Why Didn’t My Asparagus Come Up?

I was asked the other day, “Why didn’t my asparagus come up, I planted it four weeks ago?” Of course, I wasn’t sure how to answer because I didn’t see the crowns they bought, how lively they were, the area where they were set out, how deep they were planted, the soil they were planted in, etc. The only asparagus crowns I have seen in town this year were dried up and I remember thinking, “Wow, I doubt that those crown-lings would have any life in them.”

When preparing to plant asparagus roots, you have two options. The crowns that you can purchase at the store or through a mail-order catalog are called one-year roots. They were started from seed last year and have one year’s growth on them. Usually this is a very good way to start an asparagus bed, just be sure that the roots looks round and firm and that the crown has lots of short, round points. If the roots are mostly flat, then the plant probably will not grow (it is already dead). Sometimes the crown is even already sending up a miniature asparagus less than 1/8 inch in diameter. Now that would be an excellent root to buy. Asparagus produces on its 3rd year, so it is nice to get a head start and buy the roots.

If you would like an inexpensive way to have a large bed of asparagus then buy a seed packet and start your own. We did this several years ago and ended up with 1500 plants. I started the seeds in a small tray on a heat pad. I think every seed must of came up. That first year I planted and planted, I ended up planting them 3 inches apart in five 50-foot rows. Oh my, I thought I’d never get done.


Baby Asparagus from Seed

We transplanted and gave away plants out of that bed for years. When we started our permanent asparagus bed I wanted to be like “the big boys” and be able to rototil right over the top of them every year, so we planted them in trenches 3 feet deep. It was a ton of work. Since then we have discovered that a large post hole digger is much easier if you want them that deep. Just punch out your hole, drop some amenities (like a cupful of rabbit dressing) in the bottom of the hole, cover with a couple inches of dirt and set your asparagus crown down in the hole. Only cover the crown with about an inch of dirt; then as it grows you can slowly fill in the hole until the ferny plant reaches the soil line. After that first year the plant will come up on its own sometime in the end of April. Each Spring, be sure to rototil over the top early in the season. As the plant gets older the crown moves closer to the surface and you will not be able to do this nice clean up trick.

I don’t know why their asparagus didn’t come up but who knows? If they keep waiting it may come up yet; asparagus has been know to do that. 🙂

This entry was posted in Plant Care, Planting.

49 Responses to Why Didn’t My Asparagus Come Up?

  1. Custom avatar Linda says:

    I planted 2 year asparagus crowns I purchased from a “big box” store about 3 weeks ago. Will I see some foliage to determine if they were live plants? I know I won’t get produce for another year, but would like to see some evidence that they are alive. I purchased sweet onions at the same time and the greens are already about 1-2 inches above ground. I used existing raised bed soil with a combination of “Lady Bug” potting soil and “Lady Bug” compost. I also used a little root stimulator and side dressed them with 10-10-10. The exact same thing I did with the onions.

    • Linda; Sometimes you see a little green asparagus coming on the crown but usually it just looks like little bumps. After the crowns are buried in the dirt the little baby asparagus should start peeking up their heads in about 2 to 3 weeks.

  2. Custom avatar pidge says:

    This is my 4th of asparagus growth. It has not shown signs of life. Could it have died over winter? I did cut it down last fall. Will it come back?

    • What zone are you in? We are in zone 5 and our asparagus has been coming up for about two weeks. It shouldn’t hurt to cut it down in the fall. Asparagus ‘feeds’ itself during the summer through the fronds, thus you should quit picking it around the first of June and let the fronds grow so it can feed the roots for next year. Keep waiting…you should be surprised soon.

      • You asked a question: Can I grow lettuce/spinach in large flower containers? How do I care for them? I’m use to planting all in my small garden.
        Answer: We only grow flowers in containers. I’m sure though you can grow lettuce. Keep it well watered and fertilize with a good fertilizer like Age-Old Organics on a regular basis. The large container sounds like a good idea.

  3. Custom avatar Jane says:

    We planted asparagus at least three weeks ago. We dug a trench down and planted them about a foot apart and covered the with about two inchies of composted soil. One has come up but there is no sign of the other eleven plants. Would you presume they are dead or would you leave them in

    • Keep waiting, that is the gardening game, or you could do like my husband does and dig them up to see if there is any new growth. 🙂 After digging the hole and setting the crown in, just cover with a small amount of dirt. As the plant grows slowly fill in your hole until you are at ground level. I usually plant them a foot deep so that I can just rototill over the top every spring. Some of them may still come.

