Growing Artichokes

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artichoke plant buds in garden landscape

Artichoke plants produce one large bud on a stalk and several smaller buds below it.

Globe artichoke is an heirloom vegetable grown for its tender, edible flower buds. With their large, silvery-green leaves and thick stems topped with pinecone-like flower buds, artichoke plants add a strong architectural element to vegetable garden plantings.

Thomas Jefferson reportedly raised artichokes at Monticello, his Virginia home, as early as 1767. Today the majority of commercial artichoke production is along coastal sections of Central California, where the weather suits them perfectly.

Here are some things you need to know about growing artichokes. Artichoke plants thrive best where mild winters and cool, foggy summers prevail. In such growing conditions, they are perennials, yielding harvests for up to 5 years. Where winters dish up only a few frosty nights, plants will sometimes overwinter when pruned and mulched (zones 8 and 9). In colder regions, you have to treat artichokes as annuals planted in spring. They are best planted in fall in the humid, subtropical, frost-free areas of zones 10 and 11.

Soil, Planting, and Care

In zones where artichokes are perennial, select your site considering that plants will be in place for up to 5 years. Give plants room to spread, since mature plants can reach 3 to 4 feet tall and up to 4 feet wide. Artichokes thrive in full sun to partial shade. They also need light, fertile, well-drained soil—sandy or loam is ideal. Prepare the soil by working 5 inches of compost into a trench 8 inches deep and equally wide. Two reasons artichoke plants fail are summer drought and winter soil that’s waterlogged. Adding compost improves soil’s ability to retain water in summer and drain in winter.

Plant artichoke seedlings atop the amended soil, spacing plants 4 feet apart. In zones 6 and colder, you can plant artichokes more closely, 2 to 3 feet apart, because frost will prevent the plant from reaching its mature, established size.

After artichokes are established and unfurling new growth, fertilize plants once a month with a liquid fertilizer such as Bonnie Herb & Vegetable Plant Food. Keep soil moist throughout the growing season. You can apply a liquid high-potassium fertilizer (often called a potash fertilizer) every 2 weeks during periods of active growth to encourage flower buds to form.

Keep weeds out of artichoke beds. Give plants a thick mulch, especially in northern growing areas. Mulch with an organic material, such as dry grass clippings, straw, aged manure, or a mixture of these. As buds begin to form, remove mulch, and apply a 4-inch-thick layer of compost around each plant, extending from the base of the plant outward 12 inches.

Troubleshooting

Artichoke has few problems. Slugs may attack young foliage, and botrytis blight can coat older leaves. Beat slugs with slug bait or slug traps. If only a few leaves are infected by botrytris blight, remove and destroy them. Treat the plant with a fungicide such as neem oil.

Harvest and Storage

Artichoke buds that are opening on the plant will not be as tender as artichokes harvested when the bud is tight.

The large buds on this artichoke plant are beginning to open and should have been harvested sooner for better flavor and tenderness. If buds are left to open on the plant, they can’t be eaten but they do make beautiful flowers in the garden.

Flower buds form in early summer atop tall stems that soar out of the center of the plant. Each stem forms several flower buds, with the top bud ripening first. Harvest buds while they’re tight and firm and hopefully at least 3 inches in diameter; if buds begin to open, they lose their tenderness. Fully open buds are inedible but produce striking, large, lavender flowers. Cut a 1- to 3-inch section of stem with each bud to make it easier to handle. The lower buds that develop later won’t grow as large as the top bud. When you have harvested all buds on a stem, cut the stem to the ground. For large, established plants, prune the entire plant back by a third to spur a fall harvest.

Artichokes keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Uses

artichoke plant blooms with purple flowers in landscape garden bed beside house

These artichokes are left to bloom for ornament. This is especially useful in areas where they are perennial.

Because harvest increases with plant age, it’s best to try to overwinter artichoke plants. Some gardeners have reported success at overwintering plants as far north as Zone 5 using the techniques described below for zones 6 and 7.

For zones 8 and warmer: Following fall harvest, cut plants back to ground level or slightly below ground level. Cover with 3 to 4 inches of an organic mulch such as straw or shredded leaves.

