Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: Canada Thistle, Creeping Thistle
Cirsium arvense

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Family: Asteraceae (ass-ter-AY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Cirsium (SIR-see-um) (Info)
Species: arvense (ar-VEN-see) (Info)

Synonym:Carduus arvense

One member has or wants this plant for trade.

Category:
Perennials

Height:
24-36 in. (60-90 cm)
36-48 in. (90-120 cm)
4-6 ft. (1.2-1.8 m)

Spacing:
15-18 in. (38-45 cm)

Hardiness:
USDA Zone 3a: to -39.9 C (-40 F)
USDA Zone 3b: to -37.2 C (-35 F)
USDA Zone 4a: to -34.4 C (-30 F)
USDA Zone 4b: to -31.6 C (-25 F)
USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 C (-20 F)
USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 C (-15 F)
USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 C (-10 F)
USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 C (-5 F)
USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)

Sun Exposure:
Full Sun
Sun to Partial Shade

Danger:
Plant has spines or sharp edges; use extreme caution when handling

Bloom Color:
Magenta (Pink-Purple)
Violet/Lavender
Purple
Cream/Tan

Bloom Time:
Late Spring/Early Summer
Mid Summer
Late Summer/Early Fall
Blooms repeatedly

Foliage:
Evergreen
Silver/Gray

Other details:
May be a noxious weed or invasive
This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds
Drought-tolerant; suitable for xeriscaping
Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater
Self-sows freely; deadhead if you do not want volunteer seedlings next season
This plant is resistant to deer

Soil pH requirements:
6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)
6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)
7.6 to 7.8 (mildly alkaline)

Patent Information:
Non-patented

Propagation Methods:
From seed; direct sow outdoors in fall
From seed; direct sow after last frost

Seed Collecting:
N/A: plant does not set seed, flowers are sterile, or plants will not come true from seed

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Thumbnail #1 of Cirsium arvense by poppysue

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There are a total of 13 photos.
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Profile:

1 positive
4 neutrals
6 negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

RatingAuthorContent
Positive HarrySachs On Jun 23, 2013, HarrySachs from East Gull Lake, MN wrote:

I like this plant. I like neat looking plants even if it is considered a weed. I have one growing near my bathroom window where my central air is. Under the right conditions the thing is a beast! Keeps people from messing with my AC and walking near my bathroom window.

I suppose if it sends runners I may have a problem. But it cant be any worse than that snake grass and snow on the mountain

Neutral DMersh On Sep 4, 2010, DMersh from Perth
United Kingdom (Zone 7b) wrote:

This grows rampantly in all parts of Britain, easily distinguished from other thistles by its much smaller flower head. Looks nice in autumn when the plants are covered in cotton from the flowerheads, the cotton is attached to the seeds and helps them disperse on the wind.

Negative Ponditis On Jul 9, 2009, Ponditis from Payette, ID (Zone 7a) wrote:

I have dealt with this plant my entire gardening life and continue to hate it. Every bit of root you leave behind when pulling them will sprout new growth and the harsh prickles that are on every stem and leaf will go into your gloves, shoes and socks making life miserable for you. It takes at least two sprayings of a broad leaf weed killer to kill the plant and you still have to come back in a couple of weeks to make sure that you have killed the plant. I have read that the seeds last 50 years in the soil and will grow when disturbed. The flowers will continue to go to seed after they have been removed from the roots. My sheep and goats hesitate to eat it since the spines are so sharp. This weed is on most US states noxious weed list and that is where it belongs in my opinion.

Negative katsu On Feb 22, 2009, katsu from Columbus, OH (Zone 6a) wrote:

Thistle is the worst weed in our yard and garden. It grows so well here that I don't have to worry about depriving the wildlife by killing what's on my property. : )

I used to dislike wearing gloves for gardening, but thistle makes it necessary. My husband likes to use Roundup on them, but then it takes forever for them to die and you are left with the ugly, spiny plant material. I prefer to pull them, on a day after it has rained. More of the root will come up if the ground is moist. It can help to dig a bit of soil away so that you can grab the root itself.

We used a broadleaf weed herbicide on the lawn a couple of years ago, and it seemed to work pretty well.

These buggers even like the very dry, very shady north side of our house.

In the vegetable garden, we've taken to using black plastic as a mulch, and that keeps the thistle out pretty well.

