Milk Thistle (Silybum marianum) Milkthistle St. Mary's Thistle Scotch Thistle Ornamental Organic Herb
Height 2 to 6 ft
Milk thistle is a robust, branching winter annual/biennial plant that produces one large, pink-purple flower per stem and has spines along the stems and leaf edges. This variety, Silybum marianum, is a species of thistle with various common names including milk thistle, blessed milkthistle, Marian thistle, Mary thistle, Saint Mary's thistle, Mediterranean milk thistle, variegated thistle and Scotch thistle, and is an annual or biennial plant of the family Asteraceae. The leaves appear to be splashed with milk...hence the name.
Milk thistle is classified as an herb; the plant produces spiky pink, red or purple flower blooms that can be used to add a pop of colour to wildflower gardens. Historically, people have used milk thistle for liver disorders and gallbladder problems. Milk thistle is promoted as a dietary supplement for hepatitis, cirrhosis, jaundice, diabetes, indigestion, and other conditions. Milk thistle has a white sap that oozes out when the stem or leaves are crushed; the sap contains an ingredient called silymarin which has many herbal benefits and is used in over-the-counter detox supplements.
Completely edible! The young stalks, leaves, roots and flowers can be eaten. Milk thistle root can also be eaten raw or cooked. Leaves can be eaten raw or cooked however the very sharp leaf-spines must be removed first. When cooked these leaves make a great spinach substitute!
- Direct sow outdoors in early spring or late fall; loosen up the top 1 in of soil with a rake and then spread the seeds on top of it evenly. Rake the area to barely cover the seeds with soil to keep them from blowing away. Seeds need light to germinate. Water the area until it is damp and then keep it moist until germination occurs.
- OR start seeds indoors in seed trays filled with potting soil and cover them with a very light layer of soil. Place the tray in an area that stays at 60F and water the soil daily until germination occurs in 2 to 3 weeks. Once the plants are tall enough to handle, you can plant them outdoors.
- Spacing: 2 to 3 ft apart
- This particular plant has tall stalks with irregular leaves and blooms in the heat of summer when many delicate flowers wilt and die.
- best grown in areas where drought and heat-tolerant plants are required. NOTE: the plant is a heavy seeder - may invade lawns and other nearby areas if not controlled by pruning the top stems off of the plants as soon as the flowers start to deteriorate to prevent seeds that will disperse in the wind.
- Harvest: wait until you see seed pods develop where the flowers were located and then cut the pods off to collect them. Store in a cool dark place until use.
- Seed Count: 15