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Artichokes are perennial plants with ferny foliage and large flower buds in the first year when started early. These flower buds are the artichokes you cook and eat. If the buds are allowed to open they become huge, showy, purple thistle-like flowers that are excellent for cutting. Perennial to zones 7-10, they are started early and treated as an annual everywhere else. Where adapted they will remain productive for 4-5 years.
'Imperial Star' artichokes grow up to four feet tall and produce sweet and mild, 3-4.5 inch thornless flower buds the first year with yields up to 3 times higher than older varieties. Winter hardy to zone 7, 'Imperial Star' artichokes were developed to promote heavy, annual production even in colder zones.
'Green Globe' artichokes produce 2-5 inch diameter heads with thick, flavorful hearts. Often begins production by mid-August of the first year. One of the most winter hardy of all artichokes, 'Green Globe' will remain productive for 5 years or more. Winter hardy to zone 7.
For really big, heavy blooming plants, start seed indoors in 4 inch containers, 5-6 weeks before the last spring frost. Plant only your best seedlings into the garden 3 feet apart. About 20% of the seedlings will be of low vigor and should be discarded. In zones 7 and above, artichoke plants may be started from late spring through late summer, for large, productive plants the following season.