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Growing your own Asparagus Plants

by Stark Bro's on 05/14/2012
Image of Purple Passion Asparagus Spear Growing

Once upon a time, many years ago, people would grow asparagus for its medicinal properties and it was considered a delicacy. Today, asparagus is commonly available and a great source of vitamins and minerals. It also makes a great, and easy, addition to your backyard garden.

There are two common types of asparagus plants: green and purple (burgundy). Both types require the same care and maintenance and are commonly distributed as all-male plants as these are bigger and more suitable for eating. Green asparagus is found in grocery stores; both available fresh in the produce section and canned on the shelves. Purple asparagus is more tender and sweeter but rarely found in stores.

Here at Stark Bro’s, our asparagus plants ship in packages of 10 bare-root crowns, dormant and ready to be planted when they arrive! If you are unable to plant when your asparagus plants arrive, we have some tips for ways you can delay planting here.

Varieties of Asparagus Plants:

1. Jersey Knight Giant Asparagus 2. Mary Washington Asparagus 3. Purple Passion Asparagus

1. Jersey Knight Giant*, which is a variety of green asparagus that produces extra-large spears (hence the “Giant” in the name). Jersey Knight Giant, like most green asparagus varieties, is quite vigorous.

*not to be confused with “Jersey Giant”, which is a different variety

2. Mary Washington is another variety of green asparagus that is additionally disease-resistant to rust. It is highly productive like most green varieties of asparagus.

3. Purple Passion is a burgundy/purple variety of asparagus that features distinguished purple spears from the moment they break ground. They have a sweeter, more rich flavor when they are fresh, but the stalks will become green like most other asparagus once cooked.

Planting and Growing Asparagus:

The asparagus plants Stark Bro’s carries are one-year roots (crowns), which require 2-3 more years to fully mature. For the first couple years, your plant will feature tiny asparagus-like sprouts that may be lightly harvested as the plant becomes established. Harvesting is easy — simply cut the shoots/spears just below the soil surface or just above the ground. The young spears are what get eaten most commonly because, once the buds along the shoots open, the plant will take on a fern-like appearance and become “woody” fairly quickly. Asparagus tends to be less appetizing once it reaches this point. In the first few years, as the plants become established and mature, a majority of the spears should be allowed to progress to the “fern” stage to gather nutrients to support future spear development.

Asparagus Plant Ferns  Flowers on Asparagus Plant

Illustration of Planting AsparagusAsparagus grows as a perennial — a plant that sleeps in the winter and comes back in the spring. When it becomes dormant, you should cut exhausted plants (usually brown brittle ferns at this point) back to the soil surface and provide winter protection – like a layer of mulch or straw – to help avoid damage caused by deep-freezes or extreme changes in soil temperature. Mulch also helps keep weeds down during the growing season, which can otherwise be nutrient-competitors for your asparagus patch.

When we ship asparagus plants, they arrive as a package of 10 bare-root crowns. Each plant is a crown (top-center of the plant) with a long root system. There are many methods of planting asparagus (see a few examples at right), but remember that the crown remains toward the top of the planting hole.

Find out more about planting and growing your own asparagus, as well as caring for asparagus plants, in our Growing Guide Plant Manuals.

Shop All Asparagus Plants »

Topics → Planting & Growing, Tips


  1. Doris permalink

    Do you sell the white asparagus crowns? My grandfather grew them in hills of sandy soil. Those that poked their heads above the soil were harvested in the AM and PM.

    How many years can you expect to get out of a planting?

    • Hi Doris! We only have the green Jersey Knight and the burgundy Purple Passion asparagus plants at this time. The white ones aren’t really a variety as much as they are a process of blocking light to the regular (usually green) type of asparagus so they never gain their green color. White asparagus spears are very tasty and unique, though, so it might be worth a try! The experts in Europe (mainly Germany) say to mound soil over the spears as they emerge so that they never photosynthesize to become green.

      As for asparagus production, depending on your location and upkeep, asparagus can produce for 10+ years!

  2. Paul Novograd permalink

    My asparagus are three years old and have never been harvested yet. What per cent of this year’s spears can I harvest?
    Thank You,
    Paul Novograd

    • Paul, you can eat any of the asparagus that comes up a decent size since your plants have most likely become established and should be producing mature stalks. ;)

  3. nancy shank permalink

    What time of year would you plant asparagrus in lower zone 8? I always liked it to eat and see it go to the fern stage.

