Well-behaved, decorative thistle relative for the perennial border. Rugged-looking, erect, rigidly branched plant 24 feet tall and 2 feet wide, with coarse, prickly, deeply cut gray-green leaves to 1 feet long. Distinctive flower heads are spherical, about the size of golf balls; they look like pincushions stuck full of tubular, metallic blue pins. Bloom mid-summer to late fall.
Plants may be offered as Echinops bannaticus, .E. exaltatus, Echinops humilis, Echinops ritro, or possibly Echinops sphaerocephalus. Whatever name you encounter, you're likely to get a plant closely resembling the general description above. 'Arctic Glow' and 'Star Frost' have white flowers on 34 feet-tall plants. 'Blue Globe' ('Blue Glow') has intense blue flowers on 4 feet-tall plants. 'Taplow Blue' has bright blue blossoms on 3- to 4 feet stems. 'Veitch's Blue' has darker blue flowers on a plant 212 3 feet high.
Grow from divisions in spring or fall, or sow seed in flats or open ground in spring. Provide average, well-drained soil and moderate water. Clump can be left in place, undivided, for many years. Flowers are good for dried arrangements; cut them before they open, and dry them upside down.