The 10 Best Perennial Vegetables That Come Back Every Year

Written by Jennifer Haase
Updated: September 18, 2023
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Gardening is an excellent way to grow your own food and enjoy delicious, nutritious veggies year after year. By choosing the right perennial vegetables, you can ensure a steady supply of healthy eats – without starting from scratch each season. Keep reading to discover an overview of the ten best perennial vegetables that come back every year, along with quick tips for growing and harvesting. So let’s dive in and discover the delicious possibilities of growing your own food!

Rhubarb stalks are perfectly save to eat but the leaves contain a lethal toxin known as oxalic acid and should be avoided.

Growing Perennial Vegetables vs. Annual Vegetables

Before we get into the top 10 best perennial vegetables, let’s take a moment to explain the difference between growing perennials vs. annuals.

Perennial vegetables come back yearly but might require extra steps to ensure they survive their dormant phase through harsh winters. Some perennial vegetables, like garlic, require you only harvest a portion of your crop each year to have another crop the following year.

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Annual vegetables only produce one crop in a single season before you need to replant them. So even if you leave some of these plants in the ground over winter, they won’t likely survive until spring in areas with freezing weather.

Knowing which is which can help you plan your garden for maximum yield and efficiency. Especially since some vegetables, like onions, have both perennial and annual varieties!

Now let’s look at the top 10 best perennial vegetables for your garden. We’ve included a brief overview of each species and the hardiness zones best suited for these plants.

1. Asparagus

asparagus vs broccoli

Asparagus plants can grow up to seven feet tall.

©DUSAN ZIDAR/Shutterstock.com

Hardiness Zones: 3 to 8

Planting seasons: spring or fall

Harvesting seasons: late spring or when spears are 6-10 inches tall

Did you know that an established and healthy asparagus plant can keep producing food for over ten years? It’s true! For this reason and more, this plant should be a staple in every asparagus lover’s garden. In addition, asparagus spears are a great source of potassium and vitamins A and C.

However, this perennial vegetable also requires patience since you will start harvesting asparagus in the second or third year of growth. According to the University of Minnesota Extension, asparagus plants can be harvested two years after planting them as crowns or three years after planting from seeds. Asparagus crowns are 1-2-year-old roots used for growing new plants.

Also, note that asparagus plants get huge! They might grow up to 7 feet tall.

Tips for planting asparagus:

  • Soak asparagus crowns in lukewarm water before planting them in a sunny bed in well-drained soil
  • Plant in 2-inch high soil ridges in rows spaced at least 1-2 feet apart
  • Asparagus plants eventually get very tall, so they’ll need extra support. Install a trellis or support netting to keep plants upright.

Once asparagus plants are established, you should be able to harvest new spears every spring. Harvest by cutting each spear off at the soil surface level with a sharp knife. The part of the plants remaining in the soil should continue producing food for many years. In addition, store extra harvested spears in the freezer for up to eight months.

2. Globe Artichokes

Hardiness Zones: 7 to 10

Planting seasons: in summer as seeds, or fall as seedlings

(NOTE: when growing as annuals, you would plant artichokes in spring)

Harvesting seasons: late summer or early autumn

Globe artichokes provide an abundance of antioxidants, fiber, folate, potassium, and magnesium. So whether you prefer eating artichoke hearts or the pulp from its petals, artichokes are great to grow as food year after year.

Also known as French artichoke, the globe artichoke is easy to grow if you make sure it has plenty of sunshine, water, and soil nutrients. Here are some easy tips for the best growing practices:

Tips for planting globe artichoke:

  • Plant in full sun and well-draining soil.
  • Stake top-heavy plants to provide extra support.
  • Water deeply two to three times per week. Artichokes are thirsty plants!
  • Fertilize with an organic vegetable fertilizer at least once a month. Every two weeks is even better.
  • Harvest when the petals are still tight and before the center of the artichoke opens up.

With extra care in a mild climate, artichoke plants grow as perennial vegetables for about 5-6 years before needing to be replaced.