For zones 6 and 7: Cut plants back to roughly 12 inches tall. Mound organic mulch over the plants, then cover plants and mulch with an inverted bushel basket. Feel free to use compost as this first mulch layer. Add a layer of mulch (straw is great at this point) over and around the bushel basket. Drape a rainproof cover over the mound, taking care to anchor the edges.

In spring, after the ground is no longer frozen and before growth begins, remove the winter covering. When new growth begins, fertilize plants again with Bonnie Herb & Vegetable Plant Food and add a 1-inch layer of compost or well-rotted manure around the plant.

FAQs

How do I water artichokes?

Artichokes need watering about once a week, but that can vary. If your soil is heavy and holds moisture well, water less often. For hot regions, water more frequently. Don’t allow artichokes to stand in water; plants won’t survive. Too little water results in loose buds with poor taste.

Should I remove the shoots that have appeared at the base of my artichoke plants?

If you garden in Zones 4 to 6, where artichokes are treated as annuals, remove suckers as soon as they appear, snapping or clipping them from plants. In warmer regions, where artichokes are perennials, if you allow stems to develop, you’ll have a few transplants you can use to enlarge your artichoke patch or share with friends. In this case, remove only the weakest shoots, permitting heartier ones to grow. If you don’t want transplants, remove all the shoots.

How do I know when to harvest artichokes?

As soon as flower buds begin to form, check plants daily. You want to pick buds just before the petals begin to open. If you wait too long, the buds become fibrous and stringy – impossible to eat. If your plants have experienced ideal conditions, buds may be as large as 3 inches across. The center bud ripens first. Once you harvest that, check plants daily as the side shoots develop. Side shoot buds don’t grow as large as the center bud. Remember to cut buds with 1 to 2 inches of stem below the base. Handle buds carefully; they bruise easily.

Can I do anything to improve my artichoke harvest?

The area in California where artichokes grow best experiences those famous fogs that roll in off the ocean. You can mimic those growing conditions in two ways. First, plant artichokes where they’ll receive some afternoon shade. It also helps to mulch roots as summer temperatures soar. Aim for a 4-inch-thick layer of mulch. Second, install an auto mister programmed to create a fog around plants in early morning. It’s wise to give plants as ideal growing conditions as possible. Artichokes raised in hot, dry conditions mature buds so quickly that they easily become over-ripe and tough.

118 thoughts on “Growing Artichokes

  1. My artichoke plant is in it’s second season and both years the artichokes never get all the way green. The leaves are purple half way down. They are Golden Globes that I grew from seed. They are small and when I cook them they are tough. I live in Portland, OR so they are getting plenty of water. They are in a location that gets lots of sun when we have it.
    Any suggestions?

    • Hello Jessica,
      A lot of artichoke varieties are not entirely green, but have a purplish caste or base to them. There are heirloom varieties that are entirely purple :) To grow the best artichokes requires giving the plants the most ideal conditions – a nice, fertile, loamy soil; a weed free bed; sun; and fertilizer to keep them going throughout the season! – danielle, Bonnie Plants

  2. I live in the Estancia Valley, Near Moriarty, Nm. I have been growing artichokes for 5 years and I have had good luck until last year. Last year I bought 10, 6 inch seedlings . I planed 6 and gave the others to two friends. The plants were beautiful, bu I didn’t get once single choke. Neither did my friends. I just let them die on the vine so to speak. Since we have many winter nights in the single digits and lower, I treat my artichokes as annuals, replanting every year. Yesterday I noticed a some growth on the old plant. How should I coax them back to life. or will they never produce, if they didn’t the first year.
    Thanks you
    Ruth

    • Hello Ruth,
      How awesome! Treat your artichokes as if you had just planted them. Be sure and fertilize according to your garden soil test or apply a liquid fertilizer monthly. Potassium fertilizers will help with flower bud formation. Keep the weeds away so they will not compete with the artichokes for water and nutrients. Dry spells put a damper on artichoke production so be sure and water if the weather turns dry. Keep us up date. Would love to see some pictures of your artichokes on the Bonnie Plants facebook page. -danielle, Bonnie Plants

  3. I am really enjoying growing artichose. I need details on when to harvest. My firast ones seem to grow in clusters, the first one being larger. Should I go ahead and pick it and wait for the others to catch up wrt sizet?

