Question: Do artichokes die back in winter? Should I cut the plants down or leave them? -Jenn D.
Answer: Yes. Artichokes go dormant in hot weather, but their main dormancy period is in the winter when they die back to the ground. Considering that artichokes are grown as perennials in many climates, and produce for five to six years, providing protection during the winter is crucial. Cut your artichoke stalks down to about six inches and gather the stalks together, tying them in place to hold them upright to protect the crown. Add four to six inches of compost around the base of each plant and an additional eight inches of straw or leaves on top of the compost to cover and insulate the pruned down artichoke plant.
If you are expecting an extremely cold winter, cover each of your artichoke plants with a cardboard box or a styrofoam cooler for additional protection. Fill the protective casing with straw or leaves for additional insulation. Remove the box when the temperature returns to normal in your area. In zone six, you can keep the box in place for the majority of the season. In April, remove the mulch and feed your plants with a balanced fertilizer. Keep an eye on the weather just in case a cold snap comes in during early spring. Another method of overwintering your artichoke plants is to dig up the root crowns before freezing temperatures arrive and store them in a cool basement or garage. The storage location still needs to be relatively cold but not freezing, as artichoke plants go into dormancy during the winter.