Perennial root vegetables for your garden

11 Perennial Root Vegetables for Your Garden

Can you grow perennial root vegetables? What about harvesting them? Won’t that just kill the plant? It turns out there are a number of root crops that can be grown as perennial vegetables, saving you time and energy. Keep reading to learn about 11 great perennial root vegetables and how to get them in your garden.

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You may be familiar with perennial vegetables, the plants that keep coming back to give you new harvests year after year. But often people just think about the perennial greens. These are fairly easy plants to grow, and it makes sense that you can grow them as perennials since you just harvest a few leaves at a time, leaving the rest of the plant intact.

Perennial Vegetables Series

This is part 3 of a multi-part series all about perennial vegetables.

But perennial root vegetables? That seems a bit weird. Plants can rebound from a lot of things, but they definitely need the root! How can a plant keep coming back each year if you harvest the root?

Not a problem. For some perennial root vegetables, you only need to harvest some of the roots at a time. The plant will spread, giving you fresh harvests again and again. With other perennial roots, you can replant some of the tubers as you harvest them for next year’s crop.

Wait—Are the ones you replant really perennial? Since you replant them at the moment you harvest them, I consider them to be perennial. If you have to store them out of the ground, then to me that’s not really a perennial plant, (though the definition is a bit fuzzy).

By growing perennial root vegetables, you can ensure a steady harvest of root crops for you and your family year after year with minimal effort.

Here are some great ones to get you started. There’s a lot of information here, but don’t worry about taking notes—we’ve created a free and easy-to-print cheat-sheet with all the information you need to get going.

Growing Perennial Root Vegetables

More perennial root vegetables like sweet potato!

There are a lot more perennial root vegetables than the 11 in this post. Sweet potatoes is an example of one not highlighted in this post. Image by saint1533 on Pixabay.

There are a lot more perennial root vegetables out there, but these 11 should get you off to a great start.

For this post, I included some plants where the part you harvest is not technically a root, even though it grows in the ground. Perennial Egyptian walking onions are an example.

But since these vegetables grow in the ground, I decided to lump them in with the true root crops. They all fill the same niche in the garden.

For each of the 11 perennial root vegetables, you’ll find the following information:

  • Brief description
  • YouTube video with additional information (when available)
  • USDA climate zone
  • Timing of the first harvest
  • Sunlight requirements
  • Plant size at maturity
  • How to harvest it, (and still keep it as a perennial,) and a link with more information
  • Place to purchase seeds, tubers, etc.

I made sure to include at least one perennial root vegetable for each USDA Climate Zone ranging from 3 to 10. 

What's in a Zone?

Perennial root vegetables are the hardy winter warriors that survive the cold and live to fight another day, year after year. But of course, “winter” varies quite a bit from one place to the next. A perennial in southern California might be an annual in the Pacific Northwest.


The USDA Climate Zone helps you match up your winter conditions with what the plants need to survive, so you can see which root crops will work for you.

The 11 perennial root vegetables covered in this post are:

  1. Arrowhead—Sagittaria latifolia
  2. Egyptian Walking Onion—Allium x proliferum
  3. Skirret—Sium sisarum
  4. Sunchokes—Helianthus tuberosus
  5. Springbank Clover—Trifolium wormskioldii
  6. Achira—Canna discolor
  7. American Groundnut—Apios americana
  8. Chinese Artichoke—Stachys affinis
  9. Common Camas—Camassia quamash
  10. Oca—Oxalis tuberosa
  11. Pacific Waterleaf—Hydrophyllum tenuipes

If you want information on more perennial vegetables than I cover in this post, then be sure to check out Eric Toensmeier’s excellent book on the subject. This book covers over 100 perennial vegetables, including perennial root vegetables.

Ready for 11 awesome perennial root vegetables? Here we go.

Wild Tip: Gardening with Perennial Root Vegetables

In order to keep root crops as perennials, you often need to be able to leave some of the harvest behind each year and let it multiply underground.


