Globe artichoke (Cynara scolymus) is a large-growing perennial vegetable that gives a small, though delicious, harvest. The edible part is the base of the immature flowerheads, which are produced on tall stems above clumps of long, jagged, grey-green leaves. Artichokes are traditionally eaten steamed, broken apart into scales, and dipped into melted butter or hollandaise sauce. If left uncut and allowed to flower, artichokes bear attractive thistle-like blooms.
Globe artichoke is not related to Jerusalem artichoke (which produces edible tubers) but it is a relative of the ornamental herbaceous perennial known as cardoon (Cynara cardunculus). The dramatic and ornamental appearance of artichoke plants makes them suitable for a garden border as well as a vegetable garden – but allow plenty of space as globe artichoke plants grow large. Although perennial, globe artichokes aren’t fully hardy and need a favourable site in order to crop well.
How to grow globe artichoke
Plant in late spring and early summer into good soil and in a warm sheltered site, with plenty of space to grow. Water while flowerheads are developing and harvest in summer. Cut back dead growth in winter, or leave seedheads standing to provide food for birds. Divide every few years to rejuvenate plants.
Where to plant globe artichoke
Grow globe artichokes in a warm, sunny, sheltered site in moist but well-drained soil. Give them plenty of space to grow – they reach a height of around 1.5m tall and a spread of around 60cm.
When to plant globe artichoke
Plant in spring to early summer, either buying pot grown plants or rooted sections known as suckers or offsets.
Raising your own artichokes from seed is another option although the resulting plants are likely to vary in quality, and it’s usually necessary to select the best ones and then propagate these by division. To grow from seed, sow late winter to early spring in individual small pots of compost, in a warm place indoors. Grow on in plenty of light, harden off and plant out the young plants when well established with 5-6 true leaves, in early summer.
How to plant and care for globe artichoke
Plant in spring to early summer in fertile well-drained soil. Space plants 60-90cm apart. Water in, then keep watered during dry spells until established.
Cut back the dead foliage annually. In spring, mulch with fertile organic matter such as garden compost and feed with a general fertiliser high in potassium. Water during dry spells in spring and early summer whilst the buds are forming, to improve crop size and quality.
Cropping declines on older plants, so divide and replant every few years. Lift clumps in spring and replant the fresh young outer parts, known as suckers or offsets.
Here, Monty Don demonstrates how to plant bare-root artichokes in spring, offering practical advice on the conditions they need and how to get a good crop from them over the coming years:
When to harvest globe artichoke
Globe artichoke produces a small crop in its first year and larger crops subsequently. From early summer, cut the immature flowerheads when large enough to eat – at least golf ball size. The main crop is produced in early summer and a smaller, secondary crop later on.
Pests and diseases
Globe artichokes are mainly free of pests and diseases. Young plants may need protection from slugs and snails until established. Aphids may occur, though rarely cause any problems and are best controlled by encouraging natural, beneficial predators.
Advice on buying globe artichoke
Named varieties of artichoke give a better, more reliable crop than seed-raised plants. Buying from specialist suppliers gives the widest choice of varieties.
Where to buy globe artichoke