The Alpine man litter is a blue thistle, which belongs to the perennials. The plant has its home in Central Europe and can therefore also be found in many local gardens. Especially in near-natural cottage gardens, it is a popular perennial, as it is also a real magnet for bees, bumblebees, and other insects. But also stone or prairie gardens are the right location. The care is also very easy if this is done according to the right instructions because the perennial plant is very frugal and copes well with many soils, especially calcareous ones.
Name: Eryngium alpinum
also called a blue thistle or noble thistle
Origin: Mountains in Central Europe
Growth height: up to one meter high
blue to purple round flower daggers
Flowering time: July and August
has small spines
prefers lime-rich soils
Extremely advantageous: the blue thistle copes well with both dryness and little fertilizer and forms its beautiful blue thistle flowers again every year. The up to one meter high growing noble thistle is a great attraction in the garden for bees and bumblebees, but also other insects such as butterflies. As a very high-growing perennial, it can also form a small privacy screen around a seat or replace a small fence over the summer months. In the colder months, however, it should be cut back according to instructions, so that new, long stems with beautiful blue flowers can form next year. It is possible to cultivate the blue thistle in a bucket on the balcony, but then it needs winter protection, which is not necessary for the bed.
The Alpine man litter usually sows itself. Because the large, round flower daggers form many seeds, which fall off after flowering with the flower head and are spread by the wind. So they not only fall around the garden area on the earth but can also spread in the wider vicinity. If this is to be avoided, the flowers must be cut immediately after flowering. The seeds can be kept and sown as follows and thus cultivated at the desired location:
sow in autumn
use a flat bowl or pot
fill with sand
Seeds are cold germs
only slightly in sand press
set up in a sheltered, covered outdoor space
leave over the winter
pour only a little
planting in spring
Tip: Alternatively, you can also put the seeds in the pot on the last warm days in August, then you can plant the finished small plants of the noble thistle in the garden bed even before the winter if the climate allows it.
The Alpine minstrel has its main flowering period in July and August. Occasionally, depending on the care, but above all climate and weather can already come to flowering in June. Likewise, the flowering can also be extended into September in long, warm autumn. This also depends on the rainy days in summer. If summer is very wet, then the flowering is shorter and also lower than in summer with many sunny and warm days.
Soil conditions & location
The ideal location for the Alpine man litter is sunny, the ground should be permeable to water and stony. Then hardly anything has to be considered in the further care. Therefore, attention should be paid to the following here:
in a sunny front yard
A rock garden is ideal
in front of a wall or hedge with sunlight
Wind can bend the stems
with too little sun, flowering fails
Enrich garden soil with stones
alternatively, mix a lot of sand
Tip: You should not plant the sun-hungry Blue Thistle under tall shrubs or trees, as it receives too little sun here. Also, the north side of a house wall is not a good location for the perennial.
Fertilizing & Watering
Eryngium alpinum requires little water. Also, it is not necessarily necessary to pour with collected rainwater, as the perennial is very well lime-tolerant and even needs lime for its beautiful growth. So here also tap water, which is crossed with lime, is sufficient in some areas to supply the plant with enough lime. If this is not the case and the tap water is quite low in lime, lime must occasionally be scattered on the earth for proper care. Otherwise, for fertilizing and watering, the following has to be said:
pour only moderately
in summer only in hot periods
Soil better dry than wet
the long dry season is well tolerated
Avoid waterlogging at all costs
can be fertilized with organic perennial fertilizer
pay attention to the manufacturer’s specifications
Diseases & Pests
The thorny leaves of the thistle act as a natural protection, keeping pests away. Diseases are also not known in the robust plant. Only too much water and the resulting waterlogging can harm the plant, which can lead to root rot in Eryngium alpinum.
The Alpine man litter is also suitable for cultivation in the bucket. Depending on the size of the vessel, however, it is recommended to use only a single plant at a time, as its root balls also increase over time. With too many specimens of Eryngium alpinum in a confined space, a faster repotting is necessary. When cultivating buckets, it is important to consider the following:
When caring for it afterward, care should also be taken in the bucket to ensure that not too much is poured. Even fertilizer needs the Alpine man litter here only a little. Also in the case of bucket cultivation, ideally pour with tap water so that enough lime is supplied.
