10 Perennial Vegetables That Keep on Giving

Artichoke plant with artichoke buds on top in front of a blue sky

Thang Tat Nguyen / Getty Images

Traditional backyard gardens tend to be full of annual vegetables that need to be replanted each year from seed. While many are worth the time and effort, planting some perennial vegetables may bring your garden to your table with far less effort.

Unless you live in a region with a year-round growing season, many annuals can’t handle the cold temperatures of winter. But there are perennial vegetables that spring back to life as soon as soil temperatures rise. By dedicating a portion of your garden to perennials, you can pack a lot of food production into a small area. 

Here are 10 perennial vegetables that keep on giving, year after year.

Warning

Some of the plants on this list are toxic to pets. For more information about the safety of specific plants, consult the ASPCA's searchable database.

1
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Asparagus (Asparagus officinalis)

New asparagus shoots growing in the dirt

Rob Ireton / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

This slender spring beauty may be the most well-known perennial vegetable. As demonstrated by its high price in the produce section, asparagus is one of the most coveted early spring vegetables. Compared with many annuals, it's not a quick producer, but once established, asparagus can provide tasty green treats every year for up to 15 years.

Although it's possible to start asparagus from seed, you can speed up the harvest timeline by at least a year or two by planting crowns that are several years old. Crowns are usually available in garden centers every spring, or, if you know someone with a large asparagus patch, they might give you some crowns when they divide their plants.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 8.
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun.
  • Soil Needs: Well-drained soils; pH between 6.5 to 7.0. Asparagus does not tolerate extremely acidic soils. 
2
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Sunchokes (Helianthus tuberosus)

Jerusalem artichoke harvest on the ground in a garden

Demetri2K / Getty Images 

Also known as Jerusalem artichokes, sunchokes are a relative of sunflowers that produce a crisp, sweet, edible tuber. This perennial vegetable can be eaten raw or cooked, and is often described as having a nutty flavor.

The sunchoke plant itself can grow rather tall, as a sunflower does, so it's well suited to planting as a border or along an edge of the garden. The tubers are harvested in the fall, with some of them left in the ground (or replanted after harvesting) for next year's plants.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 9.
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade.
  • Soil Needs: Well-drained soils; tolerant of most soil types; prefers slightly alkaline soils (7.0 to 7.5).
3
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American Groundnut (Apios americana)

American groundnut flower beginning to bloom

Helena Jacoba / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

A tuber that’s related to the pea, the American groundnut is a perennial vegetable that can be a great addition to any garden. The plant—which grows as a vine—produces edible seed pods and tubers, or rhizomatous stems.

Native to the eastern portion of the U.S., the vines grow to about 6 feet long, and can be grown on trellises, or left as ground cover. Groundnuts are harvested in the fall. After harvesting, leave some tubers in the ground for the following year’s growth.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 10.
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade.
  • Soil Needs: Well-drained, sandy, rich, loamy soils.
4
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Globe Artichoke (Cynara scolymus)

Globe artichokes growing in a garden

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Members of the thistle family, globe artichokes are perennials that produce edible flowers in addition to bud-shaped vegetables. Artichoke buds are harvested before the plant flowers. If left to flower, the plant produces tall, violet blooms.

Artichoke plants take a bit of space in the garden—they can grow to 6 feet in height and 3 feet across. Like most perennial vegetables, a couple of years of growth is often necessary before they've matured enough to harvest.

While they can be started from seed, artichokes can also be planted by dividing plants from an established patch, or from starts available from the garden center.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 7 to 11.
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun.
  • Soil Needs: Well-drained soils; pH 6.0 to 7.0.
5
of 10

Rhubarb (Rheum rhabarbarum)

rhubarb plants with large green leaves and bright red stalks

Russell102 /Getty Images

This perennial vegetable is not only edible but also a colorful addition to the garden. Plants come in varieties that have red, pink, and green stalks. Rhubarb is best planted from a crown, which can be acquired from a garden center or a neighbor with a bountiful bed.

The plants should be allowed to grow for several years before harvesting the stalks for jams or desserts, including the perennial summer favorite, strawberry rhubarb pie. Only the stalks of the rhubarb are edible. The leaves are toxic to humans and should be discarded.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 2 to 9.
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun.
  • Soil Needs: Organically rich, well-drained soils.
6
of 10

Horseradish (Armoracia rusticana)

Large leafy foliage of horseradish plants growing in a garden

Martina Simonazzi / Getty Images 

The leaves of the horseradish, while edible, are plain and unassuming, and the small white flowers are nothing to write home about, but when grated, the large root of the horseradish adds strong flavor to sauces and relishes.

In some areas, horseradish can take over the garden with the invasive growth habit of its roots. When harvesting plants in the fall, it can be good practice to remove as many of the roots as possible. Replant only enough of the root sections as you will need for the following year.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 8.
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun.
  • Soil Needs: Organically rich, well-drained soils.
7
of 10

Garlic (Allium sativum)

Three rows of garlic plants growing in a garden

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While many think of garlic as an annual, this member of the onion family is actually a perennial. There are two varieties of garlic: hardneck and softneck. The hardneck variety produces flowers and larger individual cloves, while the softneck variety has smaller cloves and does not typically flower.

While the entire garlic plant is often harvested, the way to have garlic all year long is to leave parts of the bulb behind at harvest.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 9.
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun.
  • Soil Needs: Well-drained, organically rich soils.
8
of 10

Egyptian Walking Onion (Allium x proliferum)

Egyptian walking onions with long green stems and purple bulbs

OlyaSolodenko / Getty Images

The Egyptian walking onion, also called the tree onion and the topset onion, is a perennial onion that produces a cluster of bulbils at the top of the plant. As the onion bulbs grow and become heavy, the stalks double over from the weight of the vegetable. Bulbs that remain on the ground can take root and start new plants.

This vigorously growing plant dies back in winter and remerges with green shoots in spring.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 10.
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun.
  • Soil Needs: Well-drained soils with a neutral pH; high in organic matter.
9
of 10

Radicchio (Cichorium intybus var. foliosum)

View of many radicchio plants clustered together from above

Carlo Baggio / EyeEm / Getty Images

A variety of chicory, radicchio is a leafy perennial vegetable with a strong, slightly bitter taste. The plant is tolerant of cold, but requires frequent watering, particularly in higher temperatures.

Radicchio is best planted in spring or fall when temperatures are cool. To maintain moisture and protect new plants from becoming overheated, surround the plants with plenty of mulch.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 8.
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun.
  • Soil Needs: Well-drained neutral to alkaline soils.
10
of 10

Garden Sorrel (Rumex acestosa)

Three rows of young, green sorrel plants growing in the dirt

Maryna Iaroshenko / Getty Images

A bright green herbaceous perennial, the garden sorrel produces tangy, lemony leaves that are used in salads, soups, and sandwiches. Plants can be grown from seeds or from sections divided from established plants.

When harvesting leaves of the sorrel plant, remove just the number of outer leaves that are needed. After removing leaves, the plant will continue to grow and produce new leaves.

Sorrel plants bolt and send up tall flowers when temperatures increase. To encourage the plant to keep producing more delicious foliage, simply remove the flower stalk.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 7.
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun.
  • Soil Needs: Well-drained, slightly acidic soils.

To check if a plant is considered invasive in your area, go to the National Invasive Species Information Center or speak with your regional extension office or local gardening center.

View Article Sources
  1. Are Rhubarb Leaves Toxic?” OSU Extension Service, Oregon State University Extension Service, 29 Nov. 2018.