    Thank you

    • Hi Nancy! We ship our bare root asparagus to zone 8 starting around mid-February in the spring and late-November in the fall, so either of those times would be ideal to plant! :)

  4. Mark Fritsche permalink

    At 3 years old, at what height should you cut the asparagus to harvest?

    • That depends on your preference, Mark. ;) Most asparagus growers prefer harvesting somewhere in the 5-7″ range in warm weather and in the 7-9″ range when the weather is cooler. Asparagus tends to grow almost “over night” so, when it is an ideal height, I recommend harvesting. If you wait another day it could be much taller and it may have already transitioned into the fern stage.

      Keep in mind, the base of the stalks will be more tough and “woody” so, if you harvest when it is very tall, a lot of the bottom portion will be less tender (some people consider this part inedible).

  5. David permalink

    I have about 20 asparagus plants that are all 2-3 years in the ground, currently they are all in the fern stage – not sure when to trim them back for winter? The ferns are close to 8 ft tall and bending over. I missed on the perfect picking time – as it seems they all grew too much over a few nights.

    • Asparagus foliage that forms after harvest (the ferns you are describing here) is strengthening the crown and root system for next year’s crop, so you’ll want to prune in late fall or early winter, David. You can tip-prune the current ferns now in an effort to control their height and avoid damage to the plants from the weight.

      For heavier pruning, you should wait until all the foliage has died back and turned brown or yellow. This normally happens after the first frost in your area. When pruning, cut the plants back to the soil surface and apply a layer of mulch to help protect against deep freeze or changes in soil temperatures. As an added bonus: Mulching will help with weed control. :)

      • David permalink

        Sarah – Thanks for all the answers you provided for my 3 different questions about 3 different items. Looking forwad to next year and hopefully a larger harvest.
        Thanks again. Dave

  6. Liz permalink

    Can asparagus be successfully grown in central Florida? We don’t have much winter and it is my understanding asparagus needs a good dormant period. I’d really love to grow it here if I can though!

    • Many people have successfully grown asparagus in warmer parts of the country, and you will have a better chance at successfully growing your own asparagus in Central Florida than further south, Liz!

      The University of Florida has an article about growing asparagus in Florida here: — “Asparagus beds in north and central Florida often yield good quality spears for 4 to 5 years before regressing.”

      Since the dormancy period is important to spear-production, many warm-zone growers find that the spears produced are weak and spindly. If you try planting in a cooler spot that gets more shade during the hotter parts of the year, you can increase your chances at a better quality harvest.

  7. Christi permalink

    What is a good method to control grass and weeds among the asparagus plants? We have 2 hives of bees in close proximity so I’m concerned for them also and do not want to use a product that would harm them.

    • Hi Christi! I’m going to stand behind the relaxing, manual-method of grass and weed control — especially if you’re worried about other alternatives harming bees — be diligent and pull them by hand! :)

      It may sound like a lot of work, but actually, as long as you stay on top of the job and pull a the weeds and grass as you see them appear each day, you can keep the unwanted growers from taking over your asparagus planting. This also encourages you to see how well your asparagus is doing throughout the growing season!

  8. Wassim permalink

    I planted these a few weeks ago and I have some 2-3″ shoots coming out of the ground. Do I trim them back now or wait until winter?

    • Let them grow for now, Wassim! You can trim them back once they go brown in the fall/winter.

      These shoots may not look like much for eating just yet, but they will eventually develop “fern-like” leaves that allow for photosynthesis, energy storage to survive the winter, and they will enable your new asparagus plants to develop and support larger, more edible-sized, spears in the future (as the plants mature). :)

  9. Keith Pope permalink

    I just received a shipment of 20 Asparagus plants from Starks Bros. How long can I wait before planting them. If I don’t plant them for a week or so, will that “do them in?” Should I put them in my refrigerator to slow down any “aging” process. Or maybe inside a dark cooler in my garage? Please advise. Thanks

    • You should be fine to delay planting for a little while, Keith! We have a blog post that addresses this here: How to Delay Planting

      The dark cooler in your garage would be more ideal than your refrigerator, keeping in mind the asparagus roots have more of an earthy smell than the rest of the produce in your refrigerator. Some people might be turned off by that. :)

  10. sam permalink

    My Purple Passion plants were planted spring of 2012. I didn’t cut any spears this year and they look strong. I’m not clear on how many spears can be cut in the coming years without weakening the plants. Can you cut all of the spears or is there some percentage that I should leave to feed the roots for the following year?

