An edible landscape is a beautiful thing. For those of us who love fresh vegetables from our garden but don’t want to spend year after year laboring over maintenance or spending money every year on new plants, perennial vegetables are a godsend.
When you plant perennial food plants, you get the best of everything: fresh, delicious vegetables for minimal effort and money. It’s no wonder that perennial crops are popular and valued additions to any home garden.
In this guide, we take a look at the best perennials to plant at home. We look at plants that thrive in heat, plants that prefer cold climates, plants that like humidity, and plants that thrive in dry conditions.
With our help, you’ll soon have a garden full of delicious and healthy veggies and still have money left in your wallet. You’ll wonder how you managed without perennials!
Getting to Know Perennial Vegetables
So what are perennials? Edible perennials are plants that produce vegetables periodically throughout their lifetime. The first year, you must take the time to make sure that you’ve established your perennial vegetable plants in your garden, and the next year and the following ones, nature takes over and does the rest. A garden full of perennial food crops saves you time and money.
Even better, perennials are environment-friendly. Many perennials are natural insect repellents and are great as yellow jacket repellents and other DIY home solutions. And, because they require no tilling or heavy maintenance after the initial planting like with seasonal vegetables, you won’t damage your topsoil or native vegetation, which is key to maintaining a healthy and balanced environment.
Caring for Perennial Food Plants
To give your perennials their best chance to thrive, plant them as soon in the growing season as you can. Check the specific requirements for the perennials you are planting, as some perennial crops can tolerate colder weather than others. Some perennials work well with other plants, so you should get to know what vegetables to plant together.
Perennials are usually happy with the water they get from rainfall, but you should try to check your plants on occasion to make sure that they don’t dry out. Be sure that you know the requirements for sun and shade, too, as sun perennials depend on the heat and light to grow well. If you’re concerned about your soil’s aridity, get a moisture gauge so you can avoid drying out your plants.
Perennial veggies are often the most robust and adaptable vegetables in your garden. That’s great for your dinner plate, but you’ll want to keep on top of your perennial crops to keep them from taking over the garden entirely. It’s easy for perennials to turn into weeds if you’re not careful!
Use vinegar as a natural herbicide. It’s a safe way to treat plants. So, you can ease your mind if you’re wondering: is vinegar good for plants? It is, and it can work wonders, so feel free to use it as a DIY care solution.
17 Easy-to-Care For Perennial Vegetables
Egyptian Walking Onions (Allium cepa) – Perennial Vegetable
Also called the tree onion and topsetting onions, the Egyptian walking onion is a small perennial with a pungent flavor. The plant produces edible bulbs in place of flowers.
Once you harvest the bulbs, the plant will continue to create fresh onions throughout the growing season. The onion flavor can vary from sharp and hot to soft and sweet, depending on the varietal.
This perennial crop is perfect if you want to grow vegetables in container environments, as its root system is less important than in some other perennial vegetable plants. The Egyptian walking onion prefers a hot climate and somewhat arid conditions, so plant it in an area that receives direct sunlight.
The daylily is the true perennial of choice for those of us who like our gardens to be easy care. This gorgeous food crop produces edible flowers that you can cook with – use them in place of beans for a tasty treat.
Daylilies are simple to maintain and easy perennials to grow, too. They are drought and disease resistant, and most pests don’t bother them at all.
Daylilies crave strong sunlight, so plant them in areas that receive at least six hours of daylight. If you live in southern climates, sow your daylilies in the spring or fall when temperatures are cooler.
Good King Henry (Helianthus tuberosus) Excellent Perennial Crops
If you’re looking grow edibles that can be a perennial alternative to spinach, the Good King Henry plant might be just what you need. This small green plant spreads its little green spiky leaves across any area it encounters and is quick to produce edible shoots as soon as spring rolls around. It’s a fantastic, low-maintenance crop choice.
Grow your Good King Henry plants in well-drained soil. It’s a shade-loving plant, so make sure to place it in a location that receives at least partial shade. Good King Henry does best when planted at least two feet from the next plant. Thin or weed your garden every once in a while to maintain this distance.
