions. If a pet is suspected of having ingested globe thistle and is showing signs of distress, it is advisable to consult a veterinarian.

  • infoCharacteristics

    • Life cycle


    • Foliage type


    • Color of leaves


    • Flower color


    • Height

      2-4 feet (60-120 cm)

    • Spread

      1-2 feet (30-60 cm)

    • Plant type


    • Hardiness zones


    • Native area



  • money-bagGeneral Benefits

    • Attracts Pollinators: Echinops ritro, commonly known as globe thistle, is known for attracting bees, butterflies, and other beneficial insects, which can help pollinate your garden.
    • Drought Tolerance: Globe thistle is highly tolerant to drought conditions, making it an excellent choice for xeriscaping and low-water gardens.
    • Low Maintenance: This plant requires minimal care once established, with little need for watering, fertilizing, or pruning.
    • Deer Resistant: Its spiny leaves make the globe thistle resistant to deer browsing, which can be an asset in areas with high deer populations.
    • Long Blooming: Globe thistle has a long blooming period, providing visual interest in the garden from mid-summer to early fall.
    • Architectural Structure: The unique spherical blue or violet flower heads add architectural interest to landscape designs.
    • Cut Flowers: The globe thistle's flowers are excellent for fresh or dried floral arrangements due to their distinctive shape and long-lasting qualities.
    • Soil Adaptable: It is capable of growing in a range of soil types, including poor soils, increasing its versatility for different garden settings.
    • Erosion Control: The deep root system of the globe thistle can help stabilize soil and control erosion on slopes or in areas with loose soil.
    • Wildlife Habitat: The plant can provide a habitat and food source for various insects, contributing to local biodiversity.

  • medicalMedical Properties

    • Anti-inflammatory: Echinops ritro, commonly known as the globe thistle, is sometimes used in traditional medicine for its anti-inflammatory properties.
    • Diuretic: The plant has been used to promote urine production and act as a diuretic.
    • Liver protection: There is some suggestion that globe thistle has hepatoprotective effects that may protect the liver from damage.
    • Antimicrobial: Echinops ritro may have antimicrobial properties against certain microorganisms.
    • Analgesic: The plant has been associated with pain-relieving properties.

  • windAir-purifying Qualities

    This plant is not specifically known for air purifying qualities.

  • leavesOther Uses

    • Echinops ritro, commonly known as globe thistle, is often used in dried flower arrangements because of its distinctive spiky appearance and long-lasting qualities when dried.
    • The globe thistle is considered a good choice for xeriscaping, a landscaping style that requires minimal irrigation, due to its drought tolerance.
    • The silver-gray foliage and standout blue flowers make Echinops ritro a striking addition to moon gardens, which are designed to be enjoyed in the evening and at night.
    • Gardeners sometimes use the globe thistle as a natural barrier due to its spiny foliage, which can deter small animals and unwelcomed foot traffic.
    • The flowers of Echinops ritro can be used to produce a natural blue dye for textiles and crafts.
    • This plant can act as an indicator species for calcareous (chalky or lime-rich) soil conditions, assisting gardeners and ecologists in soil assessment.
    • Echinops ritro, with its height and structure, serves as excellent architectural plants creating visual interest and vertical accents in garden design.
    • The plant's unique texture and form can inspire artists and sculptors, who may incorporate its shape into their works.
    • Globe thistle is a valuable addition to pollinator gardens due to its appeal to bees, butterflies, and other beneficial insects.
    • In some cultures, the stems of Echinops ritro have been used in traditional basket weaving and other fiber arts.

Interesting Facts

  • bedFeng Shui

    Globe thistle is not used in Feng Shui practice.

  • aquariusZodiac Sign Compitability

    Globe thistle is not used in astrology practice.

