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Garden Asparagus Asparagus officinalis

Other Common Name(s):

Phonetic Spelling
ah-SPAIR-ah-gus oh-fiss-ih-NAH-liss
This plant has low severity poison characteristics.
See below
Description

Asparagus, in the Asparagaceae family,  is a long-lived, herbaceous perennial vegetable that is not a native to the United States but to Europe, Africa, and Asia. However, it has naturalized in the United States and is often found along roadsides and ditches. Asparagus officinalis is Latin meaning plant sperage used in medicine and sold as an herb. 

Asparagus needs full sun; moist, organic, sandy soil with good drainage; and neutral (6.0-8.0) ph levels. The plant can grow from 3 to 5 feet, with a canopy of 18 inches to 3 feet. It has rhizomatous roots to self-propagate. Harvest young shoots in early spring for edibility. Stem color can be either green or purple, growing erect and thick, with triangular bracts along the stems. As the plants mature in summer, the stems become thin and multibranched. Male and female flowers produce small, yellow-green tepals in June or July. In late summer, the female plants will produce ornamental red berries that are hard and shiny. Showy, soft, green, feathery, needle-like leaves are arranged in whorls. 

Plant in edible gardens, along borders for mass planting or in small groups. Resistance to salt makes it suitable for coastal areas. 

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems:  Common insect problems include asparagus beetle, spotted asparagus beetle, and aphids. Common disease problems include fusarium, rust, and needle blight. Consider planting resistant varieties and remove all leaves after fall die back. Contact dermatitis is likely from young, raw shoots, so wear gloves when handling. Low poisonous toxicity of the plant are the fruits and stems.  Eating the berries may cause gastrointestinal problems.

VIDEO Created by Elisabeth Meyer for "Vegetables, Herbs, Fruits, and Nuts" a plant identification course offered in partnership with Longwood Gardens.   

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See this plant in the following landscape:
Vegetable Garden and Pollinator Plants
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Jersey Giant'
    High yields and large spears. Resistant to rust and fusarium.
  • 'Mary Washington'
    Heavy yield, dark green shoots
  • 'Purple Passion'
    Purple (fades to green when cooked); sweet/less stringy, excellent raw. Resistance rust/fusarium/crown rot
'Jersey Giant', 'Mary Washington', 'Purple Passion'
Tags:
#edible plant#fine texture#showy fruits#vegetable garden#red fruits#cold tolerant#vegetable#edible stems#border back#cool season vegetable#fall color yellow#ebh-vh#ebh#vhfn#vhfn-v
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Jersey Giant'
    High yields and large spears. Resistant to rust and fusarium.
  • 'Mary Washington'
    Heavy yield, dark green shoots
  • 'Purple Passion'
    Purple (fades to green when cooked); sweet/less stringy, excellent raw. Resistance rust/fusarium/crown rot
'Jersey Giant', 'Mary Washington', 'Purple Passion'
Tags:
#edible plant#fine texture#showy fruits#vegetable garden#red fruits#cold tolerant#vegetable#edible stems#border back#cool season vegetable#fall color yellow#ebh-vh#ebh#vhfn#vhfn-v
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Asparagus
    Species:
    officinalis
    Family:
    Asparagaceae
    Life Cycle:
    Perennial
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Division
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Europe, Asia, North Africa
    Play Value:
    Textural
    Wildlife Food Source
    Edibility:
    Young spears (shoots). Harvest time: collect asparagus spears in the early spring, while very young. Only collect spears from areas you know have NOT been treated with pesticides. Safe handling procedures: wash spears thoroughly with warm water to remove dirt and debris. Do not use dish detergent or any type of sanitizer. These products can leave a residue. Peel off the outer skin to within an inch of the top of the spear. Tie spears into bundles (about eight to a bundle) and place lengthwise into boiling salted water. Boil for about 10 minutes until tender, but not soggy. Serve hot with melted butter, or cold with oil and vinegar and seasonings.
    Dimensions:
    Height: 3 ft. 0 in. - 5 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 1 ft. 6 in. - 3 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Edible
    Herbaceous Perennial
    Poisonous
    Vegetable
    Habit/Form:
    Erect
    Multi-stemmed
    Growth Rate:
    Medium
    Maintenance:
    Medium
    Texture:
    Fine
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Soil Texture:
    High Organic Matter
    Sand
    Soil pH:
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    2a, 2b, 3a, 3b, 4b, 4a, 5b, 5a, 6b, 6a, 7b, 7a, 8a, 8b, 9b, 9a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Red/Burgundy
    Fruit Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Summer
    Fruit Type:
    Berry
    Fruit Description:
    In late summer, female plants produce ornamental red berries that are hard and shiny.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Green
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Summer
    Flower Petals:
    Tepals
    Flower Description:
    The flowers develop as hermaphrodites and mature to become unisexual. Both male and female flowers produce small, yellow-green tepals In June or July.
  • Leaves:
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Leaf Feel:
    Soft
    Leaf Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Deciduous Leaf Fall Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Whorled
    Leaf Shape:
    Linear
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Description:
    Soft, feathery, needle-like leaves arranged in whorls.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Green
    Purple/Lavender
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Cross Section:
    Round
    Stem Form:
    Straight
    Stem Surface:
    Covered with a powdery bloom (glaucous)
    Stem Description:
    Young shoots are thick and stand upright. They are green or purple in color with triangular bracts along the stem. As the stems mature they become thin and multi-branched.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Lawn
    Landscape Theme:
    Edible Garden
    Design Feature:
    Border
    Mass Planting
    Small groups
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Salt
    Problems:
    Contact Dermatitis
  • Poisonous to Humans:
    Poison Severity:
    Low
    Poison Symptoms:
    Contact dermatitis from young, raw shoots; eating of berries may cause gastrointestinal problems
    Poison Toxic Principle:
    Unknown
    Causes Contact Dermatitis:
    Yes
    Poison Part:
    Fruits
    Stems