Artichokes are a member of the thistle family, native to North America, the western and central Mediterranean. They have edible buds that are harvested before blooming into purple flowers. They are also valuable as landscaping vegetation.
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The edible buds are gaining soaring demand as a rich source of minerals and antioxidant ability that is valuable in preventing chronic non-communicable diseases.
Artichokes in the United States are mainly grown on California’s central coast. The region experiences mild winters and cool summers that favor the growth of artichokes for commercial use, making it a source of virtually 100% of America’s artichokes.
Home gardens also support the growth of artichokes, and you can grow them outdoors as perennials or indoors as annuals, regardless of your region.
This article discusses how you can successfully grow and care for artichokes in warm and cold regions of America.
Where to grow artichokes
Generally, artichokes do well in zones 7-11 (warm regions of the United States of America). But you can grow them in cold regions as well.
While the hot southern summers can challenge their growth, they grow naturally as outdoor perennials through the Mediterranean regions with mild summers and cold winters.
As a gardener in a cold climate (below zone 7), you’ll mostly grow artichokes as annuals. You can plant the seeds or buy grown artichokes to transplant during spring.
But you can also grow them year-round indoors, in sheltered pots(to protect against frosting).
For details to do with pricing, please check the updated prices of artichokes in the United States.
How to grow artichokes from seed
Artichokes can do well indoors as container plants and should be planted in large, deep pots that accommodate the plant’s deep-growing root system.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to growing artichokes indoors from seeds in pots.
1. Sourcing and preparing artichoke seeds
- Annual varieties are ideal for growing artichokes in pots, and you can source them from specialty online stores such as Johnny’s Selected Seeds.
- Soak the artichoke seeds overnight or for 10-12 hours in lukewarm water for faster germination.
2. Preparing the growing media
- You can use an 18–20-inch diameter and 24-30-inch depth pot or a 20-gallon fabric grow bag with adequate drainage holes at the bottom.
- Fill the pot/container with a combination of high-quality potting mix blended with compost; a 50:50 ratio is recommended.
- Supplement the soil with a slow-release organic vegetable fertilizer to ensure a steady supply of nutrients throughout the growth period.
3. Growing the seeds
- Sow the seeds ¼-½ inches deep, 3-4 inches apart.
- Keep them moist by watering them in the morning and evening
- Keep the pot/container under a shade to avoid direct sunlight, which dries the soil.
- The seeds should sprout in 10-14 days.
4. Thinning the seedlings
- Artichokes grow to about 4 feet (1m) tall, uptaking many nutrients.
- When the seedlings have grown 2 sets of leaves and are about 4 inches tall, spread them into other pots so that only one artichoke grows in each pot for healthy growth.
- A healthy plant should produce at least 20 artichokes per season.
5: Vernalizing the seedlings
For the plants to produce flowers (artichokes) within the first year, you must trick them into thinking they have been through a winter season, a process called vernalization. This is how you do it:
- Leave the plants in temperatures below 50 degrees Fahrenheit for 10 days, then bring them out.
- They should bloom within a year of their planting
- Artichokes are ready to harvest when the buds are plump and solid yet have not begun to blossom.
- Cut off the bud two inches below its stem using a knife or pruning shears.
How to transplant pre-started artichokes
You can buy pre-started artichokes as they take a shorter time to mature. Similarly, instead of thinning the seedlings you planted into other pots, you can transplant the seedlings outdoors.
Here’s the step-by-step guide to transplanting your pre-started artichokes:
1. Choosing a bedding site
- Select a location that receives at least six hours of sunlight daily to plant your artichoke plants.
- Ensure you have enough space to plant them about four feet apart as they grow tall and wide.
2. Preparing the bedding site
- Artichokes thrive when planted in well-drained, organic-rich soils.
- Dig up the soil on the bedding site to loosen it.
- Mix compost or other organic fertilizers into the soil before planting them.
- Dig holes four feet apart to accommodate the pre-started seedlings
3. Planting the pre-started seedlings
- Carefully transfer each plant into a hole
- Cover it with soil, ensuring it’s covered as much as previously covered in the pre-started medium.
- Water thoroughly
How to grow artichokes from crowns
Artichokes produce for about 6-7 years, but you can divide them into different plants every 3 years for a larger harvest. A mature artichoke has about three root crowns growing underground.
Follow these steps to plant artichokes from crowns:
1. Acquiring root crowns
If you already have artichokes growing, you can propagate new artichokes from the root crown division. Otherwise, you can buy root crowns.
Asexual (vegetative) Propagation of Artichoke via root crown division:
- Gently remove the root crowns from a mature mother artichoke during its dormancy period.
- Divide each root crown into smaller parts, ensuring each part has at least two buds.
- Bury the divided crowns under moist sand until ready for transplanting.
2. Preparing the growing spot
- Choose an outdoor space which receives 6-7 hours of sunlight.
- Consider an area far from crowded trees, as nutrient competition can harm yields.
- Dig up the spot with a forklift to loosen the soil
- Warmer regions may require shade to protect the root crowns from direct sunlight.
- Mix about 12 inches of compost or a slow-releasing fertilizer.
- Dig the slow-releasing fertilizer deep enough for the root’s access, say 8 inches deep.
- Water the soil bed thoroughly.
3. Planting the root crowns
- Dig holes about 6-8 inches deep.
- Adding an organic PrimeStart Booster Blend can encourage root growth for the crowns.
- Plant the root crowns in the holes and cover them with about 6-8 inches of soil.
- Mulch the bedding to preserve moisture and discourage weed growth. Nitrogen fertilizer can also help to control the weeds during spring.
- Your artichokes will be ready for harvest next spring.
You can learn how to grow artichokes from root crowns from this 2-minute YouTube tutorial that we found to be useful.
How long do artichokes take to grow
Artichoke plants are slow growers and can take up to 4 months of the better part of spring and summer, to mature. However, you can acquire pre-started plants or annual varieties which you can harvest in a single season, as planted seeds can take up to two years before flowering.
Additionally, exposing seedlings to cold temperatures that make it seem like they’ve gone through winter (vernalization) encourages blooming within the first year of growth.
How to care for artichokes during winter
If you planted artichokes in pots, you can bring them indoors during winter to avoid frosting. For the outdoor artichokes, you can cut them at the ground level and mulch/cover them till winter passes.