A truly dramatic garden plant, a close relative of borage, it produces the most spectacular tall flower spikes seemingly from nowhere in summer.
Despite its common name of 'Pride of Madeira', it is hardy in the UK down to -5C or so, particularly where it is drier in winter. It is biennial, so needs one cold winter after germination to flower - so these plants will flower in their first year and beyond.
Once your echium has established and flowered, it will self-seed prolifically and, unless we have a really harsh winter, you will never have to plant another as you will always have plenty of seedlings!
E. candicans will grow to around 1m (3ft) in its first year, then in its second, it produces its magnificent flower - in milder areas the plants keep growing all year around and, after a frost-free winter, you will see enormous flower spikes. Expect flowering spikes in July or later.
Although plants are hardy when kept dry, leaves can still be damaged by frost and cold winds, and the cold will kill plants that are in wet ground, so protect plants over winter with fleece or similar product.
A common sight in Cornwall as well, Echiums are best grown in very well drained soils, or in large pots with plenty of sand or grit for drainage. When it does grow in spring, keep it well watered between May and August as it grows quickly.
Echiums self-seed over a small area, and once these seedlings have germinated and over-wintered, they too may flower away, and a little colony will appear. Truly spectacular and one of the best plants that you can grow to attract pollinating insects into your garden.
After flowering, the stalk will quickly brown and die off but don't be in a hurry to cut it down until the autumn to allow the seeds to disperse.