Artichoke Seed Plants: When To Start An Artichoke Seed

Artichoke Seed Plants: When To Start An Artichoke Seed

It’s the vegetable of aristocrats, said to be a favorite of the Greek god, Zeus. Its exotic shape and size makes it intimidating to many gardeners, but the truth is, it’s just a thistle. If left to mature, it will form a beautiful blue-purple bloom with a diameter of 4 to 5 inches (10-13 cm). It’s the artichoke, and seed plants from this elegant treat are easy to grow.

There are, of course, a few questions that need to be asked and answered before you start your seed plants; questions about when to start an artichoke seed, what’s the best process for germinating artichoke seeds, and how long does it take artichoke seeds to sprout. Let’s begin at the end which, in the cycle of life, is also the beginning.

Harvesting Artichoke Seeds

Harvesting artichoke seeds is much the same as the one every gardener uses to collect flower seeds. Remember, your artichoke seed plants are, to all intents and purposes, garden flowers from which you harvest and eat the bud. For the average home gardener, all you’ll need is one bud for harvesting artichoke seeds.

Allow the bud to fully open and mature. When the flower begins to brown and die, cut it off, leaving two or three inches (5-8 cm.) of stem. Place the flower head first into a small paper bag- those brown paper lunch sacks are great for this- and, using a piece of string, tie the open end of the bag around the stem and store in a cool, dry place. Do not use plastic bags. They hold in moisture and you want the flower head to dry thoroughly. Once the flower head is completely dry, shake vigorously and voila! You’re harvesting artichoke seeds. Don’t worry about having enough. Artichoke seeds run about 800 to the ounce.

This process is great if you know someone who is already growing artichoke seed plants or if you’re growing store bought plants, but if neither of these scenarios apply, seeds are readily available through catalogs and garden centers and if it’s too late for germinating artichoke seeds for this year’s garden, the same sources can provide you with already growing artichoke plants.

When to Start an Artichoke Seed

When to start an artichoke seed? As soon as those winter blahs have you wishing for spring! Yes, February is the ideal month for germinating artichoke seed, but they can be started as early as January or as late as the middle of March. For those in warmer climates, where winters are mild and without frost, the timing is a little different. Your artichokes can be grown as short lived perennials and seed should be sown directly into the garden in the fall.

When to start seeds is key to healthy flower head production. They will grow into large, bush-like plants that need a very long growing season. To set their buds, artichokes need a period of vernalization, at least two weeks of cold temperatures below 50 degrees F. (10 C.), yet they are extremely frost sensitive. Therefore, your seedlings must be ready to set out right after the last frost date, but before spring temperatures rise too high.

Planting Artichokes – How Long Does it Take Artichoke Seeds to Sprout?

Artichoke seed plants are not fast starters, which is another reason for early indoor planting. Give your seeds a healthy start by planting two or three seeds in each 3 to 4 inch (8-10 cm.) pot. Fill the pot two-thirds full of good quality, compost rich soil-based medium. If the potting mix feels heavy, you can add a little perlite for better drainage. Sprinkle your seeds in the pot and cover with a light dusting of potting mix.

Make this first watering a good one, soaking the soil well and allowing the pots to drain. From here on in, water only when necessary. The soil should never be allowed to become soggy, but don’t let it dry out either. Barely moist is good.

How long does it take artichoke seeds to sprout? It depends on the richness of your potting medium and the quality of light the plants receive. Ideally, germinating artichoke seeds do best under a controlled grow light, but they can do just as well in a warm, sunny window or a greenhouse for those fortunate enough to have one.

To begin germinating, artichoke seeds need a temperature around 70 to 75 degrees F. (20 C.) and will take two to three weeks to sprout; another thing that should be taken into account when deciding when to start your artichoke plants.

Once seedlings have sprouted, water them with a weak fertilizer solution at least once a week. These plants are heavy feeders! About a month after sprouting, remove the smallest and weakest seedlings leaving only one per pot.

Your indoor grown seedlings should be 8 to 10 inches (20-25 cm.) when they are ready to be hardened off and planted outdoors. Plant them 1½ to 2 feet (45-60 cm.) apart, nourish them well and enjoy the fruits– or should I say flowers– of your labors.

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, 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.

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


When to Plant Artichokes

  • 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.

Choosing and Preparing a Planting Site

  • Choose a spot in the garden that gets full sun.
  • Artichokes are heavy feeders. For each plant, mix a shovel of compost or aged manure into the soil before planting.

How to Plant Artichokes

  • 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.

How to Grow Artichokes

  • 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.

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!


  • Bacterial crown rot
    • Symptoms: The plant will stop growing and the leaves will wilt. The crown will slowly rot.
    • To avoid rot, use clean tools and start plants from disease free transplants.
  • Fungal gray mold
    • Symptoms: The crown of the plant becomes slimy and foul smelling and a white to gray mold will appear. This often occurs in humid conditions.
    • To prevent mold, plant in light well-drained soil and don’t crowd plants. Remove all plant debris in the fall.
  • Armyworms, aphids, flea beetles, loopers, spider mites, and slugs can be problematic.


How to Harvest Artichokes

  • 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.

