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Saturday, 30 August 2008

How to grow a Triffid

Actually, it's an Echium Pininana x Wildpretii hybrid but not a lot of people know the difference!

  • In February, sow seeds on the surface of moist multipurpose compost in a 5" pot and cover with 1/4 inch more. Or sprinkle vermiculite.

  • Put somewhere warm (80F)

  • Check for germination daily. Easy and probably less than 2 weeks

  • Grow on in a frost free light place (EG, unheated greenhouse)

  • Plant out after your last frost date (or earlier under a cloche)

  • Choose a sunny position

  • Severe frost *next* winter may kill it. A position in front of a huge west-facing wall works well for me

  • Dry sandy infertile soil is Ok.

  • Protect from slugs and snails for a few weeks

  • Can feed it with poultry manure pellets

  • May attract munching caterpillars - I kill them

  • By Autumn, it should have grown to about 4' tall and 2' across.

  • If frost/snow threatens, cover with a fleece jacket

  • Sometime before April in the second year, tie it to a 2"x2" stake about 5' high about a foot from the stem.

  • Expect to see growth in April

  • Grows several inches a day during May and starts flowering. May reach 15'

  • Flowers, grows a little more and attracts bees through to end of October.

  • I cut mine down in late October because it had fallen over.

Other points

  • Handle with gloves. The hairs could be nasty.

  • It's sort of biennial but in less than ideal conditions it might take another year apparently.

  • It's monocarpic (Dies after flowering)

  • Staking is definitely needed in my loose sandy soil. It just started leaning without one.

  • Top might snap off in enough wind.

  • There are several other Echiums of various sizes including the small Echium Vulgare.
  • Disposal isn't too difficult