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Growing Artichokes: How to Plant, Grow, and Harvest Artichokes | The Old Farmer's Almanac

Artichokes

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Botanical Name
Cynara cardunculus var. scolymus
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Planting, Growing, and Harvesting Artichokes

The Editors
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The globe artichoke is a perennial in the thistle family that produces long, silver-green, lobed leaves make the artichoke look like a giant fern. Learn how to plant and grow edible artichokes in your garden!

About Artichokes

The buds (i.e., the “artichokes” that we harvest and eat), if allowed to flower, are thistle-like and violet. These large plants can be grown in rows in the garden, as informal hedges, or planted in a wide border. Artichokes can reach heights of 3 to 5 feet.

Artichokes prefer cool, humid summers and mild winters. In cool regions, plan to treat the artichoke as an annual.

One plant will produce many artichokes. The biggest bud grows on the top of the plant and many smaller ones grow beneath.

Artichoke flower
Even if you don’t like to eat artichokes, they’re still worth growing for their lovely, pollinator-friendly flowers!
Planting

Choose a spot in the garden that gets full sun (at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight per day).

Artichokes are heavy feeders. For each plant, mix a shovel of compost or aged manure into the soil before planting. They require consistent moisture, but do not like to be in waterlogged soil.

When to Plant Artichoke

  • Artichokes can be started from seeds, from rooted shoots taken from growing plants, or from dormant roots. 
  • If starting from seeds:
    • Start seeds indoors in late winter or early spring, about 8-10 weeks before planting outside. 
    • Soak the seeds in warm water before sowing in trays or pots.
    • Place the trays or pots in a warm spot with bright light.
    • Keep the soil moist.
  • Plant seedlings and shoots in the garden in the spring, after the last spring frost.
  • Dormant roots can be planted in the fall or winter in frost-free regions. In cooler climates, plant the roots in the spring after the last frost.

How to Plant Artichoke

  • Space each plant three to four feet apart in rows and leave four to five feet between the rows. 
  • Plant the shoots and dormant roots about six inches deep. The tops should be above ground level. 
  • Water deeply at the time of planting.
Growing
  • Keep the soil moist. Artichokes need lots of water to form the edible buds.
  • Mulch around the plants to keep the moisture in the soil.
  • Apply a balanced organic fertilizer once every month during the growing season.
  • Remove the mulch when the plants begin to bud and cover the soil around the plants with compost. 
  • Artichoke plants will go dormant in hot weather. 
  • When temperatures cool off in late summer and fall, the plants will start growing again and you may get a second harvest.
  • In cooler regions, after the fall harvest, cut the plants back to about 6 inches and cover the crowns of the plant with leaves. 
  • For extra winter protection, add an additional foot of straw on top. 
  • Remove the straw and leaves after the last frost in the spring.

Artichokes on the plant

How to Propagate Artichokes

  • Select shoots from an established plant that produced well the previous year.  
  • Remove shoots in the spring when they are about 8 inches high. 
  • Cut the shoot off below the soil, at the point where it is attached to the mother plant at the root ball. 
  • Carefully pull the roots that are attached to the shoot from the root ball. 
  • Plant the shoot in a new spot or share with friends!
Harvesting
  • Harvest artichoke buds when they have swelled but are still closed tight.
  • Use a sharp knife to cut across the stem about 1 to 2 inches below the bud. 

How to Store Artichokes

  • Sprinkle fresh artichokes with water and put them in a plastic bag. Put the artichokes in the refrigerator where they will keep for up to 2 weeks.
  • To freeze artichoke hearts, first blanch the hearts in boiling water and a splash of lemon juice for 1-2 minutes. Cool and dry the hearts before putting them in plastic freezer bags. 
Wit and Wisdom
  • Historians believe that the first artichokes were grown in Sicily or North Africa. 
  • In 77 AD the Roman naturalist Pliny called the artichoke one of earth’s monstrosities.
  • Wealthy Romans enjoyed artichokes prepared in honey and vinegar, seasoned with cumin.
  • In the U.S., artichokes were first grown in Louisiana in the early 19th century. The vegetable was brought there by French and Spanish settlers.
Pests/Diseases

Artichoke Pests and Diseases

Pest/Disease Type Symptoms Control/Prevention
Aphids Insect Misshapen/yellow leaves; distorted flowers; leaf drop; sticky “honeydew” (excretion) on leaves; sooty, black mold Knock off with water spray; apply insecticidal
soap; inspect new plants carefully; use slow-release fertilizers; avoid excess nitrogen; encourage lacewings, lady beetles/bugs, spiders
Bacterial crown rot Bacteria Slow growth; leaves wilt; crown rots Use clean tools; start plants from disease-free transplants
Botrytis (gray mold) Fungus Varies; yellow/brown/gray spots with water-soaked margins on leaves/flowers; gray mold; buds remain closed; stem lesions; wilt/rot; scorched appearance (“fire”) in some plants Destroy infected parts/severely infected plants (do not compost); remove plant debris regularly; disinfect tools; good air circulation/sunlight; avoid overhead watering; prevent plant stress/injury; weed; rotation
Cabbage loopers Insect Large, ragged holes in leaves from larval feeding; defoliation; stunted or bored heads; excrement Handpick; add native plants to invite beneficial insects; spray larvae with insecticidal soap or Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt); use row covers; remove plant debris
Flea beetles Insect Numerous tiny holes in leaves Use row covers; mulch heavily; add native plants to invite beneficial insects
Powdery mildew Fungus Varies; white spots or flourlike coating on upper leaf surfaces; leaves drop; distortion/stunting Destroy infected parts (do not compost); remove plant debris regularly; resistant varieties; good air circulation/sunlight; spray plants with solution of 1 teaspoon baking soda/1 quart water; prevent plant stress; avoid overhead watering
Slugs/snails Mollusk Irregular holes in leaves/buds; gouged buds; slimy secretion on plants/soil; seedlings “disappear” Handpick; avoid thick bark mulch; use copper plant collars; avoid overhead watering; lay boards on soil in evening, in morning lift and dispose of pests in hot, soapy water; drown in deep container of 1/2 inch of beer or of sugar water and yeast sunk to ground level; apply 1-inch-wide strip of diatomaceous earth
Spider mites Insect Fine webs; yellow-specked under-side of leaves, later brown-edged or bronze or yellow leaves; leaf drop Rinse plants with water, mist daily; apply insecticidal soap
Cooking Notes

Artichokes are delicious raw or cooked. They can also be pickled or canned.

Before cooking, slice off the bottom of the stem and any though outer leaves. Cut off about 1 inch of the spikey top of the artichoke.

Steam artichokes, don’t boil them. Steaming cooks them with just the right amount of moisture.

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