Asparagus: Male vs Female

I have been getting a lot of questions about asparagus over on our Facebook page. There seems to be some fear of the asparagus spreading and taking over the garden. Questions about what healthy asparagus plants should look like and what’s the difference between male and female plants. Well I am here to clear up the confusion.

If your asparagus roots were planted this year your crowns will produce delicate fern-like plants a lot like the ones you see below. Those are the M. Washington asparagus plants I planted in the company garden this spring. As your asparagus mature they will produce thicker spears and fuller ferns. If this is the first year do not worry about spindly and sparse ferns.  Just remember not to harvest this year, harvest sparsely next year and by the third year you will have a great crop.

Asparagus plants in their first year.

 

As for asparagus spreading and taking over the entire garden much like mint likes to do this will only happen if you have male and female plants. Asparagus is a dioecious plant meaning separate male and female plants instead of just male and female blooms. Male asparagus crowns put all their energy into producing edible spears. Female plants, on the other hand, put most of their energy towards reproducing, creating berries that fall to the ground and self seed. When buying asparagus crowns look to buy hybrids that are all male, such as Jersey Knight, for higher yields.  M. Washington crowns will generally contain a few female plants creating less edible spears.

Green berries on a female plant in the company garden. These berries will ripen to a bright red in the following weeks.

 

Not sure what you have planted? If you are unsure if you have all male crowns or not it is easy to determine once the plants go to seed. Your female plants will develop green berries which will ripen to a bright red. Now if you do not want your bed to spread you will want to pull these plants, roots and all. If you don’t mind your bed spreading then you can leave them and each year you will get more and more plants. Just don’t expect to get a good harvest from the female plants.

 

Have you spotted the tell-tale red berries on your asparagus plants?

 

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5 Responses to “Asparagus: Male vs Female”

  1. Vicki Groze
    June 29, 2011 at 1:43 pm #

    Thanks for the information.I actually dried the seeds from last year,planted them in a pot and they are growing.
    I have harvested stalks and looking forward to more.

  2. July 27, 2011 at 11:18 am #

    Very helpful. Thank you!!

  3. julie
    July 27, 2011 at 11:55 am #

    Whew – I was sure I didn’t plant mine right cause they look so delicate…..

  4. April 12, 2012 at 4:38 pm #

    My beds are about 10 years old and this year most all spears are small w/few large spears. The ferns are about 1/8″. I have not had this before so what did I do wrong? I usually put a healthy dose of composted horse manure on mine every fall after the first freeze. Help!!!!!

  5. Amanda
    September 24, 2012 at 11:00 am #

    I have been told that crowns will produce for only 10 years. I think you are at the end of your crown’s life cycle.

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