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List of Perennial Vegetables to Grow by Zone

Perennial vegetables are the gift that keeps on giving, season after season and year after year. When planning your vegetable garden for 2021, consider making space for perennial plants: vegetables, perennial herbs, flowers, and of course, fruit and nut crops.

Here’s why a gardener will want to plant more perennial vegetables.

Benefits of Perennial Plants

Established Perennials Are Low Maintenance

  • No annual planting or tilling
  • Virtually indestructible despite neglect
  • More resistant to pests, diseases and weeds
  • Less watering and weeding
  • Lower impact on the environment due to less maintenance input

Established Perennials Produce More as They Grow

  • Increased harvests from year to year
  • Expand the harvest season 
  • Produce during the off season for annuals
  • Many perennial vegetables have edible leaves and flowers.  

Perennial Vegetables Build the Soil

  • Root system anchors soil for erosion control
  • Draw up nutrients into the topsoil
  • Encourages good types of fungi
  • Improves organic matter

You may not realize it, but you might be growing perennial crops that you’re treating them like annuals. Potatoes are one form, and even a tomato can be grown year round.

But for the cold weather, blights and other pests, annual rotations are necessary. Other natural perennials most gardeners treat as annuals include the brassicas like broccoli and kale. When these plants bolt and come into flower we usually call it quits. But there are other options.

Collards & kale top feature image by u_n0jp4jlq from Pixabay

Perennial Vegetables to Grow in Zone 7A

These are the perennial vegetables and herbs we’re growing in USDA growing zone 7A.

  • Asparagus Asparagus officinalis
  • Chives Allium tuberosum
  • Collards Brassica oleracea var. viridis
  • DandelionTaraxacum officinaleand related Chicory species
  • French Sorrel Rumex acetosa
  • Garlic Chives Allium tuberosum
  • Kale – Brassica oleracea spp.
  • Horseradish Armoracia rusticana
  • Jerusalem Artichokes aka SunchokesHelianthus tuberosus
  • RadicchioCichorium intybus L
  • Rhubarb Rheum x cultorum
  • Tree Collards, AKA: ‘Walking Stick Kale’, or Tree KaleBrassica oleracea acephala

Perennial Herbs

  • ComfreySymphytum officinale
  • Lavender – Lavandula stoechas L.
  • Lemon BalmMelissa officinalis*
  • Mints and Mint Family e.g. Agastache, Monarda species, Chocolate, and Catnip. – Mentha spp.* 
  • Oregano Origanum vulgare L.
  • RosemaryRosmarinus officinalis L
  • Thyme Thymus vulgaris

*Some invasive species such as mints need their own special space or planting in containers.

Perennial Vegetable Growing in Popularity

One of the easiest perennial edibles we’re adding to our garden this year is “Purple Tree Collards” (Brassica oleracea var. acephala). There are green leaf varieties, but the purple is tastier, more tender plus adds a nice touch of color to the gardenscape. [1]

Tree Collards - Perennial Vegetables
Image Credit – UC-ANR Extension

Perennial Vegetables by Grow Zone

Below is a list of perennial vegetables in accord with their US Hardiness Zones. It is an abbreviated list derived from the “Bible” on the subject entitled Perennial Vegetables by Eric Toensmeier . All plants listed below are available for purchase online.

Perennial Vegetables for Zones 1 to 3

Perennial With Protection:

  • Garlic chives, Allium tuberosum
  • Asparagus,Asparagus officinalis
  • Giant Solomon’s seal, Polygonatum biflorum var. commutatum
  • French sorrel,Rumex acetosa
  • Dandelion,Taraxacum officinale

