Growing Artichokes

Posted on 23 June 2009

Large, bushy perennial. Set out plants or roots in early spring; harvest ‘chokes the following spring.

Long, mild winters and cool summers are needed to produce the heavy vegetative growth that supports the large, edible flower buds of this delicacy. Highly decorative, massive plants have huge, deeply cut leaves. These well up into a silvery green fountain that can spread to 6 feet wide. Flower buds that escape harvest ripen into large, violet pink thistle blossoms that can be dried for arrangements and will last for several years.


Three or four established plants will provide plenty of artichoke buds for a small family.

Recommended variety. ‘Green Globe’ is usually the only variety available.

How to plant. You can grow artichokes from root divisions either purchased or separated from a desirable mother plant. Divide roots in autumn when foliage has died back. Expose a side shoot with a sharp spray of water. Cut it off 6 to 8 inches below the crown. Rangy plants with small, late-maturing buds may result if you start from seeds.

In early spring, root divisions are available in nurseries or garden supply stores and by mail order. In the West and along the Gulf and Southeastern coasts, you can plant the divisions any time after late winter.

Choose a spot that has well-drained, fertile soil and is warmed by full sun, except in very hot areas where artichokes appreciate afternoon shade. For each root division, dig a hole 18 inches deep and 4 to 5 feet apart. Fill the hole with water and let it soak in. For each plant, mix a bucketful of organic matter with some of the removed soil and partially refill the holes. Position the roots vertically, covering the old root with soil but leaving the base of the new, leafy shoots just above the soil line. Water again to settle the soil and complete filling the hole. Water every other day until new growth appears.

Care. Pull or hoe weeds or spread a straw mulch under the leaf canopy. Weeds steal water and nutrients from the plants. Every week or two during dry weather, let the hose trickle for an hour or two at the base of the plants.

Artichokes are heavy feeders and will respond to high nitrogen, water-soluble fertilizers applied every three to four weeks. Feed after a heavy watering. Follow the feeding with a light watering to dissolve and flush the fertilizer down into the root zone.

Pests. Aphids, earwigs., and worms sometimes get between the leaf bracts in the artichokes. If you think this has happened, right after picking immerse the artichokes for 10 minutes in warm salt water. The critters will crawl out. Give the buds a final upside-down shaking to force out the stubborn ones.

Harvesting. Each plant should bear a few buds the first season. From the second year on, plants should produce from 24 to 48 buds from late winter through midsummer. The harvest period will be earlier where winters are warm.

Cut the buds before the fleshy, edible bracts begin to open in preparation for flowering. Leave a 11/2-inch length of stem on each bud when you cut it. After each major stem has completed fruiting, it will begin to dry up and can be removed. New, fruiting shoots will form throughout the season.

In containers. These handsome plants will thrive in containers with a soil capacity of at !east 2 cubic feet.

17 Responses to “Growing Artichokes”

  1. Debbie says:

    I don’t think I can grow these in N.Y. It is a good how-to article though. I have prepared and eaten artichokes and like them very much. I’ll bet fresh ones are really tasty!

  2. Anita says:

    I started a dozen artichokes from seed in early March and put them out at 6 inches on May 15th. They are 18 inches tall now. Since I live south of the Haliburton Highlands in Ontario, a crop is unlikely, however they are a beautiful plant and my fingers are crossed. Go for it Debbie, we have severe winters here but I am hopeful! Wish I could post pictures.

  3. Charlie says:

    Are Artichokes annuals will they come back next yr? The ones I planted this yr are so big it would be a shame to have to replant new ones..

  4. KIm says:

    I planted ten plants this spring, they were doing very well but now they are covered in ants. I sprayed them with Safe-Soap, but it didn’t help I think it just killed some leaves.

  5. erik says:

    Charlie: artichokes are perennials… they will come back every year. But if you are in a cold climate, in winter you should cover your plants with a bushel basket/bucket topped with some sort of mulch.

  6. Sterghe says:

    This article doesn’t tell a climate zone, and I’m not sure how to interpret “mild”. I love artichokes, though. Does anyone know if they grow in the mountains of northeastern Pennsylvania? I suspect not, but I’d be very happy to learn I’m wrong!

    Thank you!

  7. Erika says:

    I just pulled-up an artichoke I started from seed for re-planting purposes. It doesn’t look to good. Anyone have any suggestions on helping artichoke? Thanks

  8. Vivian says:

    I live in the south of Chile, I started artichoke from seed. Due to weather, they are ready to be transplanted now, but we are in summer. So I don’t know if should plant them now or wait until next spring. They are about 20 centimetres tall.

  9. G says:

    I have a globe artichoke in full sun in Houston, Texas, and mine is about 5 feet tall. It never dies back, probably because our freezes are short-lived. Be sure to have lots of room for growth! The fresh artichokes are worth it.

  10. Heather says:

    I wanted to try growing artichokes this year. I started the seeds indoors in Jan and planted them out side mid-april. The plants don’t seem to have grown any taller. They are still alive and have gotten diffrent shaped leaves but they arn’t doing as well as I hoped any suggestions?

  11. kenny says:

    I started some from seed and transplanted them before the winter.
    Im on long island which is usually mild in winter but this year 2010 2011 its been cold and just had a blizzard.
    Ill update in spring if they survive the winter.

  12. Sierris says:

    Hi, I live in Sugar Land and would like to start growing artichokes this year. Any advise on where to buy seeds and how to grow them in this wwather?

  13. Helen says:

    Grew artichokes from seed last spring and transplanted them in the well fertilized garden. Seemed to do poorly in our midatlantic heat. Heavily mulched them with shredded hardwood in late November. Shoveled driveway snow piled onto the beds. They never-the-less returned in the spring looking more vigorous than last year and are now producing a single flowerbud each. Eureka!

  14. Debbie says:

    Planted my first two plants in February live in North State California, they lived through snow and are doing well. But are having problems with ants. Like the other person before Safe Soap did not work. Any suggestions would be great. We do get hot summers so I was thinking about shade for that time of the year. Suggestions helpful thanks, Debbie

  15. Luposian says:

    I have a large (well, larger than the small ones they normally sell) artichoke plant that I bought from Lowes earlier this year… it’s got a small artichoke at the top and an even tinier one just below it, to one side. The small artichoke is about 1/3rd the size (or smaller) of a normal artichoke you buy in the store, but it looks like the bracts are opening up… should I harvest it now and eat what I can of it, or let it bloom or…? If it’s a 1st or 2nd year plant (not sure), are they normally this small and it needs another year of growth before it really starts coming around, size-wise or…?

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  16. charles fortner says:

    I think I’ve learned something. I just moved home (to New Orleans) in January. I’m a volunteer (actually the only volunteer) in an Urban Garden Projecdt here. There were already artichokes growing, about 8″ rosettes. They haven’t grown much but certainly aren’t getting taller. I thought at first it was because of the drought we’ve had for about 2 months but now I think they may not have enough room for their roots. You see, the garden is built on the ruins of a funeral home and it’s parking lot. After Katrina people were afraid to grow things directly in the ground because of all the contamination anyway and the chokes are planted over layers of 1. Cardboard 2. something like shadecloth 3. about a foot and a half of hummus, but very little actual dirt. I think they’re not growing because their roots have been confined. Whaddayathink?

  17. amber says:

    try DE for ants it worked great for us against fire ants

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