3. Rhubarb

rhubarb flower up close

A rhubarb plant is easy to grow but requires extra maintenance.

©celiachen/Shutterstock.com

Hardiness Zones: 3 to 8

Planting seasons: early spring or late fall

Harvesting seasons: spring or when stalks are 7-15 inches tall

Rhubarb is a hardy perennial vegetable with abundant stalks of sweet and sour leafy stems. It thrives in cooler climates and can be harvested over a long period, usually starting in late spring and ending in early summer. Plus, it’s an excellent source of vitamin K, providing 45% of the FDA’s Daily Value for this essential nutrient. Additionally, rhubarb plants regrow for 7-10 years or more!

A rhubarb plant is easy to grow but requires extra maintenance, like ensuring its soil stays moist but not saturated.

Tips for planting rhubarb:

  • Rhubarb needs nutrient-rich soil cleared of all weeds before planting.
  • Water rhubarb plants once every week or ten days.
  • Adding compost or aged manure to rhubarb soil helps give your new plants a healthy start.
  • Fertilize rhubarb plants annually.
  • If you want your rhubarb to last for years, consider mulching it with straw over winter and fertilizing it every spring to get the best yield.

When you harvest rhubarb, cut it at the base of the stem and avoid tugging the leaves. Store rhubarb in your fridge for about a week, or freeze them for up to an entire year!

4. Horseradish

bright green leave top six horseradish roots arranged on dark brown wooden slats.

Horseradish is an incredibly hardy vegetable that grows back year after year.

©iStock.com/Nataliia Mysak

Hardiness Zones: 3 to 10

Planting seasons: early spring or late fall

Harvesting seasons: in mid-fall (October) during dormancy

Horseradish is a perennial vegetable in the mustard family that produces edible roots. However, it may take up to two years before horseradish plants are ready for harvesting. Nevertheless, the roots are an excellent source of dietary fiber, vitamin C, and zinc. In addition, the horseradish plant’s very spicy roots make great condiments or a sauce ingredient.

The horseradish plant has large green leaves that grow up from the roots, and it produces tiny white flowers.

Tips for planting horseradish:

  • Start with a set of root cuttings about 2-3 inches long. These root sets are available from seed companies, or you can create your own.
  • Plant each set 3-4 inches deep and about 18 inches apart in soil that is well-draining.
  • Horseradish needs full sun to thrive and should be given plenty of water during the growing season.

At harvest time, leave some horseradish roots in the ground to grow back again. Horseradish is an incredibly hardy vegetable that grows back year after year. As a result, this perennial vegetable can survive in colder climates. In addition, harvested horseradish roots last up to a month in the fridge.

5. Garlic

harvested hardneck garlic

When planting garlic, be sure to select the right variety for your climate and expectations.

©amandalala123/Shutterstock.com

Hardiness Zones: 1 to 5, or anywhere with about ten weeks of cold weather

Planting seasons: fall for the best mature bulbs, but you can plant in spring for scapes and green garlic (the above-ground greens)

Harvesting seasons: late summer or when the leaves start turning yellow

Garlic is another hardy perennial vegetable packed with antioxidants plus beneficial sulfur compounds. A culinary favorite, garlic has a pungent, spicy flavor used in many dishes worldwide. Plus, garlic plants will come back every year if given the proper care and conditions. However, garlic plants may take up to two years before they are ready to harvest the bulbs.

The best climates for growing garlic are where the bulbs are below the ground for at least ten weeks of cold weather each year. This amount of time makes the essential process of garlic vernalization possible. Vernalization is the process of cooling the garlic bulbs underground to encourage better overall growth.

When planting garlic, be sure to select the right variety for your climate and expectations.