You’ll also find that a lot of these plants spread pretty rapidly, and that means you need space.

Also, some of them take years to produce a harvest, so you have to harvest them on a multi-year cycle. This means you need to be able to keep track of which ones are where and how old they are.


Instead of planting perennial root crops in the middle of your normal kitchen garden, consider designating a space for them where they can do their thing. You can still mix in other plants with the perennial root vegetables—large perennials like shrubs and trees would be a great fit.


If you’re looking for tidy rows of plants coming up right where you want them, the majority of the plants on this list won’t work for you. But if you’re open to letting the plant work its magic underground, you’ll be rewarded for your cooperation with abundant harvests of bountiful root crops year after year, without any spring planting.

Arrowhead—Sagittaria latifolia

Arrowhead, (also known as wapato, Indian potato, or duck potato) is a fantastic water-loving perennial root vegetable. You’ll need a pond or wet area to grow it, but given the right space, it can provide you with some excellent tubers that can be used just like a potato. You can even make potato chips!

The taste falls somewhere between a sweet potato and a yam, with a hint of sweet chestnuts. Each plant can yield up to 40 tubers per year.

Info on Arrowhead

  • USDA Climate Zone: 3-10 
  • First Harvest: 2-3 years after planting
  • Sunlight Requirement: Full sun
  • Plant Size at Maturity: 2 feet high and 2 feet wide
  • Harvest Technique: Harvest in October or November. Loosen the tubers from the soil using your hands, a tool, or your feet, (the traditional method.) Arrowhead naturally grows in shallows around ponds and wetlands. When you loosen the tubers they will float up but you can grow them in wet soil and just dig them up. Make sure to leave some behind for next year’s plants. More information on harvesting and growing arrowhead.
  • Purchase: Potted plants

Egyptian Walking Onions—Allium x proliferum

There are several types of perennial onions, but the Egyptian walking onion, or tree onion, is a great option if you want a never-ending supply of onions. These onions are called walking onions because in addition to the regular onion bulb, they grow small bulbs at the top of their green stalks. These stalks then fall over due to the weight and the small bulbs will root at that point resulting in a new plant. The onion has “walked”.

Info on Egyptian Walking Onion

  • USDA Climate Zone: 3-9, maybe 10
  • First Harvest: Year 2 or year 3
  • Sunlight Requirement: Full sun to partial sun
  • Plant Size at Maturity: 2 feet tall, spreading
  • Harvest Technique: Harvest them just like regular onions. Since they spread quickly, you can easily leave some plants behind to continue the patch. More info on harvesting and growing Egyptian walking onions.
  • Purchase: Bulbils

Skirret—Sium sisarum

Skirret is an old perennial root vegetable from Europe that fell out of favor but used to be very popular. Potentially, it stopped being cultivated as our agricultural system switched to a more intensive and mechanized model. But skirret can be a great addition to your homestead. It grows and produces best in a moist environment, though it can be grown in a garden given enough water. But if you have an area that stays wet, then skirret could be a great option for you.

The root crop is sweet and similar to its distant cousin, the carrot.

Info on Skirret

Sunchokes—Helianthus tuberosus

Also known as Jerusalem artichokes, sunchokes were first cultivated in North America before the arrival of Europeans. Sunchokes look similar to sunflowers and produce large amounts of sweet, edible tubers. They have the habit of spreading, so it’s best to dedicate an area to them. If they spread outside that area, you can just harvest them.

Some people have trouble digesting sunchokes, resulting in gas. Cooking sunchokes for longer periods of time and waiting to harvest until after the first couple of frosts may help with this issue.

