Artichoke Allies: Discover the Best Companion Plants!

As a lifelong gardener immersed in Wisconsin’s diverse landscapes, I’ve cultivated a passion for experimenting with companion planting combinations that bring both beauty and functionality to the garden. After years of hands-on research transforming outdoor spaces throughout the state, I’ve discovered that artichokes are the ultimate companion plant for creating a thriving ecosystem. From improving soil health to enhancing pest control, I share why every gardener should consider working artichokes into their beds, containers, and borders.

Unveiling the Art of Companion Planting

Companion planting refers to strategically situating plants together so they can benefit and support one another. It’s based on the premise that certain plants have unique properties that repel pests, attract pollinators, provide nutrients, and create an environment where both plants can exceed their potential.

Artichokes as a natural pest control

While all vegetables appreciate growing alongside friendly floral, herb, and crop companions, I’ve found few that reap the extensive rewards of artichokes. As a large, perennial plant with intricate needs and growing habits, artichokes uniquely gain from companionship while improving conditions for their planting partners in return.

In this guide, you’ll discover why I believe every Wisconsin gardener should incorporate artichokes and their preferred companion into their landscape. I’ll provide actionable advice on choosing compatible plant pairings tailored to your USDA Hardiness Zone, crafting a thoughtfully designed garden layout, and cultivating artichokes successfully so you can experience the floral bounty. Let’s explore the art of companion planting with artichokes!

Brief Background on Artichokes

Hailing from the Mediterranean, artichokes (botanically classified as Cynara scolymus) have an ornate appearance in shades of green, almost resembling a floral sculpture. Classified as thistle, they contain budding edible flowers prized for their bittersweet flavor that emerges once their tough external leaves are removed.

In peak season, the plants reach towering heights of up to six feet tall and three feet wide between spring and midsummer. Their long, sturdy stems give way to deeply lobed silvery foliage, providing ample shade and protection for lower-growing crops. Beneath the soil’s surface, artichokes develop an extensive taproot system over ten feet deep that aids in breaking up compacted earth.

Artichokes as a pollinator attractor

While artichokes grow as annuals in regions with harsh winters, I cultivate them as perennials in sheltered microclimates stretched across Hardiness Zones 7 through 11. With proper vernalization or exposure to winter’s cold temperature fluctuations, they will return vigorously yearly, especially with an insulating layer of mulch.

Beyond their unique gastronomic appeal, artichokes, with their vibrant purple blooms, lend considerable aesthetic value. They make excellent border plants, focal points for flower beds, and striking additions to patio containers.

Now that we’ve covered some background basics let’s unearth why artichokes should be the next plant you add when developing your thoughtfully planned garden design!

Top Reasons Every Garden Needs Artichokes

Improves Soil Health & Fertility

With their deep foraging taproots, artichokes break up dense soil while transporting nutrients from buried deposits closer to the surface where shallow-rooted plants can access them. As the long roots extend into the ground, they improve drainage and oxygenation, facilitating microbial activity to build soil health. The plant’s mass also sheds leaves, stems, and roots, which compost back into the earth to feed future crops.

Artichokes as a source of antioxidants

Artichokes don’t require overly rich soil but appreciate amended earth abundant with organic matter. I work compost and well-rotted manure into planting holes and top-dress beds with a fresh layer each season. Your effort to nourish artichokes will reward you with vigorous growth, ample harvests, and liberated nutrients to share.

Enhances Natural Pest Control

With their dense growth habit forming thorny thickets, artichokes act as a living barricade that prevents easy access to more vulnerable fruits and vegetables. Like an organic security system, the plant’s perimeter deters hungry deer, rabbits, and groundhogs from penetrating inner garden beds.

Artichokes also employ allelopathy, meaning they biosynthesize and release certain compounds with pest-inhibiting properties—for example, artichokes lesion nematodes, which threaten tomato and pepper plants. Interplanting artichokes in plots reserved for nightshade family crops can limit destructive parasitic roundworms.

