Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: Cardoon, Artichoke Thistle
Cynara cardunculus

Family: Asteraceae (ass-ter-AY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Cynara (SIN-uh-ruh) (Info)
Species: cardunculus (kar-DUNK-yoo-lus) (Info)

2 vendors have this plant for sale.

27 members have or want this plant for trade.


6-8 ft. (1.8-2.4 m)

4-6 ft. (1.2-1.8 m)

USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)
USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)
USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)
USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)
USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)
USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)

Sun Exposure:
Full Sun

Plant has spines or sharp edges; use extreme caution when handling

Bloom Color:

Bloom Time:
Late Spring/Early Summer
Mid Summer


Other details:
May be a noxious weed or invasive
This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds
Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater
Self-sows freely; deadhead if you do not want volunteer seedlings next season
This plant is resistant to deer

Soil pH requirements:
6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)
7.6 to 7.8 (mildly alkaline)

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
From seed; sow indoors before last frost
From seed; direct sow after last frost

Seed Collecting:
Allow seedheads to dry on plants; remove and collect seeds
Wear gloves to protect hands when handling seeds

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20 positives
8 neutrals
2 negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Positive dofspring On Jan 5, 2015, dofspring from WALTHAM ABBEY
United Kingdom wrote:

I had seen this plant growing near a horse ring down the road, my mum was with me and immediately she gasped at the colour, shape and size of its leaves, they had it in a raised bed as a centre piece, no flowers though. I thought it was rare and exotic looking, without a clue searched the internet without luck. Then luck struck when I was passing again and saw the gardener pottering, he said its Cardoon, and an hour later he was down my garden with a packet of last year's seeds. I tried these in the green house about September, and non germinated. Then last year I got some seeds of e-bay and in March I had about 90% germination rate, the seedlings came happy in the green house and did not suffer under watering or over heating, I had about 10 ready, about 10-15 cm high to plant out end of April, still warming up and cold nights may hit even then. I put three in the back under the big Oak, dry and shady but gets about 50% south border sun, put 4 in the middle bed, almost full sun apart from early morning in sets of two. Last I put one in front bed shade all morning. The ones under the oak were savagely eaten by something really quickly, none made it. The one in the front bed was eaten even now in Jan its still hanging on with one or two leaves, but the 4 in the middle bed took about 2 ft tall each and are now doing well, touch wood. I was completely surprised to see that they did not die back during our harsh UK winter, which is very wet and frosty, they kept their leaves and are still going strong. So I am now looking forward to spring to see what happens next. I am try and put some in my middle back bed which is clay clogged and nothing survives there over winter.

Positive coriaceous On Dec 10, 2012, coriaceous from ROSLINDALE, MA wrote:

An extraordinary plant, beautifully and dramatically architectural. The silvery color of the foliage is a great foil to other colors.

Blooms in late August in Southborough, MA Z5-6. The flowers are big and beautiful and showy, more blue than violet, but they don't last long, and the whole plant deteriorates and needs lots of cutting back in succession after bloom. (In fact, the only maintenance issue arises from the need to remove a fading leaf at the base almost every week, there always seems to be one or two.) The only spines are on the bracts at the base of the flowers---there are ornamental strains without spines on the petioles. We haven't seen any self-sowing, but we've dead-headed.

I've been astonished to find two of these have returned faithfully for at least the last four years (and perhaps more) with no special protection. They get full sun and good drainage, and are a few feet from a south-facing brick wall. Each is the major focal point of the bed in which it resides. We've also inherited a cardoon in a border in Jamaica Plain, MA Z6a, which has gotten through at least 3 winters.

Update: This last season (2013) I grew a culinary strain from seed, 'Rouge d'Alger' (which was claimed to be spineless but has spines along the petioles). The fleshy petioles were attractively tinted pink. Plants grew to about 2' in one season.

Of the older plants, one blackened and died this season, and its replacement's leaves also blackened before it too died. I wonder, could cardoons' longevity here be limited not so much by winter hardiness as by a susceptibility to disease due to our humidity and year-round rainfall? After all, they evolved in a Mediterranian climate.

