Friday, September 6, 2013

Pride of Madeira

 Echium candicans
Common Name: Pride of Madeira
Family: Boraginaceae
Plant Type: Annual or Biennial or Shrub
Country of Origin: Portugal (Madeira), Spain (Canary Islands)
Zone: 14-24

First encounter
Every year, for one reason or another, we would find ourselves roaming or driving along the coast of California enjoying the wet salty breeze on our skin.  This is what inland-Californians do, I guess.   And almost always, my eyes seem to be awakened and drawn towards an elegant shrub covered with purplish blue flowers flower heads that point to the sky.  The Echium candicans is a very delightful plant overall.  I fall in love with it every time I see it.  I can remember seeing it first a long time ago (before internet was open to everyone) in Carmel while on the 17-Mile Drive.  Looking at it from a distance I knew I saw something good that I wasn't looking for.  From that time on I saw it again many times but it was when my family was visiting the Mission San Luis Obispo that I came very close to the "Pride of Madeira" (its American nickname). The temptation to have this plant rushed all over me that I could not resist to break off a tiny branch from the shrub. Wrapped in a moistened paper towel tucked it in a plastic bag, the branch came home with me.   I gave all the necessary tender care and it rewarded me by showing me some roots and then new leaves grew.  The plant lives!  But when winter came that year, the plant died.   And I didn't even know its name.  

Funnel-shaped flowers are borne on spike-like panicles.

Facts about the Pride of Madeira
It was only when I started working at the nursery that I came to know more about the plant.  I found out that this plant has the following attributes:
  • Large gorgeous plant (5-6 ft tall and 6-10 ft wide)
  • Beautiful purplish-blue flowers from spring to summer float above foliage.
  • Evergreen (green and grey-silver) leaves
  • Attracts butterflies, bees and birds.
  • Drought tolerant in the coastal areas 
  • Tolerates poor soils
  • Deer Resistant
  • Poisonous (all plant parts)
  • Reseeds - it can become a weed if unchecked.

New branches do not grow on old wood. 

Factors to Consider in Growing Pride of Madeira

  • Sun - Full Sun or part shade in hot climates (like mine),
  • Soil - moderately fertile; sand, clay or loam; well-drained soil.  Neutral or alkaline pH.  Rich soils can hinder good flowering.
  • Fertilize during growing period.  No fertilizer is required in winter.
  • Pruning for shape is not necessary.  If you need to prune only within the branches that have leaves.  The plant branch only on new stems.  
  • Deadhead to avoid reseeding.
  • The plant naturally forms into a round shrub.
  • Protect from frost in situ with frost cloth.  Young growths are susceptible to freezing temperature.
  • Potential pests include snails and slugs especially when the shoots are young.

Recently, my family visited Angel Island and again "Pride of Madeira", in full bloom all over the island, captured my heart. (The pictures featured in this post were all taken from the island.) The sad truth is - this plant is not adaptable to my Zone 9 climate.  But I will try to bring her to my garden one more time.

Did you know?  Echium candicans is poisonous.  This is probably why it is deer resistant.  

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