Jerusalem Artichokes (Helianthus tuberosus)
Also called the sunroot, sunchoke, and earth apple, the Jerusalem artichoke is the perfect perennial food crop for the winter months. This plant springs forth in a profusion of yellow perennial flowers that last throughout the summer, and when the cold weather comes around, you can dig up the tubers for a midwinter feast.
Because Jerusalem artichokes produce extensive root growth, you should make sure to space out the planting and give each plant about a foot of space on all sides. Keep the plants watered as needed, and add more soil to the base as the plants grow to keep the root structure covered.
Wild Leeks (Allium tricoccum)
Wild leeks are also called ramps and can be found growing wild all across North America. They are lovely food crops and pop up in the early spring before fading away until the next year. The wild leek has a unique and refreshing flavor (somewhere between onion and garlic) and makes a welcome addition to any springtime salad.
The wild leek prefers damp, swampy terrain, so be sure that you provide your newly planted wild leeks with enough water to keep them happy. Plant them in the early spring for maximum growth, and make sure to place them in an area with pleasant shade.
Scarlet Runner Beans (Phaseolus coccineus) – Amazing Perennial Food Plant
While some plants are for cooking and some are solely for decoration, the scarlet runner bean plant is a cross-training sort of plant that is equally at home as eye candy as it is as a food crop. It spreads across any available area and makes a fantastic ground cover option, and it thrives in a variety of conditions. Best of all, it produces lots of big beans that are delicious fresh or dried.
The scarlet runner bean is a robust plant that can achieve more than twenty feet of growth a year when unchecked, so be sure to keep it under control, or it will take over all available space. Plant them in the full sun for best results.
Sea Kale (Crambe maritime)
Despite its name, sea kale is not a type of seaweed, and it does not need to grow in or near the ocean. Sea kale is a robust perennial that is also called sea-colewort and scurvy grass. As you might have guessed from its alternate names, the sea kale is an excellent source of vitamin C and other nutrients, which made it the perfect scurvy preventative for sailors on long voyages.
While sea kale doesn’t require an ocean climate, it should only grow in a cold, moist environment. Plant your sea kale in alkaline soil, and try to place it in a spot that provides partial sunlight at most.
French Sorrel (Rumex scutatus) – Perfect Perennial Vegetable
Do you want a perennial herb that can grow in a variety of conditions and provides lots of edible vegetation? French sorrel is one of the perennial herbs for zone 5 and 6 that is ideal to grow. This plant produces leaves with an astringent, lemony flavor that works well with salads and entrees, and it’s easy to grow and maintain.
French sorrel is a European varietal that prefers temperate climates for substantial growth. Its American cousin, garden sorrel (Rumex acetosa), prefers moist, loose soil, but because French sorrel has an extensive root system that digs down deep and does well when it has to fight to survive, you can plant it anywhere that has poor soil.
The plant’s edible green growth continues throughout the year, so pick what you need for your meal each day. If you’ve never tried to grow this herb, now is a perfect time.
Artichokes (Cynara cardunculus)
One of the oldest known cultivated perennial varieties (there are mentions of artichokes in Roman texts!), the artichoke is a hardy and delicious selection for any garden. These bright green and highly flavorful vegetables work well with main courses or by themselves, and they are simple to plant and maintain.
Artichokes do best in moderate conditions. Avoid planting them in areas that get too hot during the summer or below 25 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter.
If you live in colder or more tropical climates, you can use grow containers to move your artichokes indoors. These fantastic little perennials are just what your garden needs!
Have you been looking for a perennial that can take the cold and makes a great dessert ingredient? Look no further than rhubarb, the main ingredient in quality pies. Rhubarb is a great food crop that requires little in the way of care after it takes root.
Because rhubarb pairs so well with strawberries and fruit trees, consider growing the crops together. Perennial fruits of all stripes work well with rhubarb. If you were wondering can you freeze strawberries or rhubarb, you can. Enjoy the fruit all winter by practicing fruit and vegetable freezing techniques.
Rhubarbs need cold weather to thrive; when temperatures drop below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, it triggers the plant’s dormancy so that it activates the following spring. Make sure that your local summer weather doesn’t go above 75 degrees very often for best results.
