How to Grow and Care for Thistle

By Heidi Green , last updated March 23, 2011

For the amateur gardener, the thistle plant is a great choice for growing because of its low maintenance and propensity for rapid growth. Sometimes regarded as a weed, the thistle plant is manifested in hundreds of different varieties. Despite its ill-regarded status as an invasive weed, many cultures revere it for its medicinal properties, and it has been propagated for centuries for its liver-beneficial sap. The thistle plant is also known for attracting various types of birds and butterflies. Regardless of how you view the thistle plant—as an annoying invader or as a beautiful, butterfly and bird attracting annual flower—here is how you can not only plant and grow your own, but how to care for it as well.


Because the thistle is so invasive and adaptable, it is fairly easy to sow. Choose a fairly sunny area to spread your thistle seed, and make sure that the soil is properly fertilized, dark and well drained. You should aim to plant the seeds only a little under the surface—only a couple of millimeters should suffice. For the first couple of days after planting, keep the seeds well watered. After they emerge from the soil and sprout, however, you should be fine just letting them grow on their own, as their growth and self-propagation is so aggressive.

Care for Thistle

Once the thistle has matured, it really won't be a challenge to maintain them. This hardy plant can grow in a variety of climate zones with little or no human oversight. In truth, you will probably need to control their spreading more than foster their growth—something they can handle on their own quite well. An herbicide should cull off the visible population, but you will need to remove the root system if you don't wish them to grow back.

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