As a flowering plant, artichokes attract predatory and parasitic insects that prey on various garden pests. From lady beetles and green lacewings to braconid wasps and syrphid flies, these hungry helpers feast on common nuisances like caterpillars, thrips, aphids, and mites. With built-in bodyguards, artichokes protect themselves and their neighbors!

Artichokes as a source of minerals

Encourages Pollinators & Beneficials

Beyond serving up a movable feast for beneficial insects, artichokes generously reward pollinating partners like honeybees and bumblebees. As sunflower family members, the buds unfurl into vibrant blossoms with easily accessible nectar. In return for their sweet sustenance, the busy buzzers facilitate cross-pollination, allowing the plants to achieve their full reproductive potential and bear the season’s bountiful harvest.

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By planting artichokes, you’ll likely notice a marked increase in visiting pollinators in your overall garden, even in crops across your yard that generally struggle to attract winged helpers. That’s because helpful insects often have feeding and nesting preferences for varietal flowering plants. Once you lure them in with a nourishment source they fancy, like artichokes, they’ll happily overflow into other blossoms.

Improves Crop Yields & Growth

Thanks to their pest-eliminating prowess and unparalleled ability to attract pollinating allies, artichokes indirectly help neighboring plants prosper. Crops like cucumbers, squash, melons, peppers, and tomatoes that rely on insect cross-pollination often produce higher yields and larger fruits when artichokes live nearby.

Artichokes also foster advantageous mycorrhizal relationships between plants and soil fungi that aid in the transfer of nutrients, water, and protection from pathogens. They fuel essential microbiota like rhizobacteria and actinomycetes, which help bolster fungal disease resistance.

Artichokes as a source of nutrients

Through their deep roots, artichokes tap into symbiotic affiliations underground, passing hardiness and improved growth efficiency to crops sharing their raised beds or container plots. Plants that generally underperform standalone often thrive beside the robust vigor artichokes radiate.

Best Companion Plants for Artichokes

Now that you know why artichokes amplify garden success, let’s explore prime plant pairings that complement each other’s strengths through harmonious compatibility. Keep reading for my top companion recommendations for incorporating artichokes into Wisconsin gardens tailored to your regional climate challenges and growing needs!

Dependable Flowering Friends

Sunflowers

No companion plant collaboration evokes the essence of symbiosis better than the artichoke-sunflower alliance. The prolific pollen-producing sunflowers tower over the artichokes and provide ground cover and shade to the moisture-loving artichokes.

In return, the expansive artichoke canopy protects sunflowers’ delicate roots while repelling voracious varmints. Together, they form formidable double coverage. Sunflower’s deep bands of bright blossoms also attract beneficial insect armies that patrol artichoke acreage.

Artichokes as a source of shade

For best results, situate taller sunflower varieties like Mammoth Russian behind artichokes so they don’t block sun exposure. Choose disease-resistant, cold-hardy sunflowers like American Giant that can withstand Wisconsin’s temperamental climate swings.

Marigolds

Every serious vegetable garden is complete with the vibrant, honey-scented blossoms of marigolds standing sentry. Cheerful calendula and signet varieties pair perfectly with artichokes and choke out weeds that compete for nutrients in the soil. They bloom brightly even when bees temporarily abandon the garden on overcast days.

As an added boon, marigolds secrete natural compounds in a process called allelopathy that deters soft-bodied pests like whiteflies, spider mites, and tomato hornworms.

For best results, scatter marigold seeds around artichokes so they form a lively living mulch carpet. The low-growing foliage fills in bare spots, allowing artichokes to stretch skyward through their branches without shading them out.

Lavender

Luscious lavender’s sweet floral aroma and drifting clouds of beneficial insects enticing nectar make it an exceptional artichoke ally. Along with blessing your garden with soothing scents, the easy-care perennial herb uses its aromatic offense to repel common artichoke enemies like whiteflies, cabbage moths, flea beetles, and leaf miners.

Artichokes as a source of vitamins

Under the shelter of the artichoke’s umbrella canopy, fragile lavender plants gain protection from extreme temperatures. They also benefit from the artichokes’ ability to exterminate nibbling nematodes.

