The Q&A Archives: pride of maderia

Question: I have a pride of maderia that is 6 feet tall and is 3 years old. It has always given full purple blooms but this year it bloomed guickly and then the blooms turned brown and died. I have always watered very seldom as I thought that was the way to do it, now Im not so sure. What do you suggest? Thanks always...Dave Gale btw I never fertilized it.

Answer: From the sea cliffs of tbe island of Madeira comes a plant that's perfectly suited to the coast and coastal valleys of California-pride of Madeira (Echium fastuosum). A billowy mound in youth, with age it twists into sinuous sculpture. But its finest glory comes in late spring, when spires of electric blue-purple Howers stretch toward the sky.

Although it performs best near the coast, some inland gardeners grow it with good results on slopes or in protected sites. Plants survive cold down to about 15[deg], but lesser frosts in March and later can kill the developing bloom spikes.

Water regularly until the plant is well established, at least once a month or so through the first summer. In following years it should need no water near the coast. Inland, it will need water about once a week throughout every dry season. Pride of Madeira grows and blooms best in full sun and fairly poor, dry soil. In rich soil, it's all leaf and no bloom. Good drainage is a must. You can encourage a sinuous silhouette by thinning out limbs to reveal structure. Or keep old plants compact and bushier by pinching or pruning back branch tips. Even pruned plants normally spread 5 to 6 feet tall and wide. When flowers finish, cut off each stalk and a few inches of foliage below it.

If your plant died suddenly I'd suspect poorly draining soil. There just doesn't seem to be much else that bothers this plant. If you decide to replace it, try adding some organic matter to the soil to ensure excellent drainage.

Best wishes with your landscape!

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