Chayote (Sechium edule) – Great Perennial Crop
Chayotes are a perennial vegetable in the squash family and are also called vegetable pears, choko, mirliton, and custard marrow. These leafy plants originated in Latin America and have since spread to the southeastern United States. You can use almost all of the plant as a food crop, including the leaves, stalks, buds, and roots; they taste great boiled or stewed, and they work well in place of cabbage.
While the chayote prefers hot climates, you can grow it in colder conditions. If you have winter weather that drops below freezing regularly, cut the vine back to the ground and cover it with mulch to protect it.
Capers (Capparis spinosa)
Capers are a flavorful addition to any garden. This squat bush thrives in hot conditions and loves hostile terrain. Its small buds can be picked and pickled every day and then added to all sorts of dishes, including pizza and stew. The plant’s sharp aroma serves as a natural insect repellent, as well.
Caper bushes grow best in adverse conditions, so don’t be afraid to plant it in hard, dry soil. Take care not to overwater your caper bush, as it has an extensive root system and requires a bit of adversity to thrive and spread.
Tree Collards (Brassica oleracea) – Perennial Vegetable Wonder
Also called wild cabbage, the tree collard is a perennial that produces edible growth very similar in flavor and texture to the annual collard plant. For those of us who live in hot, arid conditions, the tree collard is the ideal garden plant. It thrives in conditions that kill most other leafy veggies, and it makes new leaves all year, so, you can enjoy this plant in every season.
Although it can tolerate almost any climate, the tree collard does best in cold, wet conditions. If you plant tree collards in a hotter, drier climate, be prepared to provide extra care to ensure their survival.
Globe Artichoke (Cynara scolymus)
When you want a perennial that provides beauty as well as a meal, consider the globe artichoke. This artichoke varietal is famous for producing big, gorgeous fleshy buds that taste amazing, and they’re easy to plant and care for, too. That makes the globe artichoke an ideal selection for those looking for a combination of simplicity and flavor.
Globe artichokes need room to grow, so make sure to give your new perennial plants at least two feet on all sides for maximum growth. Any flower buds not cut from the stalk will open into a thistle-like flower eventually, so cut off all fruit by the late summer.
Garlic Chives (Allium tuberosum)
Garlic chives are also called Chinese leeks, and they make a welcome addition to your garden. As might be expected, the plant’s leaves work very well as ingredients in Asian cooking, but they’ll do yeoman work in your salads and soups, too. And, the perennial vegetable flowers in the summer and brings pollinators and other beneficial insects to your vegetable garden.
Plant garlic chives in cool weather. They prefer full sunlight, but they’ll do well with partial sunlight, as well. Space the plants appropriately, about a foot apart, and be careful not to overwater them. In the second year, thin the plants if needed to keep them well spaced.
Asparagus (Asparagus officinalis)
Anyone who’s had a serving of fresh young asparagus will never forget their fantastic flavor and texture. You can get that experience every night when you bring asparagus into your garden. The asparagus plant does well in all sorts of conditions and thrives where other vegetables wilt, so this is the right veggie for those of us in freezing or drought environments.
Asparagus soaks up sunlight and asks for more, so plant your asparagus in a sunny area. You’re more likely to produce healthy perennial plants if you transplant one-year-old crowns; avoid two-year-old tops, which are expensive and apt to suffer from transplant shock.
Horseradish (Armoracia rusticana)
Horseradish is a vegetable that improves dramatically with freshness. If you like store-bought horseradish, you’ll be blown away with how much more flavor and personality fresh horseradish provides. Horseradish is a tough customer, too, and it won’t wither away in the heat. If you want perennial herbs with tons of zip and flavor, you can’t go wrong with horseradish.
Plant your horseradish from a root cutting, which you can purchase at garden centers; place the cutting in a hole deep enough to allow it to stand on end. Keep the root upright while you fill in the hole with organic matter, and then, water the area thoroughly.
We hope that you enjoyed this guide to perennial vegetables. In today’s economic climate, every penny counts, so it’s crucial to find vegetables that keep giving throughout the years while requiring little care. That’s why we created this guide. With our help and a minimum of fuss on your part, you’ll discover just how inexpensive and delicious edible landscaping can get.
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