May's plant of the month at suburban-garden is Cirsium rivulare 'Atropurpureum'. An attractive addition for any garden, with spiny green leaves and beautiful crimson heads, this extremely hardy thistle is a magnet for bees and other wildlife.  

Quick facts

Cirsium rivulare 'Atropurureum' c. suburban-garden

Flower heads start to emerge in early spring from amongst the leaves and then the stems extend upwards. Once the first flush of flowers is over, deadhead and cut back to the ground and reduce the basal leaves. This promotes new growth and extends the flowering season.


Cirsium rivulare 'Atropurpureum' is suitable for most conditions including clay or dry soil and even tolerates partial shade. Although to get the best out of this thistle, plant it in full sun, in moist, well-drained soil as the name rivulare means to "grow by a stream". This thistle is not invasive but it spreads at a steady rate, so divide large clumps in late autumn or early spring. Detatch each crown with its own roots and then pot up before planting out. The seed heads are sterile.


Grown with oriental poppies and ornamental grasses, this thistle provides plenty of interest during the summer and right through into autumn.


Family: Asteraceae

Average height: 0.6 - 1.2m

Average spread: 1m

Flowers between: May - Sep

Soil type: fertile, moist

Sun/shade: Full sun

Hardiness: Hardy


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