Update May 2014: None of these plants survived this last unusually cold winter 2013-2014. I will continue to grow them as annuals/temperennials.

According to BONAP, cardoons have naturalized in North America only in the west coast states.

Positive meredith_french On Jun 27, 2012, meredith_french from Casa de Oro-Mount Helix, CA wrote:

I was given two seedlings of this plant by Ramona Garden Club in San Diego County. After a ho hum start the plants took off. They are very appealing due to their structural shape. They grow into large fountains at least 4-5' across. As they begin to create the thistles, they will elongate with the thistles riding over the top. Knowing how invasive they are, I have been deadheading the "blossoms" the second the bees seem no longer interested in them. They will be a dull purple. I cut one thistle open out of curiosity and the base where the thistle hairs are attached to the "heart" was full of seeds. As it dried out in my kitchen, the thistle hairs separated and kinked, ready to take flight, each attached to a seed. Do not let these puppies out! They not only get into the rest of your yard, but the roadsides, hillsides and canyons. Snails and grasshoppers love this plant! The latter do not do enough damage to abandon growing them. I am curious about a fly that frequents this plant. It is 1/4" long, slightly green, clear wings. It has a chevron type mark on its back. Appears to be a pollinator. Does anyone know what it might be?

Positive Bellafina2003 On May 13, 2012, Bellafina2003 from City View, SC wrote:

I planted this about 3 years ago, I am impressed and happy with its interesting architectural form , and the flowers are beautiful. My specimen is now over 6 ft tall and has at least 8 or 9 flower buds. It is planted in a well drained bed that has not had many soil amendments added. It has survived through the few snow and ice events we have had in the past 2 winters.

Neutral texusgirl On Mar 25, 2012, texusgirl from Austin, TX wrote:

A friend gave me about 14 dried cardoon flowers for an arrangement I put on my barbeque outside on the back porch. The next spring I had about 20 baby plants. I didn't even know what these babies were because I didn't plant any seeds in the bed where they were. It took me a while to figure out the dried cardoon flowers that blew apart in the winter winds had scattered the seed. Very prolific so watch out and remove flower heads after the bloom.

Positive Hoki On Aug 8, 2011, Hoki from Katikati, BoP
New Zealand wrote:

Our large rural property, in the Bay of Plenty, NZ, borders onto a paddock with a fence and pittosporum hedge between. We have underplanted the hedge with cardoon and in late summer(March) the show is stunning with the purple flower heads and silver foliage. Dead heading is imperative but we toss the heads back under the hedge for next years show. Stunning plant!

Positive brockenborough On Jan 17, 2011, brockenborough from San Francisco, CA wrote:

I like a few things about this plant. It's low-maintenance. I am in Northern CA (Zone 8) and get no rain from April to October. My cardoons grow without irrigation in very poor clay with no amendment. They grow in shady areas that get only 3 hours of direct sun in the summer, none in the winter. They produce a large amount of material for compost per plant. I just chop off the leaves when they droop. I'm a beekeeper, and the bees love this plant. It produces a large amount of nectar and is good bee forage. The comments about its invasive nature are right on, though.

Positive Fleurs On Feb 25, 2010, Fleurs from Columbia, SC wrote:

Started from wintersowing several years ago, my cardoon has never managed to get very large. I made the mistake of planting the cardoon under a limbed up crepe myrtle so it may not get enough sun.

Still, I love the jagged silver leaves, especially during winter in my 7b/8a garden.

The plant's summer blooms are endearingly amusing, like a purple punk hairstyle. After flowering, cardoon seems to shrivel and die, but it's only resting until the weather cools in the fall.

Neutral JobJarQueen On Nov 1, 2009, JobJarQueen from Vancouver, WA wrote:

I am wondering if I can keep this plant in my indoor garden room for the winter here in Vancouver, WA Zone 6? I will put it out again in the spring. Any ideas would be helpful.

Positive mstasney On Jul 29, 2009, mstasney from Buda, TX wrote:

While I have found the propagation by seed to be a little difficult in greenhouse conditions, it is truly an amazing plant and one every gardener should have.