Info on Sunchokes

  • USDA Climate Zone: 4-9
  • First Harvest: 1st year
  • Sunlight Requirement: Full sun to partial shade
  • Plant Size at Maturity: 4 feet tall and 1 to 2 feet wide
  • Harvest Technique: 15 feet tall (likely shorter for most varieties) and spreading
    -Harvest Technique: Dig up the tubers in the fall (or later in winter, assuming the ground doesn’t freeze in your area.) Leave some tubers behind to regrow come spring. More information on harvesting and growing sunchokes.
  • Purchase: Roots for planting

Springbank Clover—Trifolium wormskioldii

Springbank clover is a great perennial root vegetable

Springbank clover unlike most clover develops rhizomes that can be harvested. Image Credit: Eric in SF.

Like all clovers, springbank clover is a nitrogen-fixing plant, but this clover also produces edible rhizomes that used to be a staple for native peoples in the western United States. These rhizomes taste a lot like Chinese beansprouts. As a perennial root vegetable, springbank clover can provide a harvest while also improving the soil.

Native to the western United States, springbank clover is normally found growing in moist or wet meadows and streambanks.

Info on Springbank Clover

  • USDA Climate Zone: 4-8
  • First Harvest: Year 2 or 3
  • Sunlight Requirement: Full sun
  • Plant Size at Maturity: 4 to 6 inches, spreading
  • Harvest Technique: Use a pitchfork to loosen the soil to expose the rhizomes. Harvest the rhizomes and replant the unusable ones to continue the patch. Leave some unharvested to ensure the patch remains. More information on growing and harvesting springbank clover.
  • Purchase: Potted plants

Achira—Canna discolor

A fun, tropical-looking plant that makes for a great ornamental in addition to an excellent perennial root vegetable. Achira produces large, edible rhizomes with a neutral flavor, which are similar in many ways to a potato. The flowers of achira attract all sorts of pollinators, including hummingbirds.

Info on Achira

  • USDA Climate Zone: 8a or warmer
  • First Harvest: Late 1st year
  • Sunlight Requirement: Full sun to partial shade
  • Plant Size at Maturity: 4 feet tall and 1 to 2 feet wide
  • Harvest Technique: 6 feet high max in temperate climates, 8 feet in warmer climates Harvest Technique: Dig up the plant and remove the large rhizomes. You can cut off the tips of the rhizomes and replant them for next year’s harvest. Large pieces of the rhizomes can also be replanted. More information on growing and harvesting achira.
  • Purchase: I was unable to find an online source for achira, so I would check your local nurseries. Archira is grown as an ornamental so local nurseries are likely to have it for sale.

American Groundnut—Apios americana

Nope, these are not peanuts. In fact, they’re not even a nut. American groundnut is related to peas and beans, and it produces tubers connected by a rhizome. High in protein, these tubers can be used like a potato (though you may want to remove the skin first). American groundnut grows as a vine, and it’s also a nitrogen fixer, which is unusual for a perennial root vegetable.

Info on American Groundnut

  • USDA Climate Zone: 5-9 (some sources say they can grow down to zone 3)
  • First Harvest: 2-3 years per plant, on a repeating cycle
  • Sunlight Requirement: Full sun to partial sun (Plant in full sun for a better harvest in cooler climates.)
  • Plant Size at Maturity: 3-20 feet in length (vine)
  • Harvest Technique: Dig up the tubers from the ground around the plant, a foot or so out from the vine. More information on growing American groundnut.
  • Purchase: Tubers (availability depends on season)

Chinese Artichoke—Stachys affinis

These are not really artichokes and are actually in the mint family. So be careful where you plant them, because like mint, they can spread. But this also makes them a very productive perennial root vegetable.

Info on Chinese Artichokes

  • USDA Climate Zone: 5-9
  • First Harvest: After the tops are killed by frost
  • Sunlight Requirement: Full sun to partial sun
  • Plant Size at Maturity: 12-18 inches tall and spreading
  • Harvest Technique: Dig up the tubers after the tops are killed by frost. Just make sure to leave some of the tubers in the ground for next year’s plants. More information on growing Chinese artichokes.
  • Purchase: Tubers

Common Camas—Camassia quamash

A beautiful flowering bulb native to the western United States, camas was and is a very important food crop for native peoples, and it’s a great perennial root vegetable. Very high in protein, this is a great staple food crop. But it does require a long cooking time (12-18 hours, or even up to 36 hours!) to get the most from the bulbs. It has a sweet taste once fully cooked, but it can be bitter if it’s not cooked long enough.