Recommended Varieties

  • ‘Green Globe’ matures early and is a good choice for northern gardeners. This variety can be grown as an annual.
  • ‘Violetto’ produces purple slightly elongated buds. Best grown as a perennial.
  • ‘Imperial Star’ has tasty round buds that mature early. It is an annual and will produce well-developed artichokes the first year from seed. Plants grow about 3 feet tall. Each produces 1-2 small primary buds and 5-7 smaller secondary buds.
  • ‘Emerald’ has thornless buds and is very productive. It grows glossy, deep green buds on 4 to 5 feet tall plants. Grow it as a perennial in zones 7 and above.

Wit & 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.


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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Days To Maturity The average number of days from when the plant is actively growing in the garden to the expected time of harvest.

Fruit Size The average size of the fruit produced by this product.

Sun The amount of sunlight this product needs daily in order to perform well in the garden. Full sun means 6 hours of direct sun per day partial sun means 2-4 hours of direct sun per day shade means little or no direct sun.

Spread The width of the plant at maturity.

Height The typical height of this product at maturity.

Sow Method This refers to whether the seed should be sown early indoors and the seedlings transplanted outside later, or if the seed should be sown directly in the garden at the recommended planting time.

Plants ship in Spring at proper planting time (Click here for Spring Shipping Schedule)


How to Sow

Sowing Seed Indoors:

  • Plant seeds ¼ inch deep in individual pots 6-8 weeks before last expected frost.
  • Seedlings emerge in 14-21 days.
  • As soon as seedlings emerge, provide plenty of light on a sunny windowsill or grow seedlings 3-4 inches beneath fluorescent plant lights turned on 16 hours per day, off for 8 hours at night. Raise the lights as the plants grow taller. Incandescent bulbs will not work for this process because they will get too hot. Most plants require a dark period to grow, do not leave lights on for 24 hours.
  • Seedlings do not need much fertilizer, feed when they are 3-4 weeks old using a starter solution (half strength of a complete indoor houseplant food) according to manufacturer’s directions.
  • If you are growing in small cells, you may need to transplant the seedlings to 3 or 4 inch pots when seedlings have at least 3 pairs of leaves before transplanting to the garden so they have enough room to develop strong roots
  • Before planting in the garden, seedling plants need to be “hardened off”. Accustom young plants to outdoor conditions by moving them to a sheltered place outside for a week. Be sure to protect them from wind and hot sun at first. If frost threatens at night, cover or bring containers indoors, then take them out again in the morning. This hardening off process toughens the plant’s cell structure and reduces transplant shock and scalding.

Planting in the Garden:

  • Select a location in full sun with deep, fertile, well-drained soil. In hot areas, afternoon shade is helpful.
  • Prepare the bed by turning the soil under to a depth of 8 inches. Level with a rake to remove clumps of grass and stones.
  • Set plants 3-4 feet apart in rows 4-5 feet apart.
  • Dig a hole for each plant large enough to amply accommodate the root ball.
  • Carefully remove the plant from its pot and gently loosen the root ball with your hands to encourage good root development.
  • Fill the planting hole with soil to the top and press soil down firmly with your hand leaving a slight depression around the plant to hold water.
  • Use the plant tag as a location marker. This is particularly important if you are trying different varieties. It is very difficult to tell which variety is which from the foliage.
  • Water thoroughly, so that a puddle forms in the saucer you have created. This settles the plants in, drives out air pockets and results in good root-to-soil contact.
  • Mulch deeply to keep the soil as cool as possible.

Purple Romagna Artichoke Seeds Open Pollinated Quick View

  1. 4" Purplish Heads
  2. Italian Heirloom - 1835
  3. Harvest in second season
More Info

Cynara scolymus


A favorite of chefs, this Italian Artichoke grows large-hearted heads that vary in color from green to purple, and are valued for their tenderness and beautiful appearance. The plants grow fairly tall with edible flower buds, known as chokes that are 3 or 4 inches in diameter, which can be harvested in the second season.

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Harvesting and Storing Jerusalem Artichokes

Cool soil temperatures improve flavor and texture. If your winters are cold, begin digging Jerusalem artichokes in late fall, at least two weeks after your first hard freeze. In milder areas, wait until midwinter to dig your tubers.

Using a digging fork, start at one end of the bed and work your way across, feeling for tubers with your fingers. Tubers can sometimes be hiding a foot deep. Harvesting can continue through winter as long as the ground isn’t frozen. In very cold climates, digging will often have to wait until the soil thaws in spring.

Rinse and pat dry harvested tubers before storing them in a refrigerator or cool root cellar. Jerusalem artichokes will keep in the fridge for a couple of months.

Planting Cardoon

Site. Grow cardoon in full sun cardoon will tolerate partial shade. Plant cardoon in well-drained soil rich in organic matter. Prepare beds in advance with aged compost. Cardoon prefers a soil pH of 6.0 to 7.0.

Planting time. Cardoon is a tender perennial vegetable grown as an annual. It is best grown from transplants set in the garden 3 to 4 weeks after the average last frost date in spring. Start cardoon from seed indoors 6 weeks before transplanting. It germinates best at 75°F (24°C). Cardoon will be ready for harvest about 120 days after planting.

Planting and spacing. Sow cardoon seed ¼ inch deep. Thin cardoon from 18 to 24 inches (45-61cm) apart. Space rows 36 to 48 inches (76-122cm) apart.

Companion plants. Perennial vegetables such as asparagus not root vegetables or vines.

Container growing. Cardoons do not grow well in containers. Chose a 5-gallon (19 liter) container to grow one cardoon.

Cardoon is grown for its young leaf-stalks which are blanched and eaten like celery.

Watch the video: The Two Perennial Crops You Should Grow in Your Home Garden