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How to remove dead Echiums

A beginner’s guide to avoiding problems…

What problems, you might say? If it’s dead, cut it down and pull it out.

Basically, yes, but these mighty plants pack a punch if handled wrongly and have the capacity to annoy for years.

Herbaceous Echiums are monocarpic – in layman’s terms, if they grow from a big rosette of leaves, they die after they flower.

They can live for two or three years depending on conditions – I had one E. pininana that lasted for four before deciding to flower. E. pininana (tree Echium) and E. wildpretii (Tower of Jewels) fall into this group.

Shrubby types (branched stems) are short-lived perennials, such as E. candicans, or the Pride of Madeira.

Here’s my potted guide to a trouble-free burial…

The class of 2018…

Dress appropriately

Wear stout gloves, long trousers and sleeves and a cap. Avoid any fleecy or furry-type garment. The dead flowers and seedpods catch in absolutely anything, including your hair.

Invite a friend

The plants are so tall it’s a two-man job, especially if one of yours was angled into the greenhouse like mine. Also, it’s better to have control so the seeds don’t go everywhere.

Avoid allergic reactions

The tiny hairs on the stem and leaves are an irritant, hence the full body armour.

Tools at the ready

You’ll need secateurs, loppers and a pruning saw. Work from the top down – place a tarpaulin under the plant unless you want millions of Echium babies seeding themselves everywhere (they will anyway – this is damage limitation). Cut through the main roots with a saw to make lifting the stump easier.

Avoid the compost heap – or gravel path

Either of these will become an Echium nursery. I made the mistake of taking one down single-handed, leaving the entire trunk to crash down the path. I pick new plants out every day.

And don’t fall over… that’s me trapped in the fruit bed after another epic tumble!

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Mandy Watson is a freelance journalist and an incurable plantaholic. MandyCanUDigIt grew from the tiny seed of a Twitter account into the rainforest of information you see before you. Gardening columnist for the Sunderland Echo, Shields Gazette and Hartlepool Mail and editor of the Teesdale Mercury Magazine. Attracted by anything rebellious, exotic and nerdy, even after all these years. Passionate about northern England and gardens everywhere. Falls over a lot.

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