Control sunchokes by planting them in pots; I’ll share sunchokes with you

sunchokes in pot in Amherst NY
The sunchokes in this large pot by my front porch were interesting to watch grow all summer. Here they are in mid-September when they were about five feet tall but hadn’t started flowering yet. The ceramic pot next to it I held a cherry tomato plant.

What’s not to like about sunchokes? They grow dramatically in one season, reaching heights of 10 feet. In September, when other plants are losing steam, sunchokes are just starting to flower. They add a lot of interest to your garden.

Plus you can eat them! Find out more about sunchokes  (also called Jerusalem artichokes) here.

I have to admit there is one drawback with sunchokes– The roots do spread a lot.

The root is the part you eat, and even if you can’t eat all you grow, a soup kitchen such as Friends of Night People can use all you can give them. If you keep harvesting your sunchokes, you should be able to control them.

In theory.

In reality, it’s easy to miss a root, especially one that sneaks beyond the perimeter of the bed you’ve set aside for sunchokes. The root stays underground where you can’t see it. It’s not until the next spring when the stem pops up that you realize the sunchokes have migrated beyond their plot and have infiltrated the adjacent perennial bed.

tubers of sunchoke or Jerusalem artichoke in Buffalo NY area
The root of the sunchoke is the part you eat. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

One thing you can do to control sunchokes is to plant them in pots.

I tried that this past year, planting them in mid-November 2013. I clustered the pots near the fence and surrounded them with leaves to help protect the roots from thawing and freezing. Despite our harsh winter, all of the pots except one sprouted.

The sunchokes planted in pots were smaller than the ones I planted in garden beds– I’m not sure why that is. Perhaps the pieces I planted in the garden bed were bigger than the ones I planted in the pots. Maybe I didn’t water the pots enough– A garden bed will stay moist longer than a small pot will. I know some of the pots weren’t in very sunny areas, so that may have stunted their growth.

I had one large and spectacular sunchoke plant in a pot that suddenly turned brown just before it flowered. I think I may have watered it with water I had leftover from boiling corn– The water might not have been completely cool. Bummer. I was still able to harvest some nice roots from that plant.

Watch the video below to see how the sunchokes looked in May, in September and this past weekend when I harvested them.

If you’d like to try growing sunchokes, I’d be happy to give you some. The only catch is that I don’t want to mail them, so please arrange to pick them up. If you don’t live near me (I’m in the Eggertsville area of Amherst), you probably work with someone whose cousin lives out this way and can get them to you– Western New York is like that.

If you’re interested, email me at so that I can make sure I’m here or have them available for you when you stop by.

If you got sunchokes from me in previous years, how did they do? Did they grow well? Did they spread too much? How did you prepare them? Please let me know by leaving a comment below.

10 Comments on “Control sunchokes by planting them in pots; I’ll share sunchokes with you

  1. Hi Cathy, I have to seed if the sunchokes I planted in a pot are coming up. If they are, I’ll email you and you can pick them up from my house. I don’t know of any local garden center that is selling them.

  2. Where can I get some- want to do them in buckets- don’t want them spread all over.

  3. Natalia, my sunchokes get very tall when they’re planted in the ground, but are shorter when planted in pots. I’m not sure why that is. It may be that they are crowded or it may be that they dry out more quickly in pots and I don’t water them enough. It doesn’t matter to me if the plant is shorter; I still harvest sunchokes in the fall. If you are growing sunchokes because you want a tall plant, you can try to dig out some of the plants and put them in a very large pot. It’s an experiment– tell us how it works for you.

  4. Hi there! I planted a sunchoke tuber in a large pot 2 seasons ago. It sprouted and grew 2 plants about 2 feet tall, then died out. This past spring though, I have about 10 plants growing 2 to 2.5 feet tall so far. They all have full leaves with no sign of dying out, and completely fill the pot. The question I have is: should I cut some of the plants out? They haven’t gotten much taller in the past few weeks so I think they may be crowded.

    Thanks in advance!

  5. Nina, I should have said that! Harvesting sunchokes is easier when you grow them in pots. Thanks for making that important point.

  6. Like the idea of planting them in pots because the harvesting is easier.

    I planted sunchokes many years ago when I lived on a farm … I found it was hard to harvest the roots and ended up leaving them in the ground for most of the plants. They died out in their spot after about 3 seasons. It might have been the sandy soil we had let them just dry out.

  7. I am also one that does not know how to prepare them. I never had them served or made. Like Sweet Potato vine they look very vigorous that I would never want them in the garden. Keeping them in a pot is a good idea. Nice video too.

  8. Eileen, thanks for those tips. I think one reason some people might be reluctant to try sunchokes is because they don’t know how to prepare them.

  9. I got sunchokes 2 years ago from you, Connie. I used them raw after the first season, and this year tried them in a stir-fry. I really enjoyed them raw. Next time I use them in a cooked dish, I will not cook them as long, to keep that firmness.

Comments are closed.