Has anyone tried to collect the dried seeds directly from the dried flowers/thistle? If so, can you share success/failure stories?


Neutral yotedog On Apr 16, 2008, yotedog from Raleigh, NC wrote:

Love the look of this plant--saw it full-grown at a professionally landscaped home--very sculptural, with beautiful gray-green leaves and brilliant, eye-catching blooms. Planted two plants (app 10 inches tall) late in the summer, but neither survived the winter cold. Didn't rot, as we were having a drought and they were in a raised bed, but did not survive 21 degrees Farenheit in a south facing location in zone 7. Maybe too young? Hard to say...

Positive cowboydj On Nov 11, 2007, cowboydj from Rosenberg, TX wrote:

I was first introduced to Cardoon in Texas A&M University's Holistic Garden. Its size and unusual appearance literally "stopped me in my tracks"!! I asked, "What is THAT????" I've wanted one for myself for about two years and, now, have two. I'm so excited and can't wait to get them in the ground. Wish me luck!!!

Positive surfkitty On Nov 3, 2006, surfkitty from Union City, NJ wrote:

I decided to grow cardoon from seed, as I was intrigued by its long history and by the idea that it tastes "artichokey". We did not have any blooms this year, but our 3 plants are happily growing in a large container. It's becoming cold here in the northeast and I was wondering if it's okay to bring it indoors for winter, has anyone tried?

Positive mamajack On Jun 30, 2006, mamajack from Fate, TX (Zone 8a) wrote:

this is a tough plant but i started out with 2. i tried to move one and was unable to get all of the root. it died and it did not come back from the remaining root. i have the remaining plant in full texas sun all day on the west side. it lives in hard packed clay soil without any supplemental water. it does get huge. i have never had even one volunteer seedling. several years ago it was attacked by leaf footed bugs. i thought it had died but next spring it was back. it does have spiny leaves. this plant provides winter interest by leaving the plant stalk and dried flower heads.

Positive blackbunny On Jun 6, 2006, blackbunny from Provincetown, MA wrote:

I grew this plant a few years ago for food, but found the stalks too stringy for my taste. The upside is that the blooms were a trip...covered with every conceivable bird and bug, and stunning to boot. The next year, I experienced the invasive side as baby cardoons came up everywhere in my vegetable garden (easy to identify and pull). I skipped a year and have decided to cautiously allow one to grow in the back of my bed for the entertainment value, and to feed my beloved chickadees and finches. One other person in town has been growing them for several years and they don't seem to have posed an invasiveness problem here in ecologically delicate Provincetown MA. I'll keep you posted, but for the meantime any bird&bug lover who enjoys a spectacular thistle may enjoy growing a cardoon or two....

Positive vossner On May 1, 2006, vossner from Richmond, TX (Zone 9a) wrote:

I like this plant because it is dramatic. Love the coloring. Its grayish (sp?) leaves against other plants is very visually pleasing, to me, anyway. Since I have only had it for about a year, can't say anything about its invasiveness. so far no problem. Planted inground, full sun. As of this writing, plant is in bloom, it is all I can do not to cut the flower and bring it inside the house. Quite stunning!

Neutral PurplePansies On Jun 3, 2005, PurplePansies from Deal, NJ (Zone 7a) wrote:

Currently growing (for edible purposes).... not yet harvest so no positive or negative yet. Stems are used for eating after being "blanched" in cardboard. A favorite in Italy and France and with Italian Americans.
So far I have found seedling fairly prone to rotting in wet spring soil.
Seedling id: fleshy rounded (before true leaves) dark green with white veining at leaf veins.

Positive CaptMicha On Aug 30, 2004, CaptMicha from Brookeville, MD (Zone 7a) wrote:

A very hardy plant but not hard to eliminate in my opinion. The best way to get rid of unwanted plants in by digging up as much of the root as possible. They don't like to be disturbed and have always died when I've done it.

DO NOT let this plant go to seed b/c the seed are carried by animals, especially birds and mice making nests and they carry on the wind. If seeds gets away, cardoon will sprout anywhere it lands.

