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CYNARA cardunculus

Image of Cynara cardunculus

James Burghardt

Family

Asteraceae

Botanical Name

CYNARA cardunculus

Plant Common Name

Cardoon

General Description

What a bold, architectural perennial for the garden! Cardoon is a handsome herbaceous plant that produces huge rosettes of spiny, silvery arching leaves. In the second year this close relative of the artichoke produces tall, multi-branched stems topped with enormous thistle-like blooms of violet-blue. These appear from early to midsummer. Bees and butterflies love the blossoms of this native of the Azore Islands and Mediterranean.

Cardoon may also be enjoyed as a vegetable, though its use is uncommon outside of Europe. The rosettes and leaves are covered with mounds of soil and made tender from lack of sunlight. These blanched stems and tender leaves are then cooked or eaten raw in salads like celery.

Beautifully heat and drought tolerant, cardoon grows well in average soil with perfect drainage and full, hot sun. In warmer subtropical regions, it is best planted in fall and allowed to grow outside the hot rainy summer season. Across the temperate zones, this plant may be better treated as a half-hardy annual or occasionally biennial plant.

For the best foliar display, remove its flower stalks when they first begin to form. If you decide to let its flowers be, they make great cutflowers. Cardoon’s large attractive leaves add a bold splash of silver to seaside gardens, cottage garden or sunny mixed borders.

Characteristics

  • AHS Heat Zone

    9 - 1

  • USDA Hardiness Zone

    7 - 10

  • Sunset Zone

    8, 9, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24

  • Plant Type

    Perennial

  • Sun Exposure

    Full Sun, Partial Sun

  • Height

    3'-8' / 0.9m - 2.4m

  • Width

    3'-4' / 0.9m - 1.2m

  • Bloom Time

    Early Summer, Summer, Late Summer

  • Native To

    Mediterranean, Canary Islands, Northern Africa

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Acidic, Neutral, Alkaline

  • Soil Drainage

    Well Drained

  • Soil type

    Clay, Loam

  • Tolerances

    Drought

  • Growth Rate

    Fast

  • Water Requirements

    Drought Tolerant, Average Water

  • Habit

    Rosette/Stemless

  • Seasonal Interest

    Spring, Summer, Fall

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    Showy

  • Flower Color

    Purple, Blue Violet

  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    Gray Green, Silver

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    Gray Green, Silver

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    Gray Green, Silver

  • Fragrant Flowers

    No

  • Fragrant Fruit

    No

  • Bark or Stem Fragrant

    No

  • Repeat Bloomer

    No

  • Showy Fruit

    No

  • Edible Fruit

    No

  • Showy Foliage

    Yes

  • Foliage Texture

    Coarse

  • Foliage Sheen

    Matte

  • Evergreen

    No

  • Showy Bark

    No

Special Characteristics

  • Usage

    Cutflower, Edging, Feature Plant, Mixed Border, Rock Garden / Wall

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    Yes

  • Invasive

    No

  • Attracts

    Butterflies

  • Self-Sowing

    Yes