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Cirsium discolor (Field Thistle)

Field Thistle, Pasture Thistle, Carduus discolor

Cirsium discolor, Field Thistle, Pasture Thistle, Carduus discolor, perennial plant, perennial plants, Purple flowers, Pink flowers
Cirsium discolor, Field Thistle, Pasture Thistle, Carduus discolor, perennial plant, perennial plants, Purple flowers, Pink flowers
Cirsium discolor, Field Thistle, Pasture Thistle, Carduus discolor, perennial plant, perennial plants, Purple flowers, Pink flowers
Cirsium discolor, Field Thistle, Pasture Thistle, Carduus discolor, perennial plant, perennial plants, Purple flowers, Pink flowers
Cirsium discolor

Cirsium discolor (Field Thistle) is a tall biennial or short-lived perennial producing a basal rosette in the first year and flowers in the second year. Its upright stem is usually hairy and branched on the upper third. It is clad with alternate leaves with deep spine-tipped lobes and downy white undersides. In early summer to fall, the plant boasts lavender pink pincushion-like flower heads, 2 in. across (5 cm), packed with over 100 disc flowers. Blooming for about a month, they produce copious nectar. Field Thistle presents a sumptuous feast for pollinators, including bumble bees, honey bees, clearwing moths, and many butterflies. It also is the larval host plant for the beautiful Painted Lady butterfly. The blossoms give way to seeds with long, downy plumes that facilitate dispersal by the wind. Finches, small mammals, and insects eat the seeds. Found in meadows, wood edges and openings, field borders, abandoned fields, pastures, and roadsides in the eastern half of the U.S. and Canada, Field Thistle has a central taproot and does not spread by rhizomes. It is not invasive or as challenging to control as non-native thistles.

  • Grows up to 30-80 in. tall (75-180 cm) and 12-24 in. wide (30-60 cm). Field Thistle will die after flowering but will readily self-seed in the garden.
  • Thrives in full sun to partial shade and average to dry soil moisture. Plants have a deep root system and should not require supplemental water once established.
  • Lovely in beds and borders, cottage gardens, naturalized areas, and prairies and meadows. It is best to plant Field Thistle in an area where competing vegetation has been removed. Good as cut flowers too!
  • No serious pest or disease issues. Keep an eye out for bud weevil and crown weevil. Grazing animals will avoid grazing the immediate area around thistles.
  • Propagate by seed in late fall to early spring.
  • Native to much of the eastern half of the U.S. and Canada.

Requirements

Hardiness 3 - 9
Plant Type Perennials
Plant Family Compositae
Genus Cirsium
Common names Thistle
Exposure Full Sun, Partial Sun
Season of Interest Summer (Early, Mid, Late)
Fall
Height 2' - 6'
(60cm - 180cm)
Spread 1' - 2'
(30cm - 60cm)
Spacing 18" - 24"
(50cm - 60cm)
Maintenance Low
Water Needs Low
Soil Type Clay, Loam
Soil pH Acid, Alkaline, Neutral
Soil Drainage Well-Drained
Characteristics Cut Flowers, Showy
Native Plants United States, Massachusetts, Maryland, New York, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Maine, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Connecticut, Delaware, Southeast, Midwest, Northeast, Indiana, Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin, Missouri, South Dakota, North Dakota, Ohio, Arkansas, Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia, Virginia
Tolerance Deer
Attracts Bees, Birds, Butterflies
Garden Uses Beds And Borders
Garden Styles Prairie and Meadow, Informal and Cottage
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Alternative Plants to Consider

Cirsium acaule (Stemless Thistle)
Cirsium horridulum (Bull Thistle)
Cirsium altissimum (Tall Thistle)
Cirsium occidentale (Cobwebby Thistle)
Cirsium muticum (Swamp Thistle)
Cirsium rivulare ‘Atropurpureum’ (Plume Thistle)
While every effort has been made to describe these plants accurately, please keep in mind that height, bloom time, and color may differ in various climates. The description of these plants has been written based on numerous outside resources.
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Requirements

Hardiness 3 - 9
Plant Type Perennials
Plant Family Compositae
Genus Cirsium
Common names Thistle
Exposure Full Sun, Partial Sun
Season of Interest Summer (Early, Mid, Late)
Fall
Height 2' - 6'
(60cm - 180cm)
Spread 1' - 2'
(30cm - 60cm)
Spacing 18" - 24"
(50cm - 60cm)
Maintenance Low
Water Needs Low
Soil Type Clay, Loam
Soil pH Acid, Alkaline, Neutral
Soil Drainage Well-Drained
Characteristics Cut Flowers, Showy
Native Plants United States, Massachusetts, Maryland, New York, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Maine, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Connecticut, Delaware, Southeast, Midwest, Northeast, Indiana, Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin, Missouri, South Dakota, North Dakota, Ohio, Arkansas, Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia, Virginia
Tolerance Deer
Attracts Bees, Birds, Butterflies
Garden Uses Beds And Borders
Garden Styles Prairie and Meadow, Informal and Cottage
How Many Plants
Do I Need?
Not sure which Cirsium (Thistle) to pick?
Compare Now

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