    • Hi Russ,
      You should go ahead and harvest it – the first bud will be the largest. If you wait on the others, the top artichoke may begin to open, and you will want to harvest and eat it before then. Take a look at the harvest and storage tab on this page for more harvesting tips. – danielle, Bonnie Plants

  4. Would I have any luck with them in New York…we live near the Rochester aerea….saw your plants at Home Depot but was concerned with our weather conditions…Thank you

  5. i have had a artichoke plant going on year 5 in antelope valley ca. how do i keep them from flowering to get big enough to eat

    • Hi Dan,
      Offer the artichokes some afternoon shade in the hot, dry regions. Mulch roots well as summer temperatures soar. Some home gardeners go to the gardening extreme and install auto misters to create a fog around plants in early morning – mimicking the California region where they grow best. I have artichoke plants in my Southern garden, but ideal conditions do not exist, but the flowers are beautiful. – danielle, Bonnie Plants

  6. Hello
    I was wondering how much sun an artichoke plant would need in the East bay region of California (by San Francisco).
    Thanks!

    • Hello,
      Wow – that’s a great region for growing artichokes. Artichokes will thrive in full sun in the cool, coastal areas. When growin in areas with hot, dry summers – afternoon shade helps! – Danielle, Bonnie Plants

  7. I’d like to know if why my artichokes are not getting very big?? this is the second season for these plants but they are opening too son and not growing very large..
    Will they get larger in the fall or is there anything that I can do.??? Greg

    • Hello Greg,
      I am not sure what area you are gardening in but artichoke plants thrive best where mild winters and cool, foggy summers prevail. In areas with drier, warmer conditions, artichokes will not get grow as large as artichokes grown in the cool, foggy areas. Moist (sandy, loamy) soils, enriched with organic matter are ideal for best prodcution. Some gardeners install mist systems to mimic the weather where artichokes grow best. There are more tips on the FAQ tab under the growing artichokes article. My weather is such tht artichokes are often very small (and tough), but I do enjoy letting them flower – an awesome attraction to the garden. – Danielle, Bonnie Plants

  8. I live in Clinton Mississippi and bought one of your artichoke plants last spring. I got it through our hot summer and it grew like crazy all winter. I have harvested 5 chokes and count 14 more. Its about 5 feet tall and looks great. I want more but can’t find them anywhere and I have looked! I have read about cutting it back in the winter but mine thrived through the winter. To cut the stalks, do you just reach as deeply into the plant and cut? There is no local help on the topic of artichokes.

    • Hi Dale,
      You can cut the plants back to soil level after they have been harvested. You will see new shoots grow start to grow. These shoots will overwinter, but if the temperatures starts dipping below 25 degrees F, you may want to grab them a blanket! You can also try for a fall harvest by cutting the plant back 1/3, but summer heat in the South usually does not allow the a second harvest. – Danielle, Bonnie Plants

  9. I live in Phoenix Arizona and my artichoke plant is now in its second year. It started producing in its first year and we have had about 16 artichokes so fall this year. At the end of the growing season, which will be possibly in July (judging from last year) should I prune my plant or let it just die back? If yes to pruning, how far back?

    • Hello Jan,
      After harvest pruning of artichokes is detailed here on the harvest and storage tab. Sounds like your artichokes are producing well for you! – Danielle, Bonnie Plants

  10. Just bought 3 of your large peat pot artichokes from el WalMarto. I live in Alabama zone 7b. I have learned by experience that when growers say “Full Sun” on the plant tag, they don’t mean a Full Alabama Sun on a summer day. TOOOOO HOOOT!!
    Would about 4 hrs of AM sun, A couple of mid-day sun/shade hrs, ended by about 7-8 hrs of deep shade be ok for these plants? IF no, please give suggestions.

