How to Grow and Care for Thistles (Cirsium)

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Cirsium is a genus of perennial and biennial flowering plants in the Asteraceae, one of several genera known commonly as Thistles. They are more precisely known as Plume Thistles. Thistles are mostly native to Eurasia and northern Africa. All members of the genus have spiny, often handsome leaves and rounded heads of purple, red, pink, yellow or white flowers that somewhat resemble shaving brushes.

Certain species of Cirsium, like Cirsium monspessulanum, Cirsium pyrenaicum and Cirsium vulgare, have been traditionally used as food in rural areas of southern Europe. Cirsium oleraceum is cultivated as a food source in Japan and India. The word “Cirsium” derives from the Greek word kirsos meaning “swollen vein”. Thistles were used as a remedy against swollen veins. The flower blooms April to August.

Growing Conditions and General Care

The seeds of Cirsium can be sown in either autumn or after the last frost of spring. They should be sown at a depth of 0.12 inch (3 mm). If grown indoors first then Cirsium takes about 2 to 3 weeks to germinate at a temperature of 70 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit (21 to 24 degrees Celsius). The seedlings should be planted out in early spring, when it is still possible to get a frost with a spacing of about 2 feet (60 cm).

Thistles (Cirsium vulgare)

Photo via pflanzenbestimmung.info

Cirisium thrives in full sun and poor, average or reach soil that is moist but well drained. Plants require little care, but deadheading limits their tendency to self-sow. They generally self-sow only in moderation and unlike weedy thistles, the seedlings are easy to pull up. Use Thistles in mixed beds, herb gardens or meadowlike plantings.

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