Opt for cold, hardy English lavender varieties like Munstead or Hidcote Blue for best results. Plant smaller starter plugs near established artichoke roots instead of large potted plants that will compete for space. Prune plants in the spring after the heaviest frost danger passes before new growth emerges.

Vital Vegetable Sidekicks

Beyond beautiful blossoms, artichokes also thrive with hardy vegetable varieties suitable for Wisconsin’s fickle climate.

Peas

Sweet shelling and snap peas happily climb artichoke stems, staking their gangly tendrils skyward. As legumes, nitrogen-fixing peas help enrich the surrounding soil to stimulate scrumptious artichoke growth. Beans and other vining crops like cucumbers and squash make excellent climbing companions.

For best results, sow frost-tolerant varieties like Little Marvel or Sugar Snap directly into the ground a couple of weeks before your region’s average last spring frost date. Place seeds on the north side of plants so pea foliage doesn’t block the sun needed for plump artichoke flower bud production.

Artichokes as a versatile vegetable

Sage

Savory types of cooking sage, like purple, golden, and tri-color, lend ornamental and practical appeal alongside artichokes. The perennial herbs have beneficial properties, such as deterring cabbage moths and improving flavor. Their soft gray-green leaves contrast beautifully with the artichoke’s signature dusty blue hues.

For best results, sow starter plants instead of seed to avoid spotty germination. Give young sage transplants a head start indoors or in a greenhouse before moving them outside after the danger of frost has passed. Site sage near the outer edges of artichoke root zones and prune back routinely to prevent overgrowth.

Garlic

Mighty mosquito and aphid-repelling garlic make the perfect protective plant for pest-prone artichokes. The bulbs overwinter well with an insulating cover of leaves or straw. Both garlic and artichokes thrive when interplanted with legume nitrogen-fixing green manures like Dutch white clover or hairy vetch.

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Plant garlic cloves in the fall 6 to 8 weeks before the ground freezes for best results. Select cold, hardy cultivars like Romanian, Red, or Ukrainian. Situate garlic within interior segments of wide-row artichoke beds so plants provide shelter against harsh winter winds on either side.

Artichokes as an easy to grow plant

Unexpected Underdog Companions

When designing your artichoke garden, think beyond typical pairings by incorporating unique complementary crops. Unexpected matches often yield fortuitous results!

Amaranth

Underutilized ancient grain crops like stunning tall amaranth make unexpected yet suitable artichoke companions. Known as “pseudocereals,” these versatile edibles yield abundant seeds and nutritious leafy greens. Their vibrant fuchsia flowers also garnish seasonal garden arrangements.

Thanks to deep roots that mine minerals, amaranth enhances the nutrition content of soils to boost artichoke growth. It also attracts hoverflies that parasitize common garden pests by laying eggs in their larvae. Plant amaranth near the outer edges of artichoke root zones for symbiotic root interactions.

For best results, hold off sowing frost-sensitive amaranth seeds directly in garden beds until two weeks after your region’s last expected spring frost window. Shelter young seedlings if temperatures drop below 50°F once sprouted.

Borage

Underappreciated, borage deserves more garden grace. With cucumber-flavored foliage frequently described as “a cool drink of water on a hot summer day,” this attractive addition makes perfect sense positioned near moisture-sucking artichokes.

Artichokes as an edible vegetable

Sky-blue starburst flowers festooning trailing plants prove irresistible to bees, butterflies, and helpful predatory wasps that control caterpillar pests. Hollow-stemmed borage also permits beneficial ladybugs and lacewings to nest and breed.

For best results, sow seeds directly into garden beds two weeks before the last regional frost date. Once established, transplant seedlings near artichoke roots or scatter seeds around the base. Pinch back tips often to encourage bushy growth and prevent crowding of the artichoke leaves.

What Not to Plant with Artichokes

While we’ve covered ideal artichoke affiliations that flourish through friendly plant feng shui, certain pairings prove less prosperous. Before finalizing your garden design, avoid combining artichokes with these incompatible crops:

Tomatoes & Peppers

At first glance, grouping artichokes like tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, and eggplant with their nightshade siblings seems like perfect planning. However, these plants are susceptible to many of the same diseases, such as verticillium wilt, powdery mildew, and gray mold.

