How to Plant, Grow, and Care for Globe Gilia

If you’re looking for a beautifully blue wildflower, look no further. Join organic farmer Jenna Rich as she shows us just how easy it is to grow and care for globe gilia.

Vivid purple globe gilia flowers with delicate petals bask in the warm sunlight, their hue standing out against the lush green leaves. The sunlight dances upon the foliage, casting a gentle glow and highlighting the intricate details of the leaves.

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If bachelor’s buttons and ornamental alliums had a baby, you’d get globe gilia! Globe gilia is the perfect low-maintenance flower to add to your lineup if you have hot summers, rocky soil, and want to attract pollinators to your garden. In 2018, Oregon State University included it in its list of early-season bloomers that serve as an important food source for native bees. 

This annual wildflower boasts fern-like foliage and gorgeous blooms in shades of blue and violet. The fluffy flower heads have tubular flowers that butterflies and bees love. With no need for extra attention and its ability to self-seed and thrive in rocky soil, it’s easy to say yes to this native wildflower!

Let’s talk about how to plant, grow, and care for globe gilia

Globe Gilia Overview

A close-up of purple globe gilia flowers tightly packed together, their spherical forms capturing attention. The backdrop, blurred and verdant, sets a serene stage, highlighting the intricate beauty of the clustered blooms in focus.
Botanical Name  Gilia capitata
Plant Type  Quick-growing, herbaceous annual wildflower
Family Polemoniaceae (Phlox)
Genus Gilia 
Special Characteristics Blue, pollinator plant, drought, and rocky soil tolerance
Native Area  Western United States
Exposure Full sun
Height  6 to 42 inches
Watering Requirements  Low once established
Soil Type  Well-draining, with a neutral pH
Pests  No serious pests have been identified
Diseases Fungal diseases and root rot
Maintenance Low
Hardiness Zones Perennial in 7 to 10, annual down to zone 5 
Bloom Time Spring and summer

What Is It?

Globe gilia is a fast-growing annual wildflower native to the Pacific Coast. It is highly regarded for attracting various native pollinators, namely the yellow-faced bumble bee. It is a host plant for the Adela singulella moth, and serves as a strong nectar source for hummingbirds who love their slender, tubular flowers. The spherical, dense flower heads make a great landing area for butterflies as well, making it easy to feed on their easily accessible nectar and (blue!) pollen.

Its official name comes from the Italian naturalist Felipe Luigi Gilii and its species capitata translates to “head-like,” referring to its spherical flower head. Globe gilia is sometimes called bluehead gilia, bluehead gilt-flower, queen Anne’s thimble, blue thimble, or blue gilia. 

Native Area

Blue globe gilia flowers, delicate and vibrant, bloom amidst green buds, hinting at nature's timeless beauty. In the backdrop, slender green and brown leaves create a soft blur, enhancing the ethereal allure of the floral scene.
Gilia is native to the Rocky Mountains and western United States.

This annual wildflower is native to the Rocky Mountain areas and the western United States, from Washington south to California. It can grow in elevations to 6,000 feet. It often shows up in areas recently destroyed by fire.

Characteristics 

A close-up reveals delicate purple globe gilia flowers, their vibrant hue contrasting against slender green stems. In the blurred background, a tapestry of similar blooms and lush greenery creates a captivating backdrop for the focal blossoms.
The plants have erect stems with spherical clusters of small, elongated flowers.

Globe gilia plants can grow to over three feet tall and 12 inches wide at the base. Stems are tall, erect, and multi-branched. The top of each features a spherical cluster of small, elongated flowers that appear to be a globe. Each flower head may contain up to 100 tiny flowers and feature white, blue, or pink thread-like stamen. Flowers and pollen are both shades of blue and violet. 

The foliage is green and lacy with finely dissected, basal, and textured leaves that tend to be more dense at the base of the plant. Pop these into a wildflower bouquet, and they’ll serve as a filler and a unique pop of color.

How to Grow

Globe gilia is low maintenance and very easy to grow from seed.

Light 

Delicate purple globe gilia flowers, their petals unfurling gracefully under the warm sunlight, while foliage surrounds them. Below, a soft blur of grass provides a serene backdrop, enhancing the ethereal beauty of the scene.
Optimal growth occurs in full sun.

Globe gilia will perform best in areas with full sun but may tolerate some light shade. Stems will be stronger and bulkier when grown in full sun and may become leggy when grown in shade.

Water

A close-up of transparent water droplets trickling down from a blue plastic watering can, catching the sunlight. Each droplet reflects the warm rays, creating a mesmerizing cascade effect against the backdrop of the can.
These plants need occasional watering in prolonged hot and dry conditions.

Water consistently and deeply when new sown or transplanted. Once established, plants are drought-tolerant. Supplemental irrigation helps during extended periods of extreme heat and dryness. 

Soil

A brown pot rests on a light brown surface, cradling rich, dark soil within. The contrast between the pot and the soil enhances the natural beauty, creating a serene and harmonious scene.
Use well-draining neutral pH soil.

Soil should be well-draining and neutral in pH. While the soil should be moist during direct sowing or transplant and as they establish, mature plants are drought-tolerant. Rocky and sandy soils are appropriate for globe gilia as well.

Temperature and Humidity 

Globe gilia flowers in close-up, revealing purple petals contrasted with delicate blue stamens at the center. The background softly blurs, offering a lush green backdrop, enhancing the floral beauty in focus.
This wildflower thrives in high temperatures with occasional watering.

Globe gilia can handle temperatures up to 100°F (38°C), but it needs supplemental irrigation in times of prolonged drought conditions and harsh sun. The plants may wilt in hot weather but should perk back up after a deep watering session within a day or so. 

Plants may survive where winters are mild and no frost occurs. Too much water and humidity will increase the risk of fungal diseases and root rot. 

