This attractive Mediterranean native is a big, coarse, ferny-looking plant with an irregular, somewhat fountainlike form to 34 ft. high and 4 ft. wide. Large, deeply lobed leaves are silvery green. Big flower buds form at tops of stalks; they are the artichokes you cook and eat. If not cut, the buds will open into spectacular purple-blue, 2- to 5-in., thistlelike flowers that can be cut for arrangements.
Plants are perennial in Lower South and Coastal South; USDA 8-9. Stalks are cut to the ground after flowering to produce new shoots. If you are growing them in the Tropical South, plant in fall for a winter crop. In colder regions they can be grown as an annual planted in spring. Perennial artichokes grow stronger and are more productive. Overwinter your plants by cutting back the stalks near the ground when the leaves begin to yellow. Tie the remaining leaves over the crown and mulch deeply to insulate from cold. In spring, uncover them before growth begins.
Whether plants are newly planted or returning from the previous season, fertilize monthly during the growing season. Water weekly, but if your soil is sandy, they may need water more often.
Harvest just before the flowers begin to open to avoid stringy, tough artichokes. After you cut the big center bud, you will have more from the side shoots. Although not as large, they will be delicious. Use sharp clippers, and cut 23 in. below the bud. Handle buds gently.