Q. I have a 3-year-old artichoke plant. It’s grown tremendously this year! Can you advise me if I need to trim/thin it before spring to promote an abundance of artichokes?
Your artichoke is truly impressive! Since it’s 3 years old, it’s ready to divide. You’ll probably get a nice crop this summer, so wait until the cooler fall weather arrives to trim and divide it. Trimming should be done every year to improve productivity. Don’t be shy, either! Artichokes should be trimmed back to only a few inches above ground level. If the plant has gotten big (usually after only a few years), cut away/dig out the outer, younger portions of the plant and replant or give away. There’s no need to dig out the main plant – just the youngsters.
For those of you wondering if you could grow artichokes, here’s some information.
Artichokes are members of the thistle family. Most thistles are weeds that are extremely prickly but have beautiful flowers. If you can grow a really big weed, you can grow artichokes.
Artichokes can be grown in zones 3-11 and are perennials in zones 7-11. They like mild winters and cooler summers, so they may need a protected spot if your conditions are a bit harsher. They need full sun, good drainage, and regular watering. Artichokes that die during the winter have most likely been subject to root rot caused by poor drainage.
Avoid starting artichokes from seed, since there’s tremendous variability in quality. Even seeds collected from a quality plant may not produce quality chokes. Buy a plant from a nursery or find someone who has an overgrown plant and take some of their divisions.
How to find the best variety of citrus to plant in your garden
What you need to know before repotting your houseplants
Composting meat, and the curious case of an artificial turf fungus
Master Gardener: The curse of stinkweed and fruit-thieving squirrels
There has been some breeding and selection work, so you may see more than one variety for sale. Green Globe, which is the most common cultivar, is the most cold-tolerant and produces earlier than other types. Big Heart has no thorns. Violetta produces purple buds and is a smaller plant, which may be more suitable for gardeners with limited space.
Artichokes are tough but can still be subject to pests. Aphids, especially on young plants, can be a problem. (Yes, I managed to lose an artichoke to a severe aphid infestation.) Earwigs like to hang out in the base of the plant, but they usually don’t cause a lot of damage. Slugs and snails also like hiding in the foliage and can damage tender new growth. Insecticidal soap and a pet-safe snail bait (Sluggo) can help.
Keep in mind that artichokes are very large plants. They can easily grow to 5 or 6 feet across. If you have a small garden, I recommend buying your fresh artichokes from the farmers’ market.
Los Angeles County
firstname.lastname@example.org; 626-586-1988; http://celosangeles.ucanr.edu/UC_Master_Gardener_Program/
email@example.com; 949-809-9760; http://mgorange.ucanr.edu/
firstname.lastname@example.org; 951-683-6491 ext. 231; https://ucanr.edu/sites/RiversideMG/
San Bernardino County
email@example.com; 909-387-2182; http://mgsb.ucanr.edu/