    • If you want to harvest few of the nicest, biggest (edible-sized) spears — especially in these early years as your plants mature — you can, but certainly don’t harvest everything. Asparagus needs the energy that comes from the foliage that develops in the “fern-like” stage so that it can store it and feed future spear development. As your plants mature, leave the smaller, less “harvest-worthy”, spears to support next year’s harvest.

  11. mike permalink

    I am in sone 5/6, right on the line as it where. When should I plant? Now or in the spring?

    • Hi Mike! Since you’re in the warmer part of zone 5 and the asparagus we ship is dormant, it is fine for you to plant in the fall or the spring – whichever is most convenient for you! We’ll be shipping around the 3rd week in November for your zone, if that helps give you an idea which season you prefer.

  12. jim permalink

    What control methods and applications to you recommend for eliminating black and orange asparagus beetles? We haver serious infestation of this pest in SE Michigan and the thrips simply destroy the fern leaves and ultimately the plants won’t thrive or will die.

    • Hi Jim! If you have an issue with the asparagus beetle and thrips on your asparagus plants, Sevin works to control both pests. It can be used on asparagus plants (per the label), allowing 1 day between last application and harvest, and it can be applied up to 3 times during the growing season.

  13. Mary Farrell permalink

    Six or seven years ago, I planted 20 asparagus roots. They did well, and I had lovely asparagus for about three years. Then a sudden infestation of an insect I researched and discovered was an asparagus beetle took over and laid its black eggs on all the stalks. They seem to affix the eggs with what can only be described as “insect glue”. It makes the eggs impossible to wash off of the stalks, and can only be removed by a lot of vigorous scraping. After fighting this plague for three years, I tore out the asparagus patch. That was two years ago. I’d like to try again, but am hesitant to spend three years growing the plants to harvestable size, only to experience another infestation. I grow strictly organically. Is there a solution for this problem?

    • I’m sorry to hear about your frustrations with growing your own asparagus there, Mary. And I’m a little afraid this is a glimpse into my future! I just have the little grey slugs eating my ferns now, which is the larval stage of the asparagus beetle, but my asparagus patch is young.

      MotherEarthNews, a trusted source, has an excellent article on organically controlling asparagus beetles. You can read it here: The Asparagus Beetle: Organic Control Tips.

      Basically, keep your planting site clear of plant debris, allow natural predators (lady beetles and Eulophid wasps) to prey on the asparagus beetle, and, in extreme cases, neem oil spray will work to control the asparagus beetle. Neem oil is organic, but beware spraying it if there are beneficial insects present.

      • Mary Farrell permalink

        Thanks, Sarah. The only mulch I used on the asparagus was compost, and I disposed of all dead fronds in the municipal yard waste bin, not wanting to compost it and perpetuate the beetles through cold composting. I’ve gardened organically for 40 years, and have never resorted to using even organic pesticides. I suppose if we were less finicky, we’d consider the beetle eggs as supplemental protein. Other cultures consider a large number of insects delicacies, but my only foray into that was a dare in high school biology in 1959 to eat a chocolate covered grasshopper. Good luck and best wishes that your asparagus stays insect-free.

  14. Cletus permalink

    I’ve planted both variaties mentioned above several years and have a pretty established set. I am however interested in moving them to a different location and believe I have heard that they do not like to be disturbed. Can I move my asparagus plants and if so when would be the ideal time to do that?

    • You’re right, Cletus. Established asparagus plants aren’t going to like being disturbed and moved. But, if you absolutely must move your plants, be sure to do it in the winter when things are fully dormant. This will help reduce shock.

      Be sure to gather as much of the root as possible when you dig up the plants and do this without damaging or breaking the roots. It helps to have the new spot all ready before trying to move the plants so that it’s as smooth a transition as possible.