  4. Custom avatar Palmer River Tony says:

    This isn’t a reply, but another poor asparagus lover who got excited three weeks ago, with every intention of getting right in there and digging the trenches, removing the weeds, mulching, composting, carefully nurturing the dear little sprigs of asparagus for the first two years of their establishment.

    Then (am I the only gardener in the world who has all the right intentions, but remains terminally procrastinating?) here it is, the end of May and I have finally dug a super 8′ x 10′ bed, stripped off the grass and weeds, put up 1″x10″ boards around the perimeter, and put some nice root-friendly nutrients at the base of the bed.

    The Trouble Is: Now my 10 beautiful roots are four weeks older and are sorta dry looking! Is there a way to determine if they are still viable?

    Sorry for the long message, but I just found your website and you are distinguished by your answers and reassurances to such as me. Thanks.

    • LOL! It does help to ‘heel-in” bare rooted plants until you can get around to planting them, meaning just pick a temporary spot in a shady place in your garden or even in a pot and put some soil over the roots and keep moist until you get around to planting permanently.
      Asparagus roots are pretty tough and viable so go ahead and plant them, some of them might grow and you will be ready next year to immediately re-plant the spots that don’t come up with fresh plants.

  5. Custom avatar Western Ky Gardener says:

    Its 6/3 and still no asparagus!! Should I be worried? Last year I planted 2 year old crowns; harvested a small amount, and I let them fern out. They were well protected this winter. They are planted in a raised bed. The only out of the ordinary thing that I did was plant early spinich plants on top of the asparagus but they have been harvested and pulled up for a while now.
    Should I just leave them alone and see if they come up?

    • Yes, it is time your asparagus was up. As soon as you have some consistently warm spring days the asparagus should be coming up; about the same time as cherry trees are blooming, the last weekend of April in our area. I am wondering if the crowns froze. Asparagus can be picked starting the third year when they are as big around as your little finger; this gives them plenty of time to put strength into the crown.

  6. bruce says:

    I agree, very good piece

  7. Custom avatar Janet says:

    I have read all the comments about the trouble with asparagus, but not sure if my question was answered. So, my situation is a little different in some ways. I planted about 18 roots 2 years ago. They were planted 18 inches deep, per instructions from one who had a bed themselves. The first year I let them go to fern and did not harvest. Last year I had many large stalks but let very few go to fern. This year, nothing!!! Are they gone because I did not know to not harvest until the third year or should I dig them up, as previously tempted, to see if they are okay?

    • Hi Janet; I’m wondering two things, first what is your elevation where you live? We are at about 1300 ft. above sea level and our asparagus has been up for two weeks; it always comes up by the end of April. As you go up in elevation it will naturally come up a little later as the ground warms up.
      My second question is did anyone spray Round-Up or 2-4D near the asparagus patch? Asparagus is VERY susceptible to these sprays and will die if even a little bit gets on the ferns. My neighbor had a beautiful patch that was so old the asparagus was all 3/4″ to 1″ around. She spot sprayed weeds out of the patch with a small hand sprayer, like a 409 bottle. Those little wisps of spray killed the whole patch and she had to begin all over again. 🙁
      Hope you see some life soon, it always takes longer to come the deeper it is planted.

  8. Custom avatar enayday says:

    I planned asparagus three years ago this was to be the year I get to pick and eat I was so excited.unfortunately they did not s shoot up this year can someone tell me what could have happened

  9. Custom avatar Christie says:

    Hello! I bought asparagus ferns from a hardware store and planted them last year. I didn’t see any asparagus shoots this spring, however, three of the four ferns came back this year. Should I assume that the plants were started from seed and are too young to produce the shots/stalks?

  10. Custom avatar Barb S says:

    We have had a bountiful asparagus patch for approximately 20 years. It is mid April in Ohio (central part) and no signs of anything poking through. We dug up a few spots and see nothing. We had a bug of some type infest our zucchini and cucumber plants last summer, could it have also gotten our asparagus? Very strange there is nothing at all.

