Artichokes can be ornamentals, edibles

A halved artichoke shows the leaf scales.

Globe artichokes have much to contribute to home gardens, from providing thin layers of leathery leaves for delectable dining to serving as flowery backdrops in border settings. Pollinators like their purple, thistle-like blooms, too.

“They’re not as popular as tomatoes, but they can look very attractive in the landscape,” said Dan Drost, a vegetable specialist with Utah State University Cooperative Extension.

Globe artichokes are native to the Mediterranean region, and grow well as perennials in the Far West and Pacific Northwest with their cool, moist summers and relatively mild winters.

“The trick in getting artichokes to flower is that they need a cold period. You need to plant them early to get cold temperatures on them: 50 degrees for a few weeks, and then they’ll flower.”

Some globe artichoke varieties mature to 4 feet across and 5 or 6 feet tall. As perennials, it’s recommended that they be divided every several years or before they begin to lose their vigor. That increases the number of plants in the landscape as well as their productivity.

Artichokes can be grown from seed or by using starter plants. It depends on the location.

“To grow artichokes from seed, start them indoors in late February or March under grow lights for about eight weeks, and then plant them outside after the last frost,” said Jim Myers, a plant breeder and researcher at Oregon State University. “In May or June, it’s best to purchase starts from your local nursery or mail-order catalog.”

Plants should be budding by mid-summer. If the flower buds are destined for the table, then harvest them when they reach full size but before they open. They’ll store properly for three to five days once refrigerated.

“If left to flower, they will produce a large purple thistle that can be dried and used in arrangements,” Myers said in a fact sheet. “If you harvest all the heads in milder climates, artichokes may send up a second crop in the fall.”