A Guide to Growing Artichoke Plant

Artichokes, scientifically known as Cynara scolymus, are esteemed members of the Asteraceae family, sharing lineage with thistles, dandelions, and sunflowers. While thriving as perennials in warmer climates, they’re often cultivated as annuals in cooler regions.

What sets artichokes apart is their fascinating edible flower buds, harvested before they blossom into beautiful purple thistles. Within the tender leaves resides the prized artichoke heart, cherished for its rich flavor and meaty texture.

In addition to their gastronomic allure, artichokes offer a nutritional boost, brimming with fiber, vitamins C and K, folate, and magnesium, promoting various health benefits.

With their silvery-green leaves and robust stems, artichoke plants emanate elegance and resilience. Whether you’re an experienced horticulturist or a passionate food enthusiast, delving into artichoke cultivation promises a rewarding journey.

Artichoke Plant
Artichoke Plant
Botanical Name Cynara scolymus
Common name Artichoke, globe artichoke, French artichoke, green artichoke
Family Asteraceae
Plant Type Herbaceous, perennial, biennial
Height 3-6 ft. tall, 4-5 ft. wide
Sunlight Full sun
Soil Well-drained
Flower Color Purple
Flowering Season Summer, fall
Native Area Mediterranean

 

Propagation From Cuttings

In fall or winter, delicately uncover the base of a mature artichoke plant to reveal its roots. Using a sharp knife, carefully detach offshoots along with their roots, ensuring they are at least eight inches long for optimal growth.

Plant the offshoots in well-draining soil, positioned at least six feet apart from the parent plant to allow ample space for development.

Deeply water the newly planted offshoots to settle the soil and encourage root establishment, maintaining consistent moisture levels, especially during dry spells.

Propagation From Cuttings
Propagation From Cuttings

 

Growing Artichoke

Preparation

When selecting artichoke varieties, consider factors such as climate, taste preferences, and growth habits. Popular choices include:

  • ‘Green Globe’: Renowned for its large, globe-shaped buds and robust growth, well-suited to various climates.
  • ‘Imperial Star’: Ideal for cooler climates, with early harvests and compact size suitable for smaller gardens.
  • ‘Purple of Romagna’: Boasting striking purple hues and tender, flavorful artichokes, adapted to Mediterranean climates.
  • ‘Violetto di Chioggia’: Another purple variety prized for its delicate flavor and thriving in sunny, well-draining locations.
Propagation From Cuttings
Propagation From Cuttings

Select a sunny garden bed with fertile, well-draining soil, as artichokes thrive in lightly moist, nutrient-rich conditions. Prioritize soil enrichment by incorporating compost or aged manure before planting to enhance fertility and structure.

In raised beds, a 2-inch layer of compost or aged manure aids in moisture retention and fertility. Ensure a sunny, sheltered location with 6-8 hours of daily sunlight, shielding plants from strong winds.

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Amend heavy clay soil with organic matter as needed to prevent waterlogging and promote proper drainage.

 

Sowing Artichokes Seeds

Initiate indoor sowing approximately eight weeks before the last expected frost date. Plant seeds in trays or pots filled with moistened seed starting mix, burying them approximately 1/4 inch deep.

Maintain a warm soil temperature around 70-80°F for germination, utilizing heating mats or warm, well-lit indoor areas. Artichoke seeds typically germinate within 7 to 21 days under optimal conditions.

 

Transplanting In The Garden

Once seedlings emerge, gradually acclimate them to outdoor conditions over 7 to 10 days through hardening off. This process exposes seedlings to sunlight, wind, and temperature fluctuations.

Choose a sunny garden bed with fertile, well-draining soil enriched with compost or aged manure. Ensure plants receive 6-8 hours of sunlight daily, protected from strong winds.

Growing Artichokes In The Garden
Growing Artichokes In The Garden

 

Growing Artichoke In Containers

Large, deep pots with an 18 or 20-inch diameter are ideal, or you can opt for a 20-gallon fabric grow bag. Ensure the container has proper drainage holes at the bottom to prevent waterlogging, promoting healthy root development.

Prepare the container by filling it with a combination of high-quality potting mix and compost in a 50:50 ratio. This blend provides the necessary nutrients and moisture retention for robust growth. Additionally, incorporate a slow-release organic vegetable fertilizer into the growing media to ensure a steady supply of nutrients throughout the growing season.

Plant the artichoke in the center, ensuring the crown is level with the soil surface. Water the plant regularly, keeping the soil evenly moist but not waterlogged. Place the container in a sunny location with at least 6-8 hours of sunlight per day.

