Thriving in poor dry soils (but tolerant of most provided they have good drainage), this native perennial makes an excellent addition to wildflower meadows and prairie style planting schemes. The large purple, thistle-like flower heads act as a magnet to pollinating insects and the subsequent seed-heads may attract finches into the garden. A variable but always attractive plant, it self-seeds freely and will practically thrive on neglect.
Garden care: Surface-sow seeds in trays filled with good quality compost, water and place in a cold frame or greenhouse. Pot on on when they have put on their first true leaves and harden off before planting out after the frosts have passed. Alternatively sow direct in late spring or early summer and thin out to 30cm as they grow. Seeds sown in autumn and over-wintered in a cold frame will produce plants that will flower earlier in the year than those sown in spring.