  15. Vic permalink

    I planted aspasagus a couple of years ago. let them go through the fern stage the first and second year. They look strong and healthy. I had great anticipation of a great crop this year.
    Lo and Behold – almost nothing came up this year.
    We had a unusual cold the past winter, maybe around zero. Would that have killer them.
    What do you think before I replant. Too much work for know crop.

    • Hi Vic. Did you have any mulch around your asparagus plants? This really does help to insulate the roots during unusually cold winters and also helps to minimize the chances of weeds developing during the growing season, which are in high competition with asparagus for nutrients. Compost makes a good mulch because, as it protects/insulates, it also adds nutrients into the soil for the asparagus plants to feed on.

  16. Marge permalink

    My asparagus plants are between 15 and 30 years old. Would there be any benefit to digging the out and splitting them up?

    • That’s a curious question, Marge! :) Is your asparagus patch getting too crowded or were you just curious? Asparagus doesn’t really grow like rhubarb and ornamental grasses — these things tend do well to be split up and separated like that. There really isn’t a benefit to doing the same with asparagus.

  17. Carole Parr permalink

    Is it ok to plant the asparagus in raised beds? We have a lot of rocky soil so we have put in raised beds to increase our planting area. Also, how much room should you allow for 20 plants.

    • It is absolutely fine to grow asparagus plants in raised beds, Carole. Raised beds tend to be constructed with excellent drainage and tend to be filled with a nutritious soil mixture — two things that will make your asparagus patch very happy! Asparagus needs at least a foot of space between plants to allow room for them to mature.

  18. Monica Stoner permalink

    I’m east of Albuquerque at 6,500 feet and of course arid, with potential extreme winters. Would asparagus work here without extreme pampering? I could use containers if necessary…I’ve come heir to eight Earth Boxes. And what time of year to plant?

    • Hi Monica! I know of people who have had great success growing asparagus in and around Albuquerque. If you are able to set up your asparagus patch with a soaker hose (to combat the dry aridity) you will have a much better time growing them with little effort. Be sure that you mulch around the asparagus bed as well, to keep weeds down and to insulate roots during the winter. Given your location, you might have a better chance at success if you plant asparagus in the spring.

      Asparagus can be grown in containers, too, just be sure that the soil/potting mix doesn’t become too dry in the containers, especially in the winter time. Don’t keep the plants drenched by any means, but if the soil appears dry and is dry to the touch below the top few inches, give the plants a drink. Winter injury can occur more easily in a dry container than a moist one.

  19. My purple asparagus has developed seed pods. Will the seed pods start more asparagus? I have not harvested my 3-4yr old plants as I wanted them to become stronger for next year and we had a drought this summer that lasted a long time.

    • It’s tempting to eat as soon as you see new spears develop, but waiting is the best way to maximize your harvest from asparagus, LV! Great job :)

      The biggest issue with female asparagus plants is that they are not as big or vigorous as the males due to the energy used in the production of berries rather than supporting the roots. The harvest period for asparagus spears occurs before the feathery fern stage and before seed pods even form.

      The berries will eventually drop and seedling asparagus will more than likely grow from the seeds. These seedlings should be removed, since they have a tendency to be inferior to the parent plant. They will also compete for nutrients with the parent plant’s root system.

      • I have tasted a few of the berries and now have read that they are poisonous according to your blog, oops. I found that all my purple plants produced berries and my green plants which were all male did not. Are there purple male plants out there that have the fine/tender spears?

        • I’ve only read about the berries being toxic! Maybe they’re toxic in larger amounts – but I certainly won’t be testing that theory. ;) I’m glad you’re ok, LV!

          Each variety of asparagus has male and female plants. If you grow them from seed you’re not going to know which is which until you get berries. Most asparagus roots you buy are already selected to be all-male (or mostly-male in some cases), since these are the preferred spears (for their size and productivity). There are male purple asparagus – at least the Purple Passion Asparagus from Stark Bro’s. That’s what I’m growing at home :)

  20. donna lyons permalink

    I need to change my bed location. My asparagus is about five years old. How can I transplant it and when? I live in northern ky.

    • If you absolutely must move your plants, be sure to do it in the winter when they are completely dormant. This will help reduce transplant shock.