Alpine man litter can be purchased and planted in the trade. But even after its own sowing in a vessel or a divided perennial is planted to a new location. You should follow the following instructions:
Perennial grows wider and wider over the years
therefore, a maximum of four plants per square meter
if necessary, mix with stones, gravel, or sand
Earth must be very permeable
create in planting hole drainage
Use stones, gravel, or clay shards
Fill in earth
The first days water more often, but only moderately so that the Alpine man litter can grow well. The best planting time is in the spring before the new shoot or in late summer and early autumn after flowering. However, the days must still be warm enough for the plant to form a large enough root ball before the winter.
Tip: Unlike many other plants, Eryngium alpinum does not tolerate compost. Therefore, when planting, you should not in any case prepare the soil in the garden bed with compost.
Suitable for the lime-loving Alpine minstrel areas plant neighbors all perennials, which also grow in calcareous soils and sunny places. These include:
Blue Cushion (Aubrieta)
Rock muck (Amelanchier ovalis)
Forsythia (Forsythia x intermedia)
Easter Bells/Daffodils (Narcissus)
But also cloves (Dianthus), Peonies, flame flowers (phlox), or roses (pink) belong to the well-lime-tolerant or lime-loving flowering plants. If these plants are mixed colorfully in the garden bed, then early and late bloomers join together here and the bed remains colorful throughout the vegetation year.
The Alpine man litter should be cut back close to the ground in autumn before winter. In this way, the plant can maintain its hibernate and sprout again in the spring. If you want to prevent the seeds from spreading throughout the garden, you should make sure that the flowers are also removed immediately when seed formation begins. For cutting, a normal garden or rose scissors is enough. This should be sharp and cleaned and disinfected before use. Otherwise, there is nothing else to consider when cutting.
A noble thistle in the garden beet does not need any winter protection here, because it can withstand temperatures down to -28 ° Celsius. Cultivated in the bucket, however, it needs, like all other hardy plants, a little protection. So far, the use of the following aids has proven to be successful:
Place buckets on wood or styrofoam board
coat with brushwood mats or plant fleece
protected corner on balcony or terrace
Note: In potted plants, the roots are less well protected from penetrating cold and frost. Because this can get through the bucket wall and the little soil available here much faster to the roots. Therefore, you should always offer a little protection to plants cultivated in the bucket in winter, even if they are considered absolutely hardy.
If Eryngium alpinum was cultivated for lack of a garden in a bucket for a terrace or balcony, the plant does not necessarily have to be repotted here. Because it requires few nutrients, which is otherwise often a reason to repot a plant to obtain new nutrients. Only if the roots have become too large, the plant can be divided and a part can be put back into the old bucket. For this purpose, a new substrate is used, which is also a mixture of the garden or cactus soil as well as with small stones, gravel, or sand. When repotting, it is done as under the point “bucket cultivation”.
The division is the most recommended variant to multiply Alpine man litter. However, it is not necessary for better growth. When multiplying, the following proceeds:
in autumn after the cut divide
alternatively in the spring before the first shoot
Divide potted plants during repotting
Removing roots from the earth
with a sharp knife cut in the middle
alternatively, pierce with spades in earth
remove only one half of the earth
as explained under point “Plants” reinsert
Tip: Divide the Alpine man litter in autumn, then the days should still be warm enough so that the divided plant can grow well at the new location even before the cold temperatures. A daytime temperature of about 20° Celsius is ideal in such a case. If you have missed the right time, it is, therefore, better to wait until next spring with the division and reproduction.
Donald D. Greenwell serves as editor-in-chief, primarily responsible for the print edition of Crown-Times.com. He is a trained ornamental horticulturist and, after several years of professional horticultural experience in Louisiana, graduated with a degree in agricultural engineering, specializing in horticulture. In addition to his studies, he gained his first journalistic experience as a freelancer for horticultural trade magazines. After training as an editor, he joined the editorial team of Crown-Times.com in July 2020. His main topics are gardening practice, lawns, kitchen gardens, and houseplants.