Japanese beetles target this plant. Other then other beetles, I haven't observed other pests.

Positive hannahd On Aug 25, 2004, hannahd from Traverse City, MI wrote:

Last year, I planted five cardoons from seed in April in my north Michigan (Zone 5) garden. At the end of the season I dug out and destroyed all of them, or so I thought, since I did not believe that they would survive our harsh winters. To my surprise, one came back from what must have been left of the the roots and grew into a glorious plant over the last few months. It is now blooming with about a dozen flowerheads, and reaching about 6ft tall and 5 feet wide. Has anyone else had a cardoon survive a zone 5 winter?

Negative inheritedgarden On Aug 10, 2004, inheritedgarden from Edison, NJ wrote:

We bought a house that came with a large (20' x 40') garden last summer... we weren't sure what would grow this year, so I took a "wait and see" approach.... well, we have/had cardoon and my FIL actually knew what it was, etc. so I had planned to blanche some of it, and harvest it. It grew to about 6 ft tall, and a huge rainstorm flattened just about all of it. Part of it fell over into the "lawn" portion of our yard, and proceeded to sprout in the grass, so we pushed it all back into the garden. Because it is so attractive to bees, I had to wait until this past weekend's 70 degree/cloudy weather to pull it out. New growth had started to grow from the now flattened, but not dead stalks. It's quite hardy and that's not a good thing. 5 hours and 14 plastic garbage bags later, it is mostly gone... we chose plastic over paper leaf bags to avoid spreading it to anyone else in our town. We have since found more cardoon growing in all parts of our garden, lawn, and other parts of the yard. If you choose to grow cardoon, make sure you tend to it daily, and you want it. We were unlucky that we didn't know what was what and we had never gardened before. Our variety was quite spiny and even wearing leather gloves, my forearms were "stuck" over and over again and appear to have a rash.

Positive frostweed On Jul 24, 2004, frostweed from Josephine, Arlington, TX (Zone 8a) wrote:

I remember eating this vegetable in Spain where it is quite popular.
We used it in place of artichokes when we wanted the flavor of the artichoke but did not want to spend as much money.
It is great for flavoring rice dishes and stews. It is also great by itself, but stronger tasting than the artichoke.

Positive foodiesleuth On Jul 23, 2004, foodiesleuth from Honomu, HI (Zone 11) wrote:

I'm happy to report that cardoon will grow in the Waimea (Kamuela) area of the Big Island in Hawaii. It was planted as an experiment for a cooking demonstration that would be presented by Mario Batali (Molto Mario) during a food seminar in Hawaii in March 03....the plants were planted months in advance and did great. The presentation went quite well and we all got to taste cardoon with handmade pasta made with semolina, which we helped prepare.

Since then the Hirabara Farm (small boutique farm) where the demonstration/cooking class took place, has been continuing to grow it. The farm is located at about the 3,000 foot elevation

Positive Ray1431 On Jul 22, 2004, Ray1431 from Antwerpen
Belgium wrote:

Cynara cardunculus grows since ages in the vegetable gardens around castles even in Belgium although the plant grows more likely in France, Italy etc. If used as vegetable the leaves must be winded together and covered with black plastic at the end of august, early september to create a hothouse effect. This makes the leaves and stems to loose their greygreen colour and it softens the stems.
Cynara cardunculus is a delicate vegetable although it requires a long boiling time over 2 hours or 50 minutes in a pressure cooker. Note that only the stems (very well cleaned) are eaten and are cut in pieces of 6 cm. A good seed is "Plein Blanc", inerme from Clause, France, means Fully white, unarmed (not prickly).

Positive suncatcheracres On Jun 21, 2004, suncatcheracres from Old Town, FL wrote:

I grew cardoon several years ago in an Atlanta suburb, zone 7b, from a packet of seeds. I had about a half dozen plants survive the ravages of rampaging leafhoppers that devoured most of my seedlings, and one cardoon grew to about 8 feet tall, with gorgeous purple-blue thistles. This plant was in the front yard, near the street, and everyone commented on it.