    • Hello Jerry,
      I agree that partial afternoon shade is needed for some veggies! Deep shade may not be the best, but sometimes we do not have a choice! Let us know how everything goes. -danielle, Bonnie Plants

  11. Can I grow artichokes in Florida, in containers. I have had a lot of success with the various Bonnie Plants I have purchased. Wal-Mart rarely has anyone that really knows anything much about the plant – but your website is extremely useful. Also only carries traditional types – tomatoes, peppers, eggplants – nothing to exotic, but they keep the plants in good shape and it makes transplanting very easy with the containers that come from Bonnie Plants.
    I live in St. Augustine Fl, and I know our summer nights are a little warm for Artichokes – but I get a very good ocean breeze at nights. My planting site only gets about three hours of direct sunlight, it is bright and airy the rest of the time.
    As asked, can I grow artichokes in containers (outdoors) in this environment – and does Bonnie Plants have a variety of artichoke you grow for transplanting – and of course, is there a store that carries them in this area at all?

    • Hi Dennis,
      Wonderful to hear about your gardening success!
      This is everything you wanted to know about growing artichokes in Florida. Hot weather in southern Florida causes the buds to toughen and open quikly. Some home gardeners still plant them, in very early Spring. The weather is getting too warm to plant now. I hope this helps! – Danielle, Bonnie Plants

    • Hello Kim
      Use cold water when washing the artichoke. Gently rinse in between the leaves and give the artichoke a good shake. – Danielle, Bonnie Plants

    • Hi Nancy,
      How old and how tall are the plants? If they are falling over because they are crowded and being ‘pushed’ around, you can try staking the plants. – Danielle, Bonnie Plants

  12. I, too love your site as well as your plants !!!
    Ok, to my question, my daughter brought home two of your peat pots of artichokes, not really sure where or how to plant them. I live in zone 6 (north west Rhode Island) – will it survive outdoors throughout the winter or do I bring it in. Is there anything special I need to do to care for it and can I expect to actually harvest?

    • Hello Cathy,
      Artichokes overwinter in zones 7 – 9 when mulched properly. In your gardening zone, it is grown as an annual. To care for them, start with a good soil and follow up with fertilizer. Remember to water too – one of the reasons artichokes fail is summer droughts! The care tips are outlined here under the soil, planting, and care tab. – Danielle, Bonnie Plants

  13. Hello! Thanks for the awesome info and all of the great help that you provide to everyone.

    I too have some questions like many, many others. I live in Modesto CA which is the Central Valley and our summers are pretty gnarly. Our summer temps get as high as 115+ our winters come with a hand full of freezing nights. I have 6 globe plants and they’re about 8 months old and over this past winter I let Them grow and during our freezing days I protected them with a frost blanket, its now April and they are all producing except 1 plant. I was wondering what’s the best thing to fertilize them with? Once a week I’ve been using miracle gro to fertilize them. What else could I use to give them more nutrients? I also would like to know about mulching to help keep the soil moist because my soil isn’t very “loose” it becomes pretty hard once water settles in it. And I notice it seems to dry up pretty quickly so I was wondering how you mulch your plants? I have steer manure and grass clippings. Do I just mix it and toss it around my plants? And if yes, how close to I get to the plant its self? Do I go all the way to the “stim” of the choke plant? Oh and what do you use to stop pests? I’m noticing quite a bit of ants and snails and these little black bugs with little spots of white on their backs. Thank you for all of your help.

    -Josh

    • Hello Josh,
      Mulches are a necessity in the veggie garden – weed control, soil moisture, and for soil temperatures. Manures and grass clippings make good mulches, but they should be composted first. Mulches are usually a couple of inches thick and placed around and up to the vegetables. These are fertilizer and pest recommendations from your home state of California extension. Hope this helps – sounds like you are really enjoying gardening! – Danielle, Bonnie Plants

    • i planted an artichoke plant last year and it just started producing artichokes. I started with one plant and it divided into 4 seperate stalks. i used the bonnie fertilizer in the green container year round so don’t lose hope it will eventually grow as i live in stockton,ca

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