Hardneck garlic:

  • better suited for cold climates
  • develops scapes above ground
  • has larger but fewer cloves than softnecks
  • lasts around 4-6 months in storage

Softneck garlic:

  • tends to do better in warm climates (not as hardy as hardnecks)
  • has soft stems and does not develop scapes
  • has more but smaller cloves than hardnecks
  • the best garlic for braiding before storage
  • lasts for 9-12 months in storage

Elephant garlic:

  • not a true garlic, but in the leek family instead
  • grows best in mild climates (not too cold, not too hot)
  • huge bulbs that are milder in flavor than true garlic
  • stores well for 9-12 months

Plant garlic cloves 4-5 inches apart and 3-4 inches deep in well-drained soil rich in nitrogen. Then, water deeply and mulch with straw or hay to protect the plants through winter.

The best way to grow garlic as a perennial is by never removing all the plants from the ground. Harvest the largest plants and leave the smaller ones alone so they will grow again next year.

Garlic is ready for harvesting in late summer when the leaves have started to turn yellow, and the plants begin to fall over. In addition, the bulbs should be about 4-6 inches in diameter for full flavor and texture.

6. Onions

Onion, Crop - Plant, Harvesting, Land, Dirt

Onions are high in sulfur compounds that give them their distinct flavor and aroma.

©iStock.com/rootstocks

Hardiness Zones: it varies, depending on the variety

Planting seasons: early spring for green onions or late summer/early fall for bulbing onions

Harvesting seasons: early summer to fall for green onions, late summer to fall for bulbing onions

Egyptian walking onions and Welsh onions (scallions) are two common perennial onions that come back every year. These and more onion varieties are excellent perennial vegetables for many growing zones. Unfortunately, like garlic, most onions take 2-3 years before they start producing loads of edible bulbs. However, scallions (green onions) and chives are harvest-ready in the first year of planting.

Onions are a wonderful source of dietary fiber, vitamin C, and manganese. And, again, like garlic, they’re high in sulfur compounds that give them their distinct flavor and aroma.

Types of Perennial Onions:

  • Egyptian walking onions (Hardiness zones 3-10): The underground bulbs of these onions have tough skins and have very intense flavor. Some people avoid eating the bulbs, while others love them. However, the spicy bulblets that grow on the stalks are delicious raw, pickled, or cooked. In addition, the stalks (greens) taste great in chopped into salads, soups, and stir fry dishes.
  • Welsh onions (Hardiness zones 6-9): A mild and non-bulbing onion, Welsh onions are green onions or scallions that taste similar to chives. From the white onion base to the long green stalks, every part of this plant is edible.

7. Leeks

Human hand pulling up leeks from the soil

Leeks are onions’ milder, sweeter relatives

©Freshcly cut leeks on cutting board/Shutterstock.com

Hardiness Zones: 2 to 9, depending on the variety

Planting seasons: Early spring or fall (in cool weather)

Harvesting seasons: 4-5 months after planting

Leeks are milder, sweeter members of the onion family that grow best in cooler climates. They are incredibly versatile, whether you eat them raw or cooked. They are an excellent source of vitamins A and C, dietary fiber, and minerals.

The leek looks like a huge green onion, with a white base and tall green stalks. It grows 2-3 feet tall and has several layers inside its cylinder shape that collect dirt and sand. As a result, these perennial vegetables must be thoroughly cleaned within their cylindrical layers before cooking. An easy way to clean a garden leek is to remove the roots, then slice the leek lengthwise to rinse the dirt from the inside. Or chop the leek into small pieces and rinse them in a colander.

Tips for planting leeks:

  • Plant leeks in full sun and well-draining soil that is rich in organic matter
  • Place leek seedlings or transplants 6-8 inches apart and 1-2 inches deep in rows 1-3 feet apart. Leeks need lots of space to grow!
  • Water leeks consistently to avoid tough stems. The plants will need an average of one inch of water per week.
  • Leeks need loads of nitrogen! Fertilize the plants every three weeks during the growing season for the best results.