Growing Artichoke In Containers
Growing Artichoke In Containers

 

Care for Artichoke

Key considerations for artichoke care include:

  • Thrive in full sun, requiring at least 6-8 hours of sunlight daily.
  • Plant artichokes in well-draining, nutrient-rich soil.
  • Keep the soil consistently moist but not waterlogged.
  • Space artichoke plants 3-4 feet apart to allow for proper airflow and prevent overcrowding.
  • In cooler climates, provide protection for overwintering plants by mulching around the base and covering them with frost blankets or cloches during freezing temperatures.
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Light

Artichokes flourish in full sun, their growth optimized with at least 6-8 hours of sunlight daily. While they can endure partial shade, it may hinder flower bud development.

 

Soil

Opt for loamy soil with excellent drainage to prevent root rot, especially crucial in overwintering areas. Balance is key; the soil should retain moisture for root absorption during hot summers.

Aim for a pH level between 6.5 and 7.5. Amend the soil pre-planting, especially for perennial growth, and consider raised beds for poor soil conditions.

 

Water

Water artichokes consistently, providing 1 to 2 inches per week. Utilize drip irrigation for efficient watering, and mulch heavily with organic materials to retain moisture and regulate soil temperature. Water in the morning to reduce evaporation and ensure optimal absorption by the plants.

 

Temperature and Humidity

Artichokes, typically grown in USDA zones 7-11, flourish in the Mediterranean and California.

As perennials, they thrive in areas with mild winters (50-60°F) and cool, moist summers (70-80°F). Mulching is essential to prevent early flowering caused by overly hot soil.

 

Pruning

Remove dead or damaged foliage to promote airflow and prevent disease. Trim back spent flower stalks to redirect energy towards new growth and encourage continued production of tender buds.

 

Fertilizer

Prioritize nitrogen-rich fertilizer, applying 2 teaspoons of a 21-0-0 formula per plant every 4 weeks, beginning 4 weeks post-transplanting.

Apply fertilizer every 4-6 weeks during the growing season. Place the fertilizer beside each plant and irrigate into the soil to ensure sustained and robust growth.

Care for Artichoke Plants
Care for Artichoke Plants

 

 

Pests and Diseases

Artichokes face few pest threats, with slugs being troublesome during damp conditions, particularly for young, tender leaves. Aphids may also appear but can be washed off before infestation occurs. Providing ample airflow around plants helps deter aphids.

Gray mold, or Botrytis, can affect leaves and flower bracts, especially on damaged foliage. Promptly remove affected leaves and use a fungicide like neem for severe infections.

Additionally, viruses transmitted by aphids can cause decline in plant health and yield; control aphids to prevent virus spread.

Growing Artichoke In Containers
Growing Artichoke In Containers

 

Common Problems

Artichoke Curly Dwarf

This viral disease causes stunted growth and distorted, curled leaves, often transmitted by aphids. To manage, control aphid populations and promptly remove infected plants.

 

Bacterial Crown Rot

This soil-borne disease affects the crown and roots, causing wilting and yellowing. Improve soil drainage, avoid overwatering, and apply copper-based fungicides.

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Yellow Leaves

Yellowing may indicate nutrient deficiencies or overwatering. Adjust fertilization and watering practices accordingly for healthy foliage.

 

Harvest

Artichoke harvesting typically begins in late July or early August and lasts until frost. Wait until the buds are plump and firm, typically 3-4 inches in diameter, with tightly closed scales.

Use sharp garden shears to cut the stems 1-2 inches below the base of the bud. Continue regular watering and feeding to support plant growth.

Unharvested buds develop into attractive purple blooms, suitable for decorative purposes or drying.

Harvest
Harvest

 

Preservation

To keep your artichokes for later, try freezing them after blanching the trimmed hearts and packing them into containers. Alternatively, you can pickle them by slicing them thinly and placing them in sterilized jars with brine.

If you prefer, can them by packing the trimmed hearts into jars and processing them in a pressure canner. For a different approach, dry the hearts by slicing them thinly and drying them in a dehydrator or oven until they’re brittle.

Another tasty option is to marinate them in a mixture of olive oil, vinegar, herbs, and spices, then store them in sterilized jars in the refrigerator for future enjoyment.

Preservation
Preservation

Growing artichokes is a rewarding endeavor that promises both the pleasure of cultivation and the joy of harvest. With careful nurturing, anyone can enjoy the flavorful bounty of this unique vegetable in their own backyard.

A Guide to Growing Artichoke Plant
A Guide to Growing Artichoke Plant

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