The others only grew to about 3 feet, and none of them survived a very cold winter at almost a 1,000 feet high--Atlanta can be a very cold place indeed, in the winter, despite being in the South, and I was sad that they didn't come back, as this was a very attractive plant. Obviously it is not invasive in that climate. I tried eating some of the new leaves, as the Romans ate it, but they were very bitter.

Neutral Fran99 On Jun 20, 2004, Fran99 from Spartanburg, SC wrote:

I have been looking a this plant in a bed by Kinkos for several years. However, the composite flower is an azure blue rather than pinkish-purple. Does anyone know what this blue one is? After all these years of admiring it, they were digging up the bed & discarding everything, so I got one & planted it. I hope it lives in my yard.

Negative boggins On Jun 28, 2003, boggins wrote:

It readily escapes from captivity. With few natural enemies in North America it can be an expensive invader of parks and other natural areas, and should not be used near or upwind of them.

Neutral Terry On Jan 26, 2003, Terry from Murfreesboro, TN (Zone 7a) wrote:

Some taxonomists believe Cardoon cardunculus and C. scolymus are synonyms.

Positive welshherblady On Oct 20, 2002, welshherblady from Isle of Anglesey,North Wales
United Kingdom (Zone 8a) wrote:

An attractive architectural plant which grows best in poor soil.Is tolerant of salty breezes(sea).
Often to be found by roadsides where it has selfseeded,probably by seed carried by birds.

Neutral ohmysweetpjs On Oct 20, 2002, ohmysweetpjs from Brookeville, MD wrote:

Very hardy in my zone 7 yard. Lovely purple flowers that create an enviroment all of their own with bumble bees, butterflies, ants and spiders lying in wait for an unsuspecting victim. Careful though, it has tiny little spikes that lodge themselves into skin and are hard to detect by eye but easy to detect by pain.

Neutral mystic On Aug 11, 2001, mystic from Ewing, KY (Zone 6a) wrote:

A tender perennial that can grow 6 to 8 feet high. The gray-green leaves overlap at the base and can get up to 20 inches long with ovate to linear-lance shaped segments and deep basal lopes. The wide, plump, edible stems form loose stalks or heads like celery. Cardoons keep their vase shape until late in the season, when a branching ,gray-wooly central stem shoots up. Several buds, which resemble small artichokes, grow atop this stem. These grow into purple thistle like flowers which are 1 1/2- 3 inches across.


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Alberta, Alabama
Vincent, Alabama
Aptos, California
Casa De Oro-mount Helix, California
Clovis, California
Los Angeles, California
Menifee, California
Merced, California
Palo Alto, California
Rancho Palos Verdes, California
San Francisco, California
Weldon, California
Clifton, Colorado
Ocala, Florida
Saint Augustine, Florida
Kamuela, Hawaii
Indianapolis, Indiana
Jeffersonville, Indiana
Brookeville, Maryland
Silver Spring, Maryland
Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts
Provincetown, Massachusetts
Southborough, Massachusetts
Traverse City, Michigan
Natchez, Mississippi
Edison, New Jersey
Weehawken, New Jersey
Roswell, New Mexico
Hillsborough, North Carolina
Raleigh, North Carolina
Wilmington, North Carolina
Winston Salem, North Carolina
Columbus, Ohio
Enid, Oklahoma
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Ashland, Oregon
Brookings, Oregon
Portland, Oregon (2 reports)
Salem, Oregon
Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania
Columbia, South Carolina
Greenville, South Carolina
Hartsville, South Carolina
Spartanburg, South Carolina
Lenoir City, Tennessee
Arlington, Texas
Austin, Texas
Beaumont, Texas
Buda, Texas
College Station, Texas
Fate, Texas
Fort Worth, Texas
Hallettsville, Texas
Houston, Texas
Princeton, Texas
Rosenberg, Texas
San Antonio, Texas
Salt Lake City, Utah
Arlington, Virginia
Waverly, Virginia
Artondale, Washington
Kalama, Washington
Olympia, Washington
Ridgefield, Washington
Seattle, Washington

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