Neutral dplooster On Feb 16, 2009, dplooster from Leavenworth, KS wrote:

I love the way these plants look, but had to eradicate a huge colony from ground I wanted for a new garden. The first year, I dug by hand with fair success - as noted, every little bit left resprouts. The second year I sprayed with white vinegar on a sunshiny day. Sunshine is a vital factor in the vinegar's success. Had to repeat the vinegar spray two or three times for some of the hardiest thistles, but definitely the easiest and most effective way. Now, the garden is lovely, but I do miss the thistle blooms - occasionally!

Neutral donicaben On May 31, 2008, donicaben from Ogdensburg, NY wrote:

When it stays near the evergreens, I'm ok with it. I only hate it when it grows in the center of the yard and one of my kids steps on it. :-/

The flowers are pretty, and finches LOVE the seeds. It's cute to watch them sit atop one and nibble away - leaving the fluffly white part of the seeds trail away like clouds. :-)

The only time I see those little yellow guys is when these seeds set.

Negative Malus2006 On Mar 14, 2008, Malus2006 from Coon Rapids, MN (Zone 4a) wrote:

I hate Canda thistle! They can penerate gloves and are stubborn to remove, can pop up in bushes where removal is difficult. They also gets chewed up by bugs or are coarse. One way I have found to remove this species is by carefully grasping the bottom of the plant where it contact the ground - about a hand's height and then pull on it and keep a vigorous search for any resprouting. The spines is nearly nonexisting on this portion but you have to be careful - leaves can touch the hand. Bull thistle, the only other common weed thistle for the North US is best done in mechanically - even the bottom is very spindly. I have seen huge amounts of roadside covered in Canada thistle - usually in roadside where the soil have not been disturbed since Minnesota stopped mowing most of the roadside except a certain distance away from the road. [To clarify - I have seen road construction plow out pretty much every inch of roadside - after a few years when the weeds have settled down there are more native grasses like Little Bluestem with its reddish fall colors and perennials like False Sunflower (I have counted at least 3 to 4 species alone just on the roadside!) - in contract the nonplowed roadside often contain 99% monotype grasses along with Canada thistle and Field Goldenrod.]

Neutral kniphofia On Aug 10, 2007, kniphofia from Morpeth
United Kingdom (Zone 8a) wrote:

This is such a pretty flower, and the plant is very useful to wildlife, so I leave these in the wilder parts of my garden.

Negative Joan On Apr 1, 2007, Joan from Belfield, ND (Zone 4a) wrote:

This plant is listed on the North Dakota invasive/troublesome list and this information is being distributed in a guide developed by the ND Weed Control Association and other agencies.

Plant Features
Perennial, up to 4 feet tall
Shiny/waxy/spiny green leaves
Clusters of purplish to whitish flowers
Blooms June through August
Seed head, cotton-like tuft
Mid-spring emergence, plants may also emerge early fall in a rosette stage
Spreads by creeping roots (rhizomatous) and seeds
May form dense patches

Distribution
Widespread invasive that grows under most conditions

Interesting Facts:
Plants are either male or female (dioecious)
Butterflies, such as the Painted Lady, lay eggs and their larvae feed on plants.
The roots of a single plant can spread 20 feet laterally and reach depths of 8 feet
Day length of at least 14 hours is needed for the rosette to bolt and flower

Negative valdan On Jan 26, 2003, valdan from Wynndel
Canada wrote:

considered noxious weed in western Canada. Extremely difficult to remove.

Negative lupinelover On Jan 25, 2003, lupinelover from Grove City, OH (Zone 6a) wrote:

Canada thistle is only a problem in the northern part of the US and Canada. It has a very extensive root system that breaks easily, and every bit must be removed or it just increases. It grows readily in almost any soil, from dry through wetlands. The seed is so light-weight it can be blown far and wide. It remains viable for years.

The most effective way to remove it is by repeated cutting of foliage until the roots die from lack of nourishment. Chemicals usually must be applied repeatedly because of its very dense root system.

Regional...

This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Hanceville, Alabama
Aurora, Colorado
Lamar, Colorado
Springfield, Colorado
Payette, Idaho
Macy, Indiana
Leavenworth, Kansas
Skowhegan, Maine
Bay City, Michigan
Brainerd, Minnesota
Minneapolis, Minnesota
Ogdensburg, New York
Belfield, North Dakota
Wapakoneta, Ohio
Klamath Falls, Oregon



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