Info on Common Camas

  • USDA Climate Zone: 3-7
  • First Harvest: 3-5 years
  • Sunlight Requirement: Full sun to light shade
  • Plant Size at Maturity: 1-2 feet tall
  • Harvest Technique: Dig down around the flower stalks to find the bulbs, which may be as far as 6 inches below the surface. Mid-late summer is the best time to harvest the bulbs. More information about camas.
  • Purchase: Bulbs

Oca—Oxalis tuberosa

Oca is a very interesting plant from the Andes, from the same area that potatoes originated. These are challenging to truly grow as a perennial, but you can replant some of the tubers you harvest for the next year’s crop.

Info on Oca

  • USDA Climate Zone: 8 to 9 (though some zone 9 will be too hot in the summer)
  • First Harvest: 1st year
  • Sunlight Requirement: Full sun to partial sun (in hot climates)
  • Plant Size at Maturity: 1 foot high and 1 foot wide
  • Harvest Technique: Once the tops of your oca plants have been killed by frost, dig up the tubers. Replant some of the tubers for next year’s plants. More information on growing and harvesting oca.
  • Purchase: Tubers or seeds (may not be in stock in 2019 due to nursery changes)

Pacific Waterleaf—Hydrophyllum tenuipes

Native perennial greens are a great option for your garden

Pacific waterleaf is a fantastic perennial root vegetable (and perennial green!) for the shady areas of your homestead. Providing both greens and roots in the shade makes it hard to beat. Image by Walter Siegmund CC BY 2.5

Pacific waterleaf is a great shade-loving vegetable that’s also a native plant in western Washington. It produces edible leaves that are great in salads or cooked, and it also produces edible rhizomes. The rhizomes taste similar to Chinese beansprouts. Pacific waterleaf spreads readily and makes a great addition to any shady growing area you have.

Info on Pacific Waterleaf

  • USDA Climate Zone: 7-10
  • First Harvest: 2-3 years (for rhizomes; leaves can be harvested in 1st year)
  • Sunlight Requirement: Shade to partial shade
  • Plant Size at Maturity: 1-2 feet and spreading
  • Harvest Technique: Pull back the soil at the edge of a patch of Pacific waterleaf to expose the new white rhizome tips. Snap these white rhizomes off but leave some if you want the patch to grow. More information on growing and harvesting Pacific waterleaf.
  • Purchase: Potted plants

Getting Started with Perennial Root Vegetables

Get Started with Perennial Root Vegetables

Are you ready to get started with perennial root vegetables? Image Credit: Cultivariable

So, are you ready to grow your own perennial root vegetables? By adding these vegetables to your garden or homestead, you will have a never-ending supply of root crops for you and your family.

But these are not the only perennial vegetables you can grow. Make sure to check out my blog post all about perennial greens so you can have a never-ending salad to go with all those root crops!

If these vegetables sound great to you, then I would recommend picking 1 from the list and just starting with that. Add it to your garden and see how it does, so you can see if you even like growing and eating it.

Then add another the following year, and keep this going for several years.

Before you know it, you’ll have a wide range of perennial root vegetables growing on your homestead, providing you with endless low-maintenance abundance.

Wild Tip: Gardening with Perennial Root Vegetables

In order to keep root crops as perennials, you often need to be able to leave some of the harvest behind each year and let it multiply underground.


You’ll also find that a lot of these plants spread pretty rapidly, and that means you need space.

Also, some of them take years to produce a harvest, so you have to harvest them on a multi-year cycle. This means you need to be able to keep track of which ones are where and how old they are.


Instead of planting perennial root crops in the middle of your normal kitchen garden, consider designating a space for them where they can do their thing. You can still mix in other plants with the perennial root vegetables—large perennials like shrubs