Harvest leeks 4-5 months (120-150 days) after planting or when their stalks grow at least 3 inches long. However, waiting until your leeks are taller yields more food from each plant. But don’t remove all of the plants from your leek bed! Instead, cut the stalks back and continue to water them until the first frost so they will grow again next year.

Store leeks for up to two weeks in the fridge or longer if you keep them frozen.

8. Sunchokes

Jerusalem artichoke tubers in a basket

Sunchokes are great for adding texture to salads or pureed soups.

©iMarzi/Shutterstock.com

Hardiness zones: 3-9

Planting seasons: early spring (when soil is warm and dry) or late fall

Harvesting seasons: late fall or 120-150 days after planting

Sunchokes, also known as Jerusalem artichokes, are in the sunflower family. They grow tall with attractive yellow flowers and produce a starchy, sweet-flavored tuber that looks like ginger root. Additionally, sunchoke tubers are excellent sources of dietary fiber, iron, potassium, and vitamin C. Plus, they are great for adding texture to salads or pureed soups. Or you can roast sunchoke slices or chunks with olive oil, salt, and pepper.

Tips for planting sunchoke:

  • Plant sunchokes in their own garden bed under full sun
  • Sunchokes need full sun plus loose and well-draining soil.
  • Plant the tubers 4 inches deep in rows 12-18 inches apart.
  • To maximize your harvest, add mulch or compost around the plants.
  • Water your drought-tolerant sunchokes as needed during dry spells and fertilize the plants when shoots appear.

Harvest these perennial vegetables in late fall or at least 120 days after planting. Twist or dig them from the soil and rinse away any dirt with a garden hose. Then keep harvested sunchokes in a cool storage space for up to two weeks, or keep sunchokes in the fridge for up to four weeks.

9. Chives

Chives are part of the allium family of vegetables.

©iStock.com/Svetlana Monyakova

Hardiness zones: 3-9

Planting seasons: early spring (when soil is warm and dry) or late fall

Harvesting seasons: spring to fall (multiple harvests in the same year)

Like garlic and onions, chives are part of the allium family of vegetables. However, chives are herbs (a vegetable subset) that grow hollow, grassy leaves with purple flowers in the summer. These perennial vegetables are known for their mild onion flavor that adds a touch of zest to soups, salads, and potato dishes. Plus, chives provide a bit of vitamin C and dietary fiber.

Tips for planting chives:

  • Grow chives in full sun and well-draining soil.
  • Plant seeds 1/4 inch deep and 6-12 inches apart.
  • Water your chives about twice a week and let the soil go dry before watering again.
  • If you planted from seed, you should be able to begin harvesting chives about 60 days after planting or about 30 days from transplants.

Harvest chive leaves by cutting them at about 1-2 inches above the soil. The remaining plants will continue to grow and can be harvested 2-3 more times during the same growing season.

Store harvested chives in the fridge for up to two weeks. Or, you can freeze them for much longer storage.

10. Sorrel

Yellow wood sorrel (Oxalis stricta) clover

Growing sorrel as an annual instead of a perennial can result in a milder-tasting leaf.

©Dcrjsr | CC BY – License

Hardiness zones: 3-9

Planting seasons: early spring (when soil is warm and dry) or late fall

Harvesting seasons: spring to fall (multiple harvests in the same year)

Enjoy some leafy greens by planting a perennial vegetable called sorrel! This tangy, lemony-flavored herb is part of the buckwheat family and works well in salads, soups, and sauces. In addition, these leaves are a good source of magnesium and vitamins A and C.

Some gardeners feel that growing sorrel as an annual instead of perennial results in a milder-tasting leaf. However, other gardeners love the extra tangy zing of perennial sorrel and the slightly rougher leaf texture. Also, sorrel leaves lose a bit of their tang during the cooking process.