  • spiralPlant Symbolism

    • Uniqueness: The globe thistle, as Echinops ritro L. is commonly known, is distinctive in its appearance, with spherical blue flower heads and spiky leaves, symbolizing the beauty of being unique or standing out from the crowd.
    • Independence: The plant's ability to thrive in poor soils and resist drought reflects a spirit of self-reliance and independence.
    • Protection: With its thorny exterior, the globe thistle can represent defense and the need to shield oneself or others from harm.
    • Attraction: Despite its spiky appearance, bees and butterflies are attracted to the globe thistle's flowers, which can symbolize attraction to the unique or unconventional.
    • Mystery: The intricate design of the flower heads can evoke a sense of mystery or the unknown, much like the depths of the ocean or the vastness of space.

Every 1-2 weeks
2500 - 10000 Lux
Every 2-5 years
Spring-early summer
As needed
  • water dropWater

    Globe thistle, or Echinops ritro, prefers to be watered deeply but infrequently, allowing the soil to dry out between waterings. During the growing season, watering once a week with approximately 1 to 1.5 gallons per plant should suffice. It's important to reduce watering during the fall and winter to prevent root rot, adjusting to about 1 gallon every two weeks, depending on the climate and rainfall.

  • sunLight

    Globe thistle thrives in full sun and will bloom best with at least 6 hours of direct sunlight daily. The ideal spot for this plant is in an area that receives unobstructed sunlight throughout the day, avoiding shady spots to encourage healthy growth and flowering.

  • thermometerTemperature

    Globe thistle is cold-hardy and can survive temperatures as low as 0°F but thrives best when the temperature ranges between 60°F and 75°F during the growing season. It can tolerate summer heat up to 90°F, making it suitable for various temperate climates.

  • scissorsPruning

    Pruning globe thistle is necessary to remove spent flowers and encourage new blooms. It's best to deadhead the flowers after they fade in late summer or early fall. Additionally, cut back the entire plant to ground level in late fall or early winter as the plant goes dormant.

  • broomCleaning

    As needed

  • bambooSoil

    Globe thistle thrives in well-drained soil with a pH range from 6.0 to 7.5. A mix of garden soil, sand, and compost is ideal, ensuring good drainage while providing adequate nutrients.

  • plantRepotting

    Globe thistle does not need to be repotted often as it prefers to be left undisturbed; repotting every 3-4 years or when it outgrows its current container is sufficient.

  • water dropsHumidity & Misting

    Globe thistle tolerates a wide range of humidity levels and does best with average room humidity, without the need for any special humidity adjustments.

  • pinSuitable locations

    • Indoor

      Place in bright light, minimal watering.

    • Outdoor

      Full sun, well-drained soil, drought-tolerant.

    • Hardiness zone

      3-8 USDA.

  • circleLife cycle

    Echinops ritro L., commonly known as the globe thistle, begins its life cycle as a seed which, when conditions are right—usually in spring—germinates in the soil. The seedling emerges and develops into a rosette of spiny, deeply lobed, grey-green leaves during its juvenile phase. As the plant matures, it develops a stiff, upright stem and reaches the vegetative growth stage. Throughout the summer, the globe thistle enters the flowering stage, producing distinctive spherical blue or violet flower heads that are highly attractive to pollinators. After pollination, the plant sets seeds that are dispersed by wind, allowing for the completion of its reproductive cycle and the potential establishment of new plants. The globe thistle is a perennial plant, so it will die back to the ground in the winter and re-sprout from its rootstock the following spring.

  • sproutPropogation

    • Propogation time

      Spring-early summer

    • The Echinops ritro, commonly known as the globe thistle, is most popularly propagated through seed sowing. This is typically done in spring after the last frost when the soil has warmed up, which provides an optimal environment for seed germination. To propagate Echinops ritro by seed, one would scatter the seeds directly onto a well-draining soil mix and lightly cover them with a thin layer of soil. Regular watering is essential, but it should be done in a way that keeps the soil moist without causing waterlogging. Seedlings usually emerge in a few weeks, and once they have grown large enough to handle, they can be transplanted to their final positions in the garden. This method is preferred for its ease and effectiveness in producing new plants that are true to the parent's characteristics.