Overcrowded plots cause moisture competition between deep, water-dependent artichoke roots and shallow, tangly nightshade feeders. Alternatively, you can dedicate separate beds to solitary culture for these crops, spaced at least 3 feet apart from artichokes, or opt for container gardening so their roots remain isolated.

Fennel & Dill

Lacy, fronded, anise-scented fennel, and dill are suitable matches besides ingredient-sharing artichokes. However, the herbs’ genealogy in the carrot family makes them problematic pairing partners. Dill and fennel tend to cross-pollinate with artichokes, resulting in inferior flavor.

Worse, if left unchecked, prolifically self-seeding fennel and dill spread rapidly to choke out artichokes. Even more critically, fennel exhibits allelopathic tendencies, secreting biochemicals that suppress the growth of nearby vegetables.

Benefits of companion planting artichokes

Corn & Grains

While amaranth makes an unconventional yet compatible artichoke companion, greedier grains like corn, wheat, and barley compete intensely for nutrients and water resources. Fast-developing annual cereal crops also tend to smother lower-growing artichokes once they shutter sunlight by rapidly shooting skyward.

Instead, dedicate an independent plot away from your artichoke patch for grain cultivation. Or use heirloom flint corn varieties like Painted Mountain or Floriani Red that reach a maximum of 5 to 6 feet at maturity. That allows for warm-season interplanting without fear of shading.

By thoughtfully selecting suitable plant partners while avoiding problematic pairings, your artichoke patch can prosper for years supported by companion crops!

Prime Companion Planting Design Tips

Beyond choosing compatible vegetable, herb, and flower pairings, designing an aesthetically pleasing layout and proper spacing ensures companion planted artichokes and partner plants thrive.

Color Coordination

Artichokes make an undeniable statement in gardens with their enormous silvery leaves, bristly buds, and vibrant violet blooms. Complement their dramatic presence with companion plants in complementary jewel tones.

Vibrant sunflower heads bobbing on tall green stalks beautifully underscore artichokes. Silver blue foliage contrasts with wealthy purple planting partners like sage, opal basil, Dark Opal cabbage, and Eclipse parsley.

Echo powdery artichoke blooms with periwinkle blue borage blossoms, whisper pink garlic chives, and pale yellow and orange calendulas. For an incredibly decadent combination, flank artichokes with Golden marigolds and yellow zucchini or squash. The colorful contrasts dazzle visually!

Height Variations

How to companion plant artichokes

Garden design involves playing with heights, shapes, and hues. Artichokes grow statuesquely vertical, topping around five feet tall in optimal conditions.

To vary staggered heights, situate lower-growing edibles like bush beans, lettuce, beets, and onions around them. Or use cascading herbs such as thyme and oregano to blanket the ground around the artichokes’ base while allowing the central stage.

Plant taller sunflowers and corn at the back of garden beds to avoid infringing on artichokes’ light requirements. Diagonal rows that zigzag tall amaranth or sorghum with dwarf celery root and leeks make narrow plots appear wider.

Raised Beds

In my experience cultivating artichokes through harsh Wisconsin winters, raised planting beds prove vital for overwintering success and facilitating excellent drainage during storms.

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Build your raised bed at least 12 inches deep, which allows artichokes to develop extensive root systems. Line the bottom with mesh hardware cloth to deter burrowing pests like gophers. Then, fill the frame with rich organic potting soil blended with quality compost, worm castings, or bat guano.

Ring artichokes are placed in the center, with preferred companions around the edges. Before winter, top dress with a 2 to 3-inch layer of shredded leaves, weathered hay, or weed-free straw as insulating mulch.

Wide Row Arrangements

When sowing lengthy rows, mimic commercial growers by situating artichokes in staggered double rows about 5 feet apart. Fill the expansive aisle with a living mulch cover crop like buckwheat, white Dutch clover, or alfalfa.