Zone 4-7 Perennial Vegetables

  • Asparagus,Asparagus officinalis
  • Chicory, Cichorium intybus
  • Chinese yam, Dioscorea opposita
  • Dandelion,Taraxacum officinale
  • Daylily,Hemerocallis spp.
  • French sorrel,Rumex acetosa
  • Garlic chives, Allium tuberosum
  • Giant Solomon’s seal, Polygonatum biflorum var. commutatum
  • Ramps, Allium tricoccum
  • Rhubarb,Rheum x cultorum
  • Sunchoke, AKA Jerusalem Artichoke, Helianthus tuberosus
  • Turkish rocket, Bunias orientalis
  • Watercress, Nasturtium officinale

Perennial in the warmer Zone 6 and Zone 7 or with protection:

  • Broccoli, perennial (includes ‘Calabrese’) – Brassica oleracea botrytis
  • Kale, branching bush (like ‘Kosmic’) – Brassica oleracea ramosa
  • Leek, sweet perennialAllium ampeloprasum
  • Onion, Egyptian walkingAllium cepa proliferum
  • ShallotAllium cepa aggregatum
  • Tree Collards, AKA: ‘Walking Stick Kale’, or Tree Kale, Brassica oleracea acephala (good for down to 20℉)*

*With protection below 20-30℉ / -6.7 to -1.1℃

Zone 8 and Zone 9 – Southeastern US (add to the above listings)

  • Artichoke, purple Sicilian globeCynara scolymus
  • Broccoli, perennial (includes ‘Calabrese’) – Brassica oleracea botrytis
  • Kale, branching bush (like ‘Kosmic’) – Brassica oleracea ramosa
  • Cardoon – (artichoke-like) Cynara cardunculus
  • Leek, sweet perennialAllium ampeloprasum
  • Onion, Egyptian walkingAllium cepa proliferum
  • ShallotAllium cepa aggregatum
  • Tree Collards, AKA: ‘Walking Stick Kale’, or Tree Kale, Brassica oleracea acephala

Perennial in warmer parts of Zones 8-9 or with protection:

  • Banana, RajapuriMusa x paradisica
  • Capsicum, sweet pepper, perennialCapsicum annum
  • Malaba SpinachBasella alba
  • Spinach, New ZealandTetragonia tetragonioides
  • Spinach Okinawa – Gynura crepioides
  • Sweet potatoIpomoea batatas

Perennial Greens

  • Walking Stick Kale, Tree Collards Brassica oleracea acephala
  • Chinese cabbage, tatsoi and mizunaBrassica rapa
  • Collards – Brassica oleracea var viridis*
  • Chicory (includes radicchio, escarole, endive) – Cichorium intybus
  • Okinawa spinachGynura crepioides
  • Longevity spinachGynura procumbens

*With protection, e.g. shade cloths in summer and frost cloths in winter.

One of the easiest perennial edibles a gardener can add to their garden is “Purple Tree Collards” (Brassica oleracea var. acephala). There are green leaf varieties, but the purple leaves are tastier and more tender. These plants are hardy to only 20ºF so they’re not well suited for our grow Zone 7, but we have a solution.

There are workarounds which can be applied to these and other relatively tender perennials. We’ve done this for years with our ‘tropical” gynura procumbens.

Overwintering Tender Perennials

  • Grow perennials in a container and bring indoors for the cold weather. 
  • Set containers back out when the weather warms.
  • Take cuttings and root them inside small pots for transplanting in the spring.
  • Repeat every year.
  • Note: A heated hoop house or greenhouse is a big help.

Those who fancy having a permaculture garden can begin rotating from annual crops to perennials. We’ve mainly focused this article on vegetables and herbs here, however you can also add perennial flowers, fruiting vines, bushes, and trees. Most perennials are outstanding pollinators offering flowers you needn’t plant every year. Many permaculture plants perform well as ornamentals .

There will always be space in our garden for annuals like beans, okra, cucumbers and, of course, the potato and tomato varieties. But we’re also keen to experiment with more perennial plantings and reap the benefits of lower maintenance, more efficient yields, and soil enrichment, and beauty.

Best to plant once and reap many times whenever possible to minimize waste and maximum production.

To plant a garden is good for a season. To plant an orchard is good for life! Best to do both!

Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay

Let’s keep on growing!


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