      Gather as much of the root system as possible when you dig up the plants. When you move them, be sure you are not damaging or breaking the roots — keep things intact. It will help to have the new spot ready so that, when you move the plants, it’s as smooth a transition as possible.

  21. Nancy permalink

    My father-in-law said that rock salt put on the asparagus bed would kill weeds but not kill the asparagus. What is the best time of year to apply the rock salt, after harvesting in the spring, in the fall while the ferns are still green or sometime after the first frost?

    • I’m a big fan of using mulch around asparagus to keep weeds down. It’s more ideal to use mulch anyway, since it also acts as an insulator to keep moisture in on hot dry days and keep your asparagus plants’ roots insulated and protected in the winter.

      I’m not sure I’d recommend using that type of salt in your soil, Nancy. If you can, I’d recommend asking your father-in-law for advice on when to use his rock salt method.

  22. Allen Rice permalink

    What are the soil type requirements for asparagus. Also what are the sunlight requirements.

  23. Van Wimmer permalink

    How does Asparagus propogate? Does it spread new growth from the roots or do seeds fall from the ferns?

    • Most asparagus plants you purchase will be all-male. The male spears are bigger and plants are more productive because they don’t put their energy into developing asparagus berries. Female asparagus plants will set red berries, which later drop and seedling asparagus will grow from these seeds. These seedling plants tend to be inferior to the parent plants, so it is suggested that these are removed.

      Asparagus spears that grow and are harvested to eat come from the roots. The asparagus stages mentioned above are a natural cycle for asparagus: The spears come from the roots and once mature they can be harvested. The smaller spears should be left to develop into the feathery fern stage. This allows for photosynthesis, which brings energy to the plant — specifically to the roots. The roots then send up more healthy, mature spears in the future.

  24. Cindy permalink

    My mom and dad always had the best asparagus. Now that I have my own patch I want to ask how did my parents grow asparagus that was nice and thick. Mine are still thin and I have had them now for 3 yrs and I always leave the ferns on them. What should I being doing in the fall or spring to get nice thick asparagus?

    • If the location you chose for your asparagus patch has full sun (at least 6 hours) and nice healthy soil, time is going to be your best bet to get the thicker asparagus spears. You can also fertilize with a balanced fertilizer (something like a 10-10-10, and no later than July) or water with a natural compost tea to give your asparagus a little extra boost during the growing season!

  25. shelley permalink

    What type of mulch is recommended?

    • You can use whatever mulch you’d like as long as it’s clean and free of contaminants and weed seeds. If you make your own compost (leaves, grass clippings, etc.) that will make for a great — and nutritious — mulch!

      Personally, I just use undyed cedar mulch around my asparagus.

  26. Tom permalink

    I planted several asparagus plants last year but the weeds overtook them. Are there any weed controls I can use to avoid having to manually removing weeds?

    • The top 3 things I’d recommend to keep the weeds down are 1. mulch, 2. mulch, and 3. mulch!

      You don’t have to pile it on several inches thick, but it does help greatly. Mulch also insulates the roots in the winter and keeps water from evaporating off so readily during the hottest times of year. Initially, clear the site of weeds, spread out a few inches of mulch (I use cedar mulch), and if you see any weeds at any point after that, remove them immediately before they become an overwhelming issue.

  27. Ellen Sweeney permalink

    What is in asparagus that makes some people’s urine smell bad? What medicinal properties do asparagus have? The berries they produce, are they edible?

    • In the old days, asparagus was believed to be cleansing. There may be some merit to it, since studies have shown that asparagus is a great source of vitamins, minerals, and specifically fiber — and it’s great for a healthy digestive tract!

      As for asparagus and urine… I’m just going to be regurgitating what I looked up when I wondered this same thing, Ellen, so I’ll just send you to what I found on Wikipedia: Asparagus: Effects on Urine :)

      The asparagus berry is said to be poisonous, so I wouldn’t recommend eating any if you find them!

  28. Gail McHarady permalink

    In my master gardener classes in Colorado, it was suggested to leave the dead fronds uncut over the winter to provide protection. Is that not a good idea here?

    • I won’t contradict the teaching you received and say it shouldn’t be applied, especially since we talk to a wide range of areas and Colorado master gardener classes speak specifically to experiences growing in Colorado.

