How to Grow Perennials

How to Grow Perennial Vegetables

A few vegetables are herbaceous perennials that return every year. Vegetable plants need fertile soil and prefer full sun.


In regions with warm winters (Zones 7-11) you may be able to grow true artichokes (Cynara scolymus), as they do in California. Each artichoke is actually the flower of this six-foot perennial, which has what landscapers call "architectural form" -- that is, it is large and bold. Harvest artichokes before the flowers open. If you wait too long, use them in flower arrangements instead of for dinner. Artichokes usually flower their second year and afterward. There are also Jerusalem artichokes (Helianthus tuberosus), which are sunflowers with fleshy, edible tubers. These plants grow 6 to 12 feet tall in Zones 3-10, but there are some shorter cultivars. The late-blooming yellow flowers are attractive. Plants spread quickly.

Asparagus, once planted, takes about four years to become established.


Once planted, asparagus (Asparagus officinalis, Zones 3-8) takes about four years to become established. It grows best in rich soil in full sun. The plants can last dozens of years, and a good asparagus bed is quite a treasure. The spears of established plants are harvested when they are under a foot tall, in spring. At least half of the spears are left to grow into fernlike, leafy stems about four feet tall. In flower borders, fit in clumps of five to seven asparagus plants for double duty as edibles and ornamentals. Do not plow asparagus once it has been planted.

Mulch asparagus every spring with several inches of compost or decayed livestock manure. Asparagus, a greedy feeder, will use all the nutrients it can get its roots on and grow that much better for it. By mulching in the spring, you can fertilize, help keep the soil moist, and reduce weed germination all in one effort. The shoots that arise through the mulch will grow especially plump and succulent.

Perennial herbs can be grown for their looks as well as their culinary uses. Keep reading to learn about growing perennial herbs.

Fancy White Asparagus
Make fancy white asparagus spears with a simple blanching basket. When the spears first emerge in spring, cover them with a bucket, basket, or mound of soil that will exclude all light. Harvest when the spears reach eight to ten inches tall and before the ferny leaves begin to emerge.

Want more information about gardening with perennials? Try these:

  • Perennials: Learn about plants that will continue to grow in your garden season after season.
  • Herb Gardens: Grow parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, and more in your herb garden.
  • Vegetable Gardens: Find out how to grow a bountiful vegetable crop.
  • Gardening: Learn the basics of successful gardening.