Cardoon seeds, surprises

I've been growing cardoon for several years now with varying degrees of success. The first year I grew a single plant and it was big and beautiful and I fell in love with it, but it didn't survive the winter. The next year I planted two and although they weren't quite as impressive as that first plant, these both overwintered and the following year I got the treat of their large, thistle-like blooms -- cardoon doesn't bloom the first year.

That was a few years ago, and I haven't seen those blooms since -- until this year. The flowers have now faded and the flower stalk -- the main part of the plant right now -- has withered. The whole thing is quite ugly, so I thought I'd take one last look before I cleaned it up.


The seed pods are huge, prickly, and bursting with sunflower-like seeds -- if sunflower seeds had wind-catching fluff on them:

I've already found a few of these scattering around the yard, and although I'm not too concerned about cardoon becoming a "weed" in my garden, I'd rather not let the seeds distribute everywhere.

Plus, this stalk is so ugly now, I'm tired of looking at it:

So I clipped off all of the seed heads, putting them into a bucket for seed collection later. Or probably to eventually just throw them away. I like to put off decisions about what to do with collected seeds like this, which is why my garage is a mess.

Then I just clipped off the stalk:

I didn't know exactly how low to clip, so I just used my judgement.

As you can see, there is new basal growth, which is really exciting to me! I don't think I've ever had a cardoon show signs of coming back for a third year -- they've always acted like annuals or biennials for me.

I can't stress enough how exciting this is for me: a chance of having a mature cardoon in the garden next year? Wow! (Cardoon is only marginally hardy here with our wet, zone 6 winters.)

Now I just need to worry about getting this plant through the winter.

I do not need to worry about finding a source for cardoon seeds for next year though.

Does anybody want some cardoon seeds? I'd love to see more gardeners in St. Louis growing it.


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Gerhard Bock (Bamboo, Succulents and More)  – (August 28, 2012 at 12:11 PM)  

This post couldn't have come at a better time for me. My cardoon looks ugly, too, *and* it has a whole bunch of flower heads that have gone to seed. I will follow your example, collect the seeds, cut down the stalk *and* keep my fingers crossed that I'll find basal growth.

Alan @ It's not work, It's gardening!  – (August 28, 2012 at 1:51 PM)  

Gerhard: It's funny you said "find basal growth" because I didn't notice it on my plant until I looked down there when trying to determine where to cut the stalk.

Kim Gamel  – (February 25, 2014 at 8:45 AM)  

I live in STL too and came across this post searching on how to germinate cardoon seeds. I bought some off the internet and they came w/ very generic instructions. Did you grow yours from seed, and if so, did they have any special requirements?

Alan  – (February 25, 2014 at 10:17 AM)  

Kim: from what I remember, they did not need any special treatment to germinate -- you might want to nick the seed coat and soak in water for a few hours before planting, then keep moist. I did this indoors starting about now (late Feb) and it worked well for me.

BTW, this ended up being artichoke, not cardoon. Cardoon is much prettier in my opinion.

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