Tips for planting sorrel:

  • Choose a spot in full sun with moist, well-draining soil. Sorrel might also thrive in partial shade.
  • Start your sorrel from seed and plant them 1/2 inch deep and at least 2 inches apart. Or you can grow sorrel from leaf cuttings, too.
  • Give sorrel plants about 1 inch of water per week and fertilize them only if needed. Most sorrel plants don’t need fertilizer unless they become unhealthy in soil that is very low in nitrogen.
  • Harvest the leaves when they are about 4-6 inches tall or reach their full size of 18-24 inches. Though baby sorrel leaves can be harvested and eaten, as well.

Store harvested sorrel in the refrigerator for up to one week. The leaves will keep their flavor longer if you seal them in an airtight container. You can also freeze the leaves for up to one year.

Perennial Vegetables Bring Added Benefits!

These are only some of the best perennial vegetables that come back every year – there are many more! With the right variety selection and proper care, you can enjoy fresh produce from your garden for many years to come. Not to mention the added bonus of enjoying the many other benefits of gardening, such as physical activity, relaxation, and satisfaction from growing your own food. Plus, you could save money each year on your grocery bill. So get out there, start growing your favorite perennial vegetables, and reap the rewards!

Honorable Mentions: A Few More Notable Perennial Vegetables

Good King Henry vegetable

Good King Henry is thought to be named after King Henry VIII, as it was one of his favorite vegetables.

©Enrico Blasutto / CC BY-SA 3.0 – License

Here are a few more perennial vegetables to consider growing in your garden if you’re looking for more options:

Good King Henry (Chenopodium bonus-henricus

Hardiness Zones: 5-8

Planting Seasons: Spring or fall

Harvesting Seasons: Spring or early summer

This vegetable, also called Lincolnshire Spinach or Mercury Goosefoot, is a leafy vegetable used in salad, or cooked similarly to spinach, though it’s not related to spinach. Its stems are often cooked and eaten as well. The name is believed to come from King Henry VIII, as this vegetable was one of his favorites. Seeds planted directly into the garden in well-drained soil and partial shade produce the best results.

Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)  

Hardiness Zones:  4-9

Planting Seasons:  Fall to early spring

Harvesting Seasons:  Late spring to early summer

Fennel, often utilized in Mediterranean cuisine, features a crisp texture and anise-like taste. It’s included in salads, soups, or roasted, sauteed, and pickled. Fennel also makes a good spice due to its distinctive flavor. Fennel bulbs are planted, and ready for harvest when they become plump–around 3-4 inches in diameter, and appear firm with a white color.

Kale (Brassica oleracea var. acephala)

Hardiness Zones: 7-10

Planting Seasons: Spring and fall

Harvesting Seasons: Fall to spring

Kale is a versatile leafy green vegetable in the same family as Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and cabbage. Its health benefits are touted, and it’s utilized in various dishes like soups, salads, stir-fried, smoothies, and as side dishes. To plant, you’d sow seeds or plant seedlings in well-drained soil exposed to full sunlight, spacing the plants our 12-18 inches. 

Summary Of The 10 Best Perennial Vegetables
That Come Back Every Year

RankPerennial Vegetable
1Asparagus
2Globe Artichokes
3Rhubarb
4Horseradish
5Garlic
6Onions
7Leeks
8Sunchokes
9Chives
10Sorrel

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock.com


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About the Author

Jennifer Haase is a writer at A-Z Animals where her primary focus is on plants, pets, and places of interest. Jennifer has been writing professionally about plants and animals for over 14 years. A resident of Nebraska, Jennifer enjoys gardening, floral design, nutrition studies, and being a cat mama.

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Sources
  1. University of Minnesota Extension, Available here: https://extension.umn.edu/vegetables/growing-asparagus#:~:text=Choose%20a%20fertile%2C%20sunny%2C%20well,soils%20prone%20to%20water%2Dsaturation.
  2. PennState Extension, Available here: https://extension.psu.edu/rhubarb-love-it-for-its-taste-eat-it-for-your-health#:~:text=boiling%20water%20bath.-,Rhubarb%20is%20a%20rich%20source%20of%20nutrients%20providing%2045%25%20of,of%20manganese%20in%20a%20serving.