Zone: 3 to 8
Soil: Sand to loam
Light: Full sun to part sun
Bloom colour: Pink to lavender
Bloom period: 8 weeks from mid-summer
Height: Up to 84 inches
Moisture: Dry to medium
Attracts: A variety of butterflies and bees are attracted in small numbers. Birds love the seed.
Notes: Do not confuse this species with the invasive Canada Thistle, which should be removed immediately. Field Thistle has leaves with white undersides. It is native to Eastern Canada as well as most of the Eastern coast of the USA.
If you have a small and tidy garden, then this is not really the plant for you. To be truthful, this plant is on the ugly side mostly because of the spiny leaves. If you have a large garden and can set some space aside for these plants, then you will appreciate the flowers, which are magnificent even while opening. You could also try making this species an in between plant or treat it like an annual. This plant will die once it flowers and sets seed.
The flowers are quite attractive to insects, especially bumblebees and the plant is a host for Painted Lady butterflies. If you have soils that are on the wet side, then try Cirsium muticum which is known as Swamp Thistle. These plants also attract the odd hummingbird and are a favourite for goldfinches.
This plant self-seeds, although the seeds may not actually come up in the following year. Field thistle is a small plant in its first year, but bolts upwards in its second year and becomes more recognisable as a thistle.