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ASPARAGUS officinalis

Image of Asparagus officinalis

Gerald L. Klingaman

Family

Liliaceae

Botanical Name

ASPARAGUS officinalis

Plant Common Name

Garden Asparagus

General Description

Asparagus is one of the few truly perennial vegetables. It is also one of the rare veggies in the lily family. This tough herbaceous plant originates from the coastal regions of Europe, Asia and North Africa. Over time its clumps slowly spread via rhizomes.

Fully unfurled asparagus has a delicate ferny appearance. The much sought after luscious, asparagus spears are immature, unexpanded stems that are plucked from the ground when they first appear spring. Asparagus is dioecious, which means that some plants produce female flowers and some male flowers. This is pertinent because the male plants produce more spears than female.

It takes around three years before a plant is fully harvest-worthy. Young plants produce very thin shoots, while mature plants produce the substantial spears that we buy at the market. Asparagus should be at least the width of a finger before harvesting. In Europe it is common to raise white asparagus, which is produced by burming soil over the crowns and harvesting emerging stems before they are exposed to light. This cultural practice is called blanching and results in tender white spears.

Choose your planting site well for asparagus as it is a permanent installation. Full sun is a must and rich, friable, fertile soil with some sand is best. Mix in some organic matter and plant one-year old crowns for earlier spear production. Asparagus does require a dormant period, so it does not fare well in the south. Control weeds with straw or mulch, supply adequate moisture and be sure to leave spears to develop into mother ferns to nourish the plants for next year’s harvest.

Characteristics

  • AHS Heat Zone

    8 - 1

  • USDA Hardiness Zone

    3 - 8

  • Sunset Zone

    A1, A2, A3, 1a, 1b, 2a, 2b, 3a, 3b, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24

  • Plant Type

    Vegetable

  • Sun Exposure

    Full Sun

  • Height

    2'-4' / 0.6m - 1.2m

  • Width

    2'-3' / 0.6m - 0.9m

  • Bloom Time

    Late Spring, Early Summer, Summer

  • Native To

    Southern Europe, Mediterranean

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Neutral, Alkaline

  • Soil type

    Loam, Sand

  • Water Requirements

    Average Water

  • Seasonal Interest

    Spring, Summer, Fall

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    Insignificant

  • Flower Color

    White, Gold

  • Fruit Color

    Yellow Green, Orange Red

  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    Purple, Light Green, Dark Green

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    Green, Purple

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    Green, Purple

  • Bark or Stem Fragrant

    No

  • Repeat Bloomer

    No

  • Showy Fruit

    Yes

  • Showy Foliage

    Yes

  • Foliage Texture

    Fine

  • Showy Bark

    No

Special Characteristics

  • Usage

    Edible, Herb / Vegetable

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    No

  • Invasive

    No

  • Self-Sowing

    No