Not only does a living ground cover combat weeds and retain moisture, but it also helps suppress soil-borne nematodes and fungi. Once they winterkill, turn cover crop residues back into the soil to enrich it for heavy-feeding artichokes.

Come spring, cultivate swaths two feet wide and equal walking space between plants. That gives artichokes sufficient room to spread roots and leaves while allowing air circulation to deter mold and mildew formation.

Nitrogen fixing plants

Interplant insect-luring flowering companion plants like anise hyssop along the lengthy outer and inner aisles. Overlap bloom periods, so bees, butterflies, and beneficial wasps patrol all season.

Proper Plant Spacing

When designing artichoke community plantings, space plants appropriately to minimize interspecies competition. Use these spacing:
Here are some additional tips for proper plant spacing when companion planting artichokes:

Artichoke Spacing

Space artichoke plants at least 3-4 feet apart in all directions. Their expansive canopy and roots require room to grow. If planting in rows, allow 5-6 feet between rows.

To prevent overcrowding, limit artichokes to two plants per 4×8 footbed for raised beds. Once mature, their leaves will quickly fill the space.

Sunflower Spacing

Situate taller sunflower varieties at least 2 feet from artichokes when companion planting. Once their mature heights are considered, miniature, dwarf, and branching selections can be placed 1 foot apart.

Herb Spacing

Plant small and contain perennial herbs like sage, rosemary, and thyme 1 foot away from the outer edges of artichoke root zones. Allow a 2+ foot circumference for lower-growing lavender bushes.

Annual herbs and leafy greens thrive tucked tightly around artichokes, spaced 6 to 8 inches apart. Just beware of tall varieties that could shade the other plants once they mature.

Vegetable Spacing

Scatter quick-growing salad greens, radishes, and baby root veggies around artichoke roots, but avoid planting the heaviest-feeding crops, such as tomatoes, broccoli, and cabbage competitors, in the same spaces.

Tall, slender peppers, eggplant, and pole bean teepees stake nicely in the artichoke’s sphere of shelter if spaced 2+ feet away from central stems. They shouldn’t infringe on critical sunlight zones.

Vining crops like cucumbers and winter squash should be planted 3 feet apart from artichokes unless they are intentionally installed as living mulch ground cover beds.

Ongoing Care & Troubleshooting

Companion planting artichokes require some seasonal care and maintenance. Implement these organic tactics to keep your plants healthy and productive for years to come:

Sun loving plants

Seasonal Care Guide

Spring: Gently disturbs soil around roots, add aged compost or well-rotted manure and checkerboard with organic vegetable fertilizer. To protect emerging sprouts, cover them with wire cages.

Summer: Weed weekly, provided 1-2 inches of water weekly, used pine needles or grass clippings as living mulch, and clipped older leaves to encourage new growth.

Fall: Allow plants to fade naturally, withholding watering after several hard frosts. Prune dead foliage 2 inches above the soil and mulch heavily with leaves or hay.

Winter: Check for freeze damage and signs of life in spring; remove mulch promptly once overnight temperatures stabilize above 32°F to avoid mold and delay emergence. Divide root crowns early every three years or as needed.

Troubleshooting Challenges

If challenges crop up while cultivating companion planted artichokes, implement corrective care:

Drooping leaves usually signal under or overwatering. Check soil moisture and improve drainage if the soil is boggy. Deep soak the soil weekly during drought.

Demanding, woody buds: Stunted flowers result from lack of sun exposure, nutrients, or inconsistent moisture. To remedy this, fertilize and review sunlight hours and water needs.

Curled leaves with sticky coating – Aphids infestations cause distorted foliage and require treatment. Prune affected parts, spray leaves with diluted neem oil insecticidal soap, or introduce ladybugs.

White fungal coating – Powdery mildew thrives in stagnant humid air and lower leaves. Improve air circulation through pruning or broader spacing between plants.

Enjoy Companion Planted Artichoke Rewards

These companion planting tips help you craft a thriving artichoke patch and explore new plant partnerships. Experimenting with unique varieties and designs each year is part of the fun of gardening. Please share your experiences and favorite artichoke combinations by commenting below or contacting me with any questions!