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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

32 Comments

  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. 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! :)

  3. 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).

  4. 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

  5. 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: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/mv013 — “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.

  6. 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 assess how well your asparagus (and other garden items) progress throughout the growing season!

  7. 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). :)

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.
    Thanks.

    • 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.

  11. Allen Rice permalink

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

  12. 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.

  13. Ellen Sweeney permalink

    What is in asparagus that makes some people’s urine smell bad? What medicinal properties do asparagus have?
    Thanks
    Ellen,

    • 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 :)

  14. 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.

  15. 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! ;)

  16. 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.

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