Miss Willmott’s ghost – info, planting, care and tips

Miss Willmott's ghost (Eryngium giganteum)
Miss Willmott's ghost (Eryngium giganteum) - by Bob Collowân

With its striking appearance, the Miss Willmott’s ghost is something special and especially suitable for sunny gravel or rock gardens. Their long-lasting seed heads also adorn the bed over the winter.

Profile of Miss Willmott’s ghost:

Scientific name: Eryngium giganteum

Plant family: umbelliferae, umbellifer family (Apiaceae)

Other names: –

Sowing time: autumn

Planting time: spring

Flowering period: July to August

Location: sunny

Soil quality: sandy to loamy, moderately nutritious, humus rich

These information are for temperate climate!

Use in: flower beds, bouquets, single position, group planting, overgrowth, borders, flower garden, natural garden, prairie garden

Winter hardiness: hardy, USDA Plant Hardiness Zones: 6

Bee and insect friendly: Yes

Plant characteristics and classification of Miss Willmott’s ghost

Plant order, origin and occurrence of Miss Willmott’s ghost

Miss Willmott’s ghost (Eryngium giganteum) is originally native to the Caucasus and western Iran. It grows there on barren, stony locations like rock steppes. Botanically, the plant belongs to the plant genus Eryngium. This is also commonly referred to as eryngo or sea holly. It contains over 200 different species, some of which give off decorative garden shrubs such as the Alpine sea holly (Eryngium alpinum) or the Mediterranean Sea holly (Eryngium bourgatii). The genus Eryngium belongs to the large plant family of umbelliferae (Apiaceae, formerly Umbelliferae).

Characteristics of Miss Willmott’s ghost


The Miss Willmott’s ghost grows as a biennial plant or short-lived perennial. As is typical for two-year-old plants, only one leaf rosette grows in the first year and an inflorescence only appears from the second year of life. Thanks to its long taproot, the plant is well adapted to dry locations. The plant grows to around 80 centimeters (32 in) high and is hardy.


The leaves of the Miss Willmott’s ghost form a basal leaf rosette that is about 50 centimeters (20 in) in diameter. The base leaves are heart-shaped, colored medium green and up to 16 centimeters (6.4 in) long. The stem leaves are ovate tapered and toothed. They are decorative white veined and have a rough texture.


The actual inflorescence of Eryngium giganteum is surrounded by striking bracts that are strongly serrated and silvery in color. This serves the plant in nature to ward off predators such as wild goats. The branched inflorescence consists of cylindrical umbels about six centimeters (2.4 in) long. These contain numerous bluish flowers that are a magnet for bees and many other insects. Miss Willmott’s ghost blooms from July to August. But even after that, the inflorescences look attractive for a long time. If you want to dry them, cut off the inflorescences before they open.


A double seeded schizocarp fruit develops from each pollinated flower. Sufficient seed for propagation is therefore provided.

Miss Willmott’s ghost – cultivation and care


For Miss Willmott’s ghost, the location should be sunny and warm. The plant also thrives in light shade as it is quite adaptable.


The soil for the Miss Willmott’s ghost should be well drained, the plant does not tolerate waterlogging. A sandy loam with a moderate nitrogen content is ideal.


It is best to plant Eryngium giganteum as a solitary plant or in small groups. The planting distance between the individual plants is about 50 centimeters (20 in).


The Miss Willmott’s ghost reliably sows itself in a suitable location if you do not cut off the seed heads. Where it gets too much, it is better to chop off the small seedlings in the spring after sprouting, before they form stronger roots. If you want to sow seeds specific, you should keep in mind that Eryngium giganteum is a cold germ.

If you still want to sow, sandy soil with a temperature of around 20 ° C / 68 ° F is an advantage. If sowing takes place with the help of cultivation pots, these can be sown before mid-August and the plant can be put in the open even before winter begins.

Otherwise, try as followed:

  • Fill the seed tray with a peat-sand mixture
  • Mix seeds with bird sand
  • Sprinkle the seed mixture on the substrate
  • Do not cover with earth, as it needs light to germ
  • Water lightly
  • Place the seed tray in the vegetable compartment of the refrigerator

The vessel remains there for four weeks. Then it is placed in a partially shaded place, where temperatures are around 20 ° C / 68 ° F. It now takes about four weeks before the seeds start to germinate. The planter is now set up at a maximum temperature of 15 ° C / 59 ° F. After another month, the young plants are large enough to be pricked out.


Water regularly and let the soil dry from time to time.


There is no need to apply fertilizer.

Care / Pruning

The Miss Willmott’s ghost needs little maintenance. Withered specimen are not cut back until spring, as the seed heads give the bed some structure over the winter. With a little luck, the plants will sprout again. When approaching the plant, it is best to always do this with sturdy gloves. Rose garden gloves with long cuffs are well suited. This prevents injuries from the prickly leaves and seed heads.

Diseases and pests

The robust perennial has no pests or plant diseases worth mentioning that need to be looked out for. Due to their coarse foliage, snails find no taste in it.


Miss Willmott’s ghost is hardy and does not need special winter protection.

Use in the garden

Miss Willmott’s ghost is particularly suitable for sunny steppe and gravel beds in connection with stones and other perennials for open spaces such as yarrow or dense blazing star.

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