Asparagus officinalis
Family: Asparagaceae

This perennial, herbaceous garden vegetable, which has been around for many centuries, can continue producing for 15 years or more. Native to the coasts of Asia and Europe, it is grown only for its tender, edible, early spring shoots, or spears, which grow upwards every spring from underground rhizomes.


Cultivars include the popular 'Martha Washington' and the all-male 'Jersey Giant'. If purchasing crowns, find out whether they are male or female plants. The males produce more spears and start earlier each season; the female plants have slightly larger spears. If sowing seed, select male plants in the second season.


Asparagus requires a reasonably fertile, well-drained soil, with a regular water supply. A soil reaction of about pH 6 is the most suitable. Before planting, it is important to dig the soil well. Weed control is also essential. Animal manures, composted materials and inorganic fertilizers, will all assist in continual production. Asparagus can be established in two ways. First, seed can be sown in early spring in warmer areas, and later in colder regions. Sow about 2.5-3 cm (about 1 in) deep. The first harvest will occur in the third year. Second, the plant can be established by planting one- or two-year-old roots, sold as 'crowns'. The older the roots, the shorter the time before the crop is ready for harvest. A dozen plants is sufficient for the average family's needs. Generally it takes about three years for a bed to produce. With good care it can be kept in production for 15 years. The first cutting of spears should be limited to between four and six weeks; as the plants mature, the period for cutting can be increased gradually until a maximum of 12 weeks of harvesting has been reached. In late autumn or winter, at the end of the growing season, cut back the yellowing tops to ground level.


Wide range, from zone 4 to 9; needs cool winters.

Asarum      Asparagus Fern