Cynara cardunculus (Scolymus Group)
Common Name: artichoke 
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Asteraceae
Native Range: Chile, Ecuador, United States
Zone: 7 to 10
Height: 3.00 to 5.00 feet
Spread: 2.00 to 3.00 feet
Bloom Time: Seasonal bloomer
Bloom Description: Violet blue
Sun: Full sun
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Vegetable
Flower: Showy

Culture

Winter hardy to USDA Zones 7-9 where this plant is best grown in moist, fertile, well-drained soils in full sun. Shelter from strong winds. Mulch in winter near the northern parts of the growing range. Propagation is best done from division. Some cultivars may be grown from seed. This is a Mediterranean-type plant that grows best in temperate climates with cool summers and mild winters. It thrives in some parts of California. Commercial production for globe artichoke is generally limited to USDA Zone 7 and south. Plants may be grown north of USDA Zone 7 as annuals (either as ornamentals and/or for harvest of artichokes). Some plants will not produce good buds when grown from seed as annuals (develop too slowly), but some cultivars (such as 'Imperial Star' PVP) develop buds so quickly (90 days after transplants are set out) that a good crop will reliably be produced from seed by late summer.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Cynara cardunculus (Scolymus Group), commonly called globe artichoke, is an upright columnar perennial vegetable which features lobed, jagged, deeply-serrate, green leaves and thistle-like flowers. Scolymus Group was probably developed from cardoon (Cynara cardunculus) in ancient times. In comparison to the species, Scolymus Group plants have larger flower heads, nearly spineless leaves that are less divided, and broader involucre bracts. The vegetable part of this plant is the large unopened flower bud which contains the edible heart. Flower buds appear year round in warm climates, with the major crop being in April-May and a lesser crop in fall. In cold winter climates, the major crop is in fall. Globe artichoke typically grows in a clump to 3' tall. Flower stalks rise from the clump to 4-5' tall, each stalk topped by a large terminal flower bud with several smaller buds below. Flower buds are harvested prior to opening. If buds are not harvested prior to bloom, the buds will open to spectacular violet blue thistle-like flowers with diameters to as much as 7". Nearly all commercial artichoke production in the U.S. occurs in the State of California with 75% of that California production occurring in Monterey County. Castroville, known as the Artichoke Capital of the World, celebrates an annual Artichoke Festival in May of each year.

Genus name comes from the Latin name.

Specific epithet means resembling a small thistle.

Problems

No serious insect or disease problems. Aphids, snails, slugs and blackfly may appear. Watch for gray mold, powdery mildew or root rot.

Garden Uses

Globe artichokes may be grown as vegetables. Buds are harvested prior to flowering. For consumption, the bud is first steamed until the bracts are easily removable. Bracts are then removed one at a time with the fleshy edible base on each bract being eaten. Inedible choke is removed, leaving the heart. Regardless of culinary value, this plant provides excellent interest to gardens for ornamental foliage and flowers.