    • Hi Barb; Sorry to hear about your asparagus. Did you have asparagus beetles in your garden last year? They are a red spotted beetle about 1/4 inch long not to be confused with the round lady bug. If you have beetles they weaken the plant in the growing season when the ferns are trying to put strength into the crowns, also a weakened plant may have problems with a fungus called Fusarium wilt. Asparagus plants are very sensitive to herbicide sprays such as Round-up. Our neighbor had a beautiful old asparagus patch until she sprayed the quack grass in between the plants with Round-up, the drift from the spray was enough to destroy the entire patch. Very sad indeed.
      It is a little early maybe some will still come up, I hope so.

  11. Custom avatar Josh says:

    I Don’t know my asparagus bed just died no new growth this spring. The bed just started thriving the last few years is aprox 6-7 years old. I’m in my 40’s and I know of patches older than I am. What might have happened?

    • Josh; I am wondering if your asparagus bed kill is a result of your county or neighbors spraying herbicides. Asparagus is VERY susceptible to round-up or 2-4D type sprays. On a hot day even if spray is put on in the cool of the morning the spray can lift and move across a field or road.
      Another problem might be, late picking. You should stop picking after Fathers Day to allow the roots/crowns to be fed for the next season.
      Just a few suggestions, maybe something rings a bell of what can happen.
      We froze 5 quarts today and even dried some.

  12. Custom avatar Bob Studer says:

    Sue, I planted crowns May 16th,dug hole not trench , put plants in with tip of crown level just coming out of soil covered with peat moss , kept wet ,we are in Wisconsin last week or so some nights in 40 s soil is good temp 80 today no sign of coming out of soil, I know I did not trench should I wait or replant trench style Thank you Bob

    • Bob; They should be up by now, if not go ahead and order seed and start that way. There are a lot of seed in an asparagus package which should give you plenty of plants to work with.

  13. Custom avatar Carol Wolf says:

    My asparagus has been hit with heavy damage from asparagus beetle larvae this year. I wasn’t out to check on things for a week or so and by the time I got out some of the fronds were stripped. I’m now going out every other day and hitting the plants with strong spray of water to knock them off. I’m concerned – will next year’s crop be affected? There are still some stalks coming up, but I’m afraid to harvest them for fear of killing the roots. Any thoughts?

  14. Custom avatar Anderson Wintz says:

    Enjoyed every bit of your post.Thanks Again. Much obliged.

  15. Custom avatar Eric Fowler says:

    I planted five roots from a reputable local shop about two months ago.

    We live in western Washington near sea level.
    The climate is mild and very wet.

    I have yet to see any signs of life in the asparagus patch. It is early April. Birds are fornicating, the grass is rizz. But no asparagus.

    Am I being impatient?

  16. Custom avatar William says:

    I planted 30 plants of Asparagus 3 weeks ago. I lived one mile from ocean in North Carolina . I do not see any new growth at all. I got my plants from Burpee .

    • Pat says:

      I planted thirty roots from Burpee too. Only five or sick poked through though, three of which never fernned.

  17. Custom avatar John Stites says:

    I have had asparagus in my garden for 4 years. Half of my plants are 4 years old, half are 3 years old. They have been doing well until this year. Everyone in my area, Northern Illinois, has been having a good crop so far. I have had 2 chutes come up on my oldest plant only. Only change was the purple potatoes I planted last year next to them. Any ideas?

    • John,
      Hopefully you have had more come up. I’ll say this again. Asparagus is very sensitive to spray. Is anyone spraying in your area? Also, there is an asparagus beetle that is death on Asparagus.
      I hope that neither is your problem and that you will soon see lots of asparagus.

  18. Custom avatar Ariane A Frank says:

    I planted two beautiful rows of asparagus last year. All the plants sent up shoots in late spring, indicating they had taken root and growing well.
    This spring only one little tiny sprig came up. Is it possible all the other plants froze in the winter? Should I dig down and check for them? Is it worth giving them another chance next spring or is all hope lost?

  19. Custom avatar Maple Canner says:

    Asparagus has been in ground for 4 years and was producing small shoots and lots of ferns last summer. Was hoping to have lots this spring but two small shoots and nothing. We are in NOrthern Florida. Could something have eaten the roots so none will grow? What could it be?

