- Author: Erin Mahaney
One of my favorite volunteers in my yard is the aptly named Tower of Jewels, Echium wildpretii. I first saw one of these beautiful rose-colored towers while living in San Francisco and was smitten. When I moved to Solano County, I planted one in my front yard and have enjoyed the volunteers ever since.
Tower of Jewels is a biennial species of Echium that forms a silvery-gray, narrow-leaved rosette approximately 1-2 feet wide in the first year. The second year, the plant forms a single spike that can range from 5 to 8 feet tall (in my experience, the height seems to depend somewhat on whether the plant is watered). At full bloom, the spike is covered with hundreds of small rosy pink to almost red blossoms. It’s spectacular! Plus, bees love it.
After blooming, the plant sets seed and can self-sow year after year. Each year or two, I find a volunteer in my yard that, if left undisturbed, will eventually send up a beautiful flower spike. The plant is drought tolerant and I never both to water any volunteers. The seeds don’t seem to spread far and any unwanted seedlings are easily hoed up. (However, I am keeping an eye on the California Invasive Plant Council’s inventory at www.cal-ipc.org to make sure that this species isn’t becoming an invasive problem.)
It is a delightful surprise to find a small silvery rosette in my yard, knowing that the following spring I’ll have a Tower of Jewels to enjoy.