The cardoon is a fabulous plant that can provide plenty of interest in your garden. Cardoons form a rosette of deeply lobed, nearly 3-foot long silvery leaves. Mature specimens can reach upwards of 5 feet tall, so it is easy to see how this plant can make an impact. While the cardoon is truly an evergreen perennial for us in the piedmont of South Carolina, it really shines during the winter. We typically use cardoon at Riverbanks as a winter-interest plant, often using it as an annual to give some size and texture to winter bedding schemes. Small plants set out in the fall will thrive and can spread to over 2 feet wide by the end of winter. As the weather gets hot, cardoons sometimes show wear and tear. It is perfectly acceptable to cut the plants back and let them “rest for the summer” if they are looking particularly rough. Even though we grow cardoon primarily for its foliage, it does have a lovely purple, thistle-like bloom in late spring to summer. Consider incorporating a few cardoons into the mix this fall and winter, it will certainly help jazz up the garden!
Common Name: Cardoon
Botanical Name: Cynara cardunculus
Color: Purple flower and silver-gray foliage
Blooming Period: Late spring to summer
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Size: Up to 5 feet tall
Exposure: Full sun
When to Plant: Fall or spring
When to Prune: Can cut back blemished foliage during the heat of summer.
In Your Landscape: The bold foliage provides much-needed structure and texture to the garden, especially during winter.