      We recommend using mulch as a source of winter protection rather than leaving dead fronds, since mulch has added benefits of keeping weeds down and retaining moisture when it’s more dry. It’s generally a good habit for gardeners to remove dead growth at any time to avoid potential sites for disease.

  29. david permalink


    for the purpose of selection of trees you offer
    if i may have expert help then i may be able to order thru
    your company
    please let me know how to contact a specialist
    i live in n e florida
    and my selection must be able to withstand very hot and humid

    • Hi David! I’m a South Florida native myself, so I understand that many types of fruit tree Stark Bro’s offers are not recommended for Florida’s tropical climate, but there are a few that could work, especially in the northeastern part of the state. I can try to help you if you have any specific questions.

      You also have fruit tree experts right there in Florida who can help you find fruit trees that are known to grow for you there. UF has an article specifically about that here: — check it out! :)

  30. Dan Gregg permalink

    I have planted asparagus plants twice from Stark Brothers and they have not done well at all. After 2 plantins and three years, I have 2 existing plants and fear they will not come up next year. I followed the directions in planting, but think that in Alburquerque, High Desert, the depth may have been the problem. Is this possible? Any suggestions? Also, is it too late to plant now (Sept. 22, 2013)?

    • I know that the high desert is notorious for its aridity and potential for cold, cold winters. The people I know who have had success growing asparagus in Albuquerque have done so with soaker hoses (to combat the dry, arid, climate) and mulch (to protect roots in the winter). I personally haven’t heard of anyone trying it, but the lower planting depth may also be a benefit to you there.

      I would be surprised if you were able to find asparagus to plant now. Non-dormant plants would probably not survive winter, and it’s too early in the year to plant dormant roots. We ship ours dormant, which is why they are shipped in November in the fall. This may be too late for planting there, so I’d recommend giving asparagus another try come spring!

      Have you been trying to grow the Jersey Knight Giant Asparagus or the Purple Passion Asparagus? The Jersey Knight Giant variety is a bit more productive than the Purple Passion, so I’d recommend that one for you there if you haven’t already tried it.

  31. Del Fussell permalink

    This is an excellent service. I have had good luck with my asparagus. I shred the ferns and use for mulch. Any problems with that?

    • There’s no problem with that, Del! The ferns will help make a nutritious mulch.

      I think my problem would be getting to the ferns before the birds do — it’s a fine nest material to them! ;)

  32. Margie permalink

    I have some 2 year old asparagus plants I need to move. Should I move them in the fall or spring? Should I wait until the tops turn brown if it’s in the fall?

    • Hi Margie! If you absolutely must move your asparagus plants, the best time would be when they are completely dormant. The tops turning brown isn’t a good tell (mine are already brown right now but certainly not dormant). I would suggest waiting until late winter or early spring (before things start warming up again) to be sure that your asparagus plants are dormant before you move them. Then, be sure to get all of the root without damaging it when you dig the plants out to move them. This will help reduce transplant shock.

  33. Laura permalink

    I like in area 5a and our soil is clay. Help? My husband loves asparagus and I want to start growing some for him what are your suggestions? A raised garden? or just dig out the clay and put in the proper soil? Also fall or spring? And which variety works better in our area. I know we won’t have much to harvest the first few years but I am patient :D. Thank you

    • I would definitely recommend growing asparagus in raised beds if you’re worried about the heavy clay there. It’s so much easier than having to deal with heavy clay. Growing asparagus in raised beds will also give you an opportunity to mix in compost or aged manure, which helps give asparagus a nutritious start. My raised beds are about 8-10 inches deep and my asparagus seems to be doing well for me!

      I would also recommend trying a vigorous green asparagus variety like Jersey Knight Giant Asparagus because the green varieties tend to be more productive than the purple varieties. Since you’re located in a zone 5A, I would recommend spring planting asparagus. We ship these plants in November, so it might be too late to work the soil there and get the crowns planted, but that’s up to you! If you can still work your soil in November there, and it’s not frozen, fall planting might work for you.

      In any case, be sure to mulch over your plants in the fall and winter so they are protected from the cold, and remove any excess mulch in spring when it warms up so the spears are encouraged to come up. :)

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