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Sonchus canariensis

The unusual "Tree Sonchus" - Sonchus canariensis - is found nowhere else except the Canary Islands off the coast of North Africa.  This wacky, palm tree shaped Daisy relative grows 8 feet tall, looking like a plant from a Dr. Seuss book!  Its fern-like foliage and tall stature makes it a bold focal point in the garden.  A picture of the plant growing in the wild is here.  The Tree Sonchus is rare in cultivation, and fresh seeds are rarely seen for sale.

Sonchus canariensis

Sonchus canariensis is a woody, perennial species with an upright growth habit.  I prefer to grow it with a single, tall, tree-like stem, although you may encourage multiple stems by pruning the top of the main stem.  Each spring and summer, the plant forms huge heads of dandelion-like flowers at the tops of the branches.  Each branch can have over 100 of these lemon-yellow blooms, which are a favorite of honey bees.  This is a non-invasive species.  The leaves are reportedly edible, and tasty when cooked.

Sonchus canariensis

The plant comes from a Mediterranean climate, with mild temperatures all year, and nights that are cool.  I have no information on how much heat it can take, but it's possible that it will decline if temperatures consistently rise above the mid-80s (30C), especially if nights are warm.  The plant tends to go dormant during the warm summer months, during which time it may be moved indoors to a cool spot.  Protect it from temperatures below 30 F (-1C).  It prefers full sun during the growing season.  It likes well-draining soil and regular watering when young.  Mature plants are quite drought tolerant if given ample root space.  Over about 40% humidity is recommended.

Sonchus canariensis

Photo #2 courtesy of Frank Vincentz

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