    • Hi Maple;
      There are many reasons for the “no show” the first one that comes to mind is local spraying. Asparagus is VERY sensitive to spray. That may not be the reason in your case but something to think about. 🙁

  20. Eugene Gehred says:

    A million thanks for posting this information.

  21. Custom avatar Jo says:

    We have had our little asparagus patch making us happy for at least 5 years, and this year nothing popped up at all. (We r in PA and our friends r already picking). We had some health issues last end of the season and never cleaned up the garden, and we did see some holes around where our crop is….little mole/chipmunk holes. Do we dig it up and see or do we start over?

    • Hi Jo;
      It wouldn’t hurt to dig down there and see what the crowns are doing. Sometimes it is as simple as a wire worm. They will often attack the roots and are never seen.

  22. Custom avatar Kelly O says:

    Hello! Very much enjoyed reading this article.

    My question is in regards to second-year asparagus growing:

    I’m new to gardening; I planted my asparagus last year. I bought crowns from a reputable greenhouse. I planted about four crowns and that same year had three single stalks pop up and fern. I cut them down as instructed. This year (second year of growth) only two single stalks have produced. As expected, they are quite thin and I will not harvest unless they are thicker than a pencil.

    I would like to know why only two stalks have produced when I have planted several more crowns? Is this normal as it is only year two or did I do something when planting to affect the rest from growing?

    So excited to eat my asparagus, hopefully next year!

    • Hi Kelly;
      I do not know why you were instructed to cut down your asparagus fronds. The asparagus crowns gain all their strength from the fronds. That is why it is important to fertilize regularly the first years so that the crowns can grow large and strong. We do not pick any until the third year when the stalks are at least as big as your index finger. The crowns often die out as they establish themselves. Often the crowns you buy dry rooted from the stores are more dead than alive. Just like any live root they do not like the exposure to the air.

  23. Custom avatar ginijean says:

    I once have had asparagus for over 20 years, but I’m in a new home and have a new arrangement of veggies. The growing space is 3 feet high from the ground but the soil is approximately 1 foot deep. Could that be why my newly planted asparagus are not coming up? I planted them in the Fall of 2016. I also deal with the squirrels poking holes and digging for food. Nature is fun but hard to live with at times.

    • Hi Ginijean;
      Sometimes it is difficult to get a patch of asparagus going. It is best to start in the spring so that they have a long season to get established. Plant more that you will need as they will self-thin as they get older. An inexpensive way to start is with a packet of Asparagus seed. Plant a row where you would like your permanent bed to be and baby them along. It takes a while for them all to sprout and come up but if you protect them from critters and bugs you should have a nice row of fluffy ferns growing by the end of the season.

  24. Custom avatar Faye says:

    Last year I started asparagus from seeds and I think they all came up. When they were about 4-5″ tall and acclimatized to the outdoors, I prepared an 8×8′ bed using combination of compost, topsoil and horse manure and transplanted 45 plants. It doesn’t look like any of the plants came up this spring. I am in zone 3 and although we have had a few warm days, it is still quite cool. Asparagus grows along the roadside here and it just came up this past week so maybe I’m rushing it. There are quite a few weeds in the garden but I am slowly removing them hoping the asparagus didn’t get crowded out and that it will show signs of life yet.

  25. Custom avatar Debbie Williamson says:

    hey Sue,
    I planted one year asparagus crowns and a have a few coming up. However, a couple of them looked like asparagus at first, but, since look like a delicate fern. Is this normal? Am I correct in that I am supposed to just let them be all summer and grow, to become stronger?
    Many thanks!

    • Debbie;
      Yes, asparagus does look ferny as they grow. Basically just let them be for the first two years and do not pick any of the tiny asparagus that is growing. The crowns need lots of ferny foliage for the health of the plant. You can pick on the third season when the asparagus is at least the size of your index finger.

  26. Custom avatar Bill says:

    Have a asparagus patch which is more than 35 yrs old. This year it stopped producing. Can I plant new crowns or roots in the same patch?

    • Bill,
      It is best to always rotate crops if at all possible. It not only allows the plants to retrieve different and new nutrients from the soil, it also helps on insect problems.
      Happy planting,

  27. Warez says:

    Thanks so much for this, you’re a life saver.

  28. Warez says:

    Thanks for the post!