Plant sunchokes in pots; now is time to plant

flowers on sunchoke in Amherst NY 2013
Sunchokes grow taller when planted in the ground than when planted in pots, but they are easier to control in pots. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

by Connie Oswald Stofko

I’ve been growing sunchokes (also called Jerusalem artichokes) for several years now.

These cool plants can grow 10 feet tall in one season. They get small yellow flowers. Not only that, you can eat the root! See more here.

They’re very easy to grow– perhaps too easy. They spread a lot. Even if you try to harvest all of the tubers, it’s easy to miss a piece. The next year, you find you have sunchokes growing where you might not want them. That’s why I suggest you grow them only in pots.

That’s what I do. Well, I intend to grow them only in pots; I’m still chasing down a few rogue plants that keep sprouting in my yard where I don’t want them.

I am sharing my sunchokes

I’m harvesting my sunchokes now. Email me if you want some. They’re free, but you have to pick them up or get someone you know to pick them up. I won’t mail any.

I’m in the Eggertsville area of Amherst. If you don’t get out this way, you probably have a neighbor or cousin or coworker who does.

If you’d like some sunchokes, email me at connie@buffaloniagaragardening.com so we can arrange for a time for you to pick them up.

Planting sunchokes

Yes, you can plant sunchokes now. If you’re planting them in the ground, plant them before the ground freezes.

However, I recommend you plant them in pots so they don’t get out of control.

Make sure the pot has good drainage. This is basic, but I had problems with some plants because I hadn’t checked to see if there were actually holes in the bottom of the pot.

Use the biggest pot you can. I suggest using one at least 14 inches in diameter, but use a bigger container if you can.

Sunchokes grow tallest when planted in the ground, but again, plant them in the ground only if you don’t mind them getting everywhere. (If you don’t believe me, see comments from readers who tried growing sunchokes in previous years.) They grow taller in larger pots, but are stunted in smaller pots. It may be that the tubers need room to spread out, but I think water makes a difference, too.

During hot, dry weather, the leaves on my sunchokes will wilt, showing that they’re distressed. The leaves on sunchokes in smaller pots wilt before those in larger pots. When I planted sunchokes in the ground, the leaves rarely, if ever, wilted.

For tall, healthy sunchokes that won’t take over your yard, I suggest planting them in large pots.

Set your pots near a fence or other sheltered spot over the winter.

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