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How to Plant, Grow, and Harvest Cardoon

Cardoon leaf stalks

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Cardoon is a tender perennial vegetable often grown as an annual. Cardoon looks like a cross between burdock and celery. It is grown for its young leaf stalks which are blanched and eaten like celery.

Cardoon has heavy, gray-green, fuzzy leaves that are deeply cut leaves and a heavy, bristled flower head. Cardoon is a member of the artichoke family and can grow up to 4 feet (1.2m) tall and 2 feet (.6m) wide.

Carden Quick Growing Tips

  • Sow or transplant cardoon into the garden 3 to 4 weeks after the average last frost date in spring.
  • Start cardoon from seed indoors 6 weeks before transplanting it into the garden.
  • Cardoon, which is grown for its young leaf stalks, will be ready for harvest 120 to 150 days after planting.

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Where to Plant Cardoon

  • 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.
cardoon growing in garden
Cardoon plant in summer

When to Plant Cardoon

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

How to Plant Cardoon

  • 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.
  • Yield: plant 1 or 2 cardoons for each household member.

Cardoon Companion Plants

  • Grow cardoon with other perennial vegetables such as asparagus; not root vegetables or vines. It needs a dedicated growing space.

Container Growing Cardoon

  • Choose a 5-gallon (19 liter) container or larger to grow one cardoon.
Cardoon stalks
Cardoon is grown for its young leaf-stalks which are blanched and eaten like celery.

Watering and Feeding Cardoon

  • Evenly water cardoon but allow plants to dry out between watering.
  • Add aged compost to planting beds before planting and again at midseason.

Cardoon Care and Maintenance

  • Cardoon is commonly blanched to improve the flavor and to make it more tender.
  • About 3 to 4 weeks before harvest, when the plant is 3 feet (.9m) tall, tie the leaves together in a bunch and wrap paper or burlap around the stems to about 18 inches 45cm) high, or hill up soil around the stems.

Cardoon Pests and Diseases

  • Aphids can attack cardoon. Pinch out infested foliage or spay aphids off plants with a blast of water.
  • Cardoon has no serious disease problems.
Cardoon in kitchen
Steamed cardoon

How to Harvest Cardoon

  • Cardoon will be ready for harvest 4 to 6 weeks after blanching.
  • Cut stalks off at ground level and trim away the leaves.

Storing and Preserving Cardoon

  • Cardoon stalks will keep in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 weeks. Wrap them in paper or plastic.
  • Cardoon can be frozen, canned, or dried; handle it like celery.

Cardoon Varieties to Grow

  • Varieties: ‘Large Smooth’; ‘Large Smooth Spanish’; ‘Ivory White Smooth’. Grow any variety available in your area.

About Cardoon

  • Common name. Cardoon
  • Botanical name. Cynara cardunculus
  • Origin. Europe

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Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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