Fertilizer

A pair of hands tenderly cradle rich, brown soil, fostering life within their gentle embrace. Below, nutrient-rich earth teems with kitchen scraps, promising sustenance and renewal in a harmonious cycle of growth and decay.
It flourishes without needing extra fertilizer.

No supplemental fertilizer is necessary for this wildflower to thrive. When planting outside, you may incorporate a light amount of compost for a bit of slow-release soil food and to help with drainage, especially in clay-like soils. Too many nutrients for this rocky soil lover can result in lower performance.

Maintenance

Vibrant purple globe gilia flowers bloom gracefully on delicate, slender stems, showcasing nature's elegance. In the backdrop, a blur of lush greenery sets the scene, enhancing the floral beauty with its verdant embrace.
Plant en masse or near supportive shrubs to minimize maintenance.

Overall, these plants are low-maintenance. Staking is helpful if stems are tall and weak. Plant them en masse or surround them with shrubs and perennials that may offer support to the globe gilia. 

Pruning

A close-up of purple globe gilia flowers bathed in sunlight, showcasing delicate petals. Slender green stems gracefully uphold the blossoms, offering a harmonious contrast against the vivid floral hues.
Prune dead stems and compost them to avoid self-seeding.

Deadheading is only necessary if you do not want the plant to self-seed. Remove all dead and cut stems from the garden and compost them. They won’t survive frost or harsh winters, so cut them to the ground and compost everything in the fall during garden clean-up. Seeds left behind will sprout in the spring. 

Blooming

A cluster of purple globe gilia flowers bursts into bloom, forming a single dense focal point. Lush, slender leaves encircle the flowers, creating a verdant backdrop that enhances their striking beauty.
Fluffy violet flowers bloom from May to July.

Fluffy violet, sweetly-scented flowers will bloom from May to July. Hang stems to dry and use in everlasting bouquets or flower crafts. 

Planting and Propagation 

Starting globe gilia from seed is the preferred method. Sow seeds indoors or directly outdoors. 

Growing From Seed

A close-up captures purple globe gilia flowers in full bloom, showcasing delicate petals and intricate details. The blurred background gently hints at the slender stems, creating a harmonious composition of nature's elegance.
Directly sow seeds without scarification or stratification.

Do not cover seeds, as they need light to germinate. Direct sow them two to three weeks before your area’s last estimated frost date or after the risk of frost and a few weeks in the refrigerator. Seeds take two to three weeks to germinate at 70°F (21°C). 

Alternatively, sow them outdoors in the fall and allow them to naturally cold stratify. Seeds will reliably germinate, and plants are easy to establish. Sow every few weeks if you desire a continuous supply of blooms. Thin to 6-12 inch spacing. 

Natural Self-Seeding

A sunlit globe gilia plant stands adorned with delicate purple flowers, basking in the warm sunlight. Nearby, a diverse array of other plants soak up the sun's rays, creating a vibrant tapestry of greenery in the garden.
It readily propagates itself but does not become invasive.

Globe gilia readily self-seeds if you don’t deadhead the plants. While quick-growing, it isn’t known to become invasive. If seedlings sprout in unwanted areas, they can easily be removed by pulling them up. 

Transplanting

A cluster of blue globe gilia flowers in close-up, their delicate petals unfurling elegantly atop a slender stem reaching skyward. In the background, a gentle blur reveals another cluster of these blossoms intertwined with lush greenery.
Transplant seedlings outdoors when they reach 2-3 inches tall.

You can sow seeds into flats and transplant them into your garden when the soil can be worked, and seedlings are two to three inches tall. Space them at 12 inches

A cluster of purple globe gilia flowers and their slender stems illuminated by warm sunlight, exuding a sense of tranquility and natural beauty. In the backdrop, soft hues of blue and green blend into a serene, blurry landscape.
Subspecies exist in various regions of the United States.

Native to western North America from Alaska to northern Mexico, this species has been introduced to the eastern side of the continent and can be grown successfully in the right conditions. Some can tolerate temperatures down to -20°F (-29°C), and colors vary from white, pink, light blue, and lavender

You’ll see globe gilia often in wildflower and pollinator blends. It’s a confirmed or likely host to five different important pollinators, including the Adela singulella, Heliothisphloxiphaga, Kodiosoma fulvum, Yermoia glaucina, and Schinia biundulata. 

Outside of the true species, no known cultivars are available, but there are subspecies across the United States. 

Common Problems

A close-up captures a sun-drenched cluster of purple globe gilia flowers. A tortoiseshell butterfly, its dark wings outstretched, delicately rests upon the petals. In the backdrop, blurred orange blossoms and lush green foliage create a serene ambiance.
Providing proper airflow and sunlight prevents serious pests and diseases.

There are no known serious pests or diseases that threaten this wildflower if proper airflow and circulation are provided, they receive ample sunlight, and the soil is well-draining. Fungal disease and root rot become a threat if the soil becomes soggy. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What are good plant partners? 

Globe gilia grows well with native ornamental grasses, other upland wildflowers like purple coneflower, blue vervain, and butterfly milkweed, and annual summer bloomers like poppies and asters. Its purplish-blue blooms complement yellows and oranges well along with bright pinks and purples.

What are some design ideas? 

It will thrive in meadows containing other wildflowers, pollinator gardens, on sloped land, dry or naturalized areas, and borders requiring little maintenance. Pair it with other drought-tolerant flowers.

Final Thoughts

It’s easy to choose to add globe gilia to a new pollinator garden, along a border that doesn’t require much attention, a naturalized area of your property, or sprinkled casually in an annual garden. With virtually no pest or disease pressure and its ability to grow quickly, even in poor soil conditions, it’s a no-brainer. Grab some seeds today and get started! 

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