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Cardoon is the plant to grow if you’re looking to create a big statement in your garden. This eye-catching, exotic annual has huge, silvery, thistle-like leaves and can grow 5 feet tall or more—making it stunning in the back of a border or large container gardens. Cardoon also shows off amazing flowers that look like violet-purple artichokes and last a long time when cut.
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How to Grow Cardoon
If you wish to enjoy cardoon flowers, it's best to start seeds early indoors or add established plants to your garden, especially if you live in an area with short summers. Cardoon typically blooms in September and October, depending on climate. Though the young flowers are considered edible, most gardeners treat cardoon as an ornamental. But it can be included as a stunning addition in the vegetable or kitchen garden. Its bold, dramatic appearance makes cardoon a showstopper no matter where you plant it.
One of the most effective ways to utilize cardoon in your garden is as a focal point in beds and borders or large containers. If you have the space, plant a cluster of three cardoon plants to maximize its eye-catching appearance.
Cardoon Care Must-Knows
Cardoon is a relative of the artichoke and native to Mediterranean regions where it grows as a perennial. In much of North America, however, it's enjoyed as an annual. While hardy in Zones 7 to 9, it appreciates mild summers and winters, such as the Pacific Northwest. In hotter areas, like the Deep South, it's not long-lived. If you reside where cardoon can behave as a perennial, it may be evergreen and offer outstanding winter interest thanks to its dramatic foliage.
Whether grown as an annual or perennial, cardoon thrives in full sun (at least 8 hours of direct sun per day) and well-drained soil. Because of its impressive taproot, cardoon is quite drought-tolerant, making this plant delightfully low maintenance in gardens and landscapes. It is also quite adaptable to a variety of soil types, including sandy soil. But, like most annuals, it grows best in rich soil that has an abundance of organic matter. Liberally adding compost, well-rotted manure, or other materials before planting will help produce bigger, healthier cardoon plants.
Cardoon typically doesn't require any pruning. You can remove old leaves that get damaged and take away from the plant's eye-catching appearance.
Cardoon can be an invasive pest in some regions, such as parts of California, if the flowers are allowed to set seed.
What to Plant with Cardoon
Cardoon is beautifully complemented by other plants that have similar foliage, including globe thistle (Echinops), sea holly (Eryngium), and artichoke (Cynara). Or add contrast by planting it near varieties that have deep purple leaves, including 'Dark Chocolate' coleus, 'Purple Prince' alternanthera, or 'Solar Power Black' sweet potato vine.
Its elegant appearance makes tropical-looking cardoon a standout in solo containers, but you can also create beautiful combinations with it. For example, pair it with 'Silver Falls' dichondra for a silver-on-silver look; 'Black Velvet' petunia to highlight its fun silvery leaves, or 'French Vanilla' marigold for a chic, fine-textured look.