Red Feathers in the Garden: Echium amoenum

Echium amoenum 1 Bill AdamsRed feathers (Echium amoenum) is one of the most interesting perennial introductions in years. It has a very structural, architectural quality to it, with straight flower spikes somewhat resembling our native Liatris punctata, but blooming much earlier in May. I’ve combined the unique russet-red flower spikes and growth habit of red feathers with the bright yellow flowers and low spreading habit of Genista lydia. In another garden I have it with a prickly pear cactus variety named ‘Claude Barr Plum’. It’s also a beautiful accent for other, more water loving plants, such as Purple Smoke Bush (Cotinus coggygria).

The spikes will reach a height of about 14 inches. I’ve never had any blooms lean or flop over unless the plant is actually stepped on (it happens!). It has a tuft of dark green basal foliage that only reaches about 8 inches across. It will rebloom throughout the season if the old flower spikes are removed. Red Feathers has been in one of my gardens at Legacy Ridge Golf Course in Westminster since 2006. While it doesn’t seem to be strongly perennial, it does reseed occasionally, so you may want to leave a couple of spikes of flowers/seeds to mature.

Red Feathers is from the Caucasus Mountains. It will tolerate a wide variety of conditions. I grow it in a heavy clay soil amended with sand and pea gravel. The garden is bordered on one side by a rock wall, one side by a sidewalk and the other by asphalt. Through the summer months it is watered about once a week, otherwise the clock is off and it is watered on an “as needed” basis. I grow it in full sun. It will tolerate partial shade and it will also tolerate more water. Red Feathers will be a great addition to your garden!

View the plant profile here or see the video here.

Red Feathers (Echium amoenum)
Height: 12-16” inches
Width: 6-10” inches
Blooms: May to frost (if deadheaded)
Sun: Full sun or part shade
Soil Moisture: Moderate to xeric (Little to no irrigation needed once established.)
Hardiness: USDA zones 3-9
Culture: Clay, sandy soil or loam

Thanks to Shalene Hiller, City of Westminster, for writing this piece.

17 responses to “Red Feathers in the Garden: Echium amoenum”

  1. Nick Trotter says:

    I love this plant. I have two, and would like more. Do seeds need to be stratified or over-wintered to germinate? Thanks!

  2. Ron Headings says:

    They do well even in northern Ohio with loam soil and lots of rain. The only trouble is they tend to come up in a lot of places where you don’t want them. My plants have increased from about 3 to about 40 over the course of five years. Beautiful flowers.

  3. Cindy Fong says:

    Do they bloom the first year? I bought a little box of them at a greenhouse early this spring. They are still very small.
    (Western Pennsylvania)

  4. Mary says:

    It says here to deadhead the plants, but not HOW to deadhead them. Can you please explain the appropriate way to deadhead the red feather flowers? Thank you!

    • Ross Shrigley says:

      Cut the flower stalks all the way down to the large foliage towards the bottom. You’ll have to wait until most if not all the little flowers are spent on the flower stalk. You could also collect the seed when they are brown and disperse the seed into another part of your garden if you’d like. Enjoy!

      • Amy says:

        Is deadheading the same as pruning?
        I am wondering if I cut the stalks that are brown will more stalks grow in its place throughout the summer?

        • Ross Shrigley-Plant Select says:

          Yes, for the most part. Pruning usually implies a focus on plant structure while deadheading is just pruning off the spent flowers so more flowers will bloom. Preventing flowers from going to seed can “trick” those plants into producing more flowers. Enjoy!

  5. Andrew Rottner says:

    Hey Ross!
    I planted two Red Feathers that I picked up at the flower bin in Longmont, and they seem to look a little off. They grew massively high, and have not shown any color yet. See below, any thoughts??

    • Ross Shrigley says:

      Great to hear from you Andrew! Glad to know you’re buying more PS plants! Send photos to I’m guessing that there is not enough light in the back corner there, so it grew high and did not bloom properly. It could also be being eaten by grasshoppers if you have a lot of them. They’ll strip it down to the stem.

  6. Kris Spencer says:

    I have two plants in Palmer Alaska Zone 3. They are not commonly sold and I found mine at a greenhouse in Homer. They looked interesting and I’m always looking for something out of the ordinary in perennials. I’ve had them about 4-5 years now and they always come back. But this year, am moving them to a different location so we’ll see. The comments here are very helpful as well.

  7. Killer Marmot says:

    Mine seem to be highly perennial. I’ve had one plant for five years, with many “children” now all around it.

  8. Bonnie says:

    It is the end of August, my friend brought me Echium, red feather, she said it has not bloomed, I would like
    to collect seeds from it, it is not fringe looking up the stalks it has solid little nodules on it, one stalk
    has a few red blossoms on it, how can I tell if it has gone to seed.
    Thank you. Bonnie

    • Ross Shrigley-Plant Select says:

      When the flower stalks dry out, they will turn dark brown or almost black. There will be seeds throughout those stalks. Stripe off spent flowers onto the ground and press them into the soil with your shoe or bucket. They will come up the following year.

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