Pride of Madeira
I’m seeing a lot of these in Pacific Grove:
First and foremost is the perennial shrub called pride of Madeira, Echium candicans or Echium fastuosum, which sports gorgeous cone-shaped flower spikes this time of year. You’ll see these plants blooming profusely from now through May.
Their flower spikes, each of which contains thousands of individual blossoms, attract butterflies, bees and hummingbirds in droves. You’ll see them not only in blue, but in many shades of purple and lavender, as well as a dusty pink.
Pride of Madeira, which can be found in gardens and along roadsides all over the Central Coast, is native to Portugal’s Madeira Island. Because it flourishes in Mediterranean climates and likes dry conditions, it is perfectly suited to our part of California.
In fact, pride of Madeira does best when left alone, preferably in poor soil and with little water — a lazy gardener’s dream. Rich soil and too much moisture are actually detrimental to the plant and can kill it. Some sources say it doesn’t do well in clay soil, and too much shade will keep the plant from blooming.
Pride of Madeira reseeds freely and so it’s easy to get babies if you have a friend with mature plants. Plants also can be started from cuttings. They’ll require occasional water during the first summer in order to get established, but after that need little or no care.
The only caveat with pride of Madeira is that the plants tend to get very large very fast. They can easily grow 10 feet tall and 10 feet wide within two to three years. Experts recommend pruning or pinching back once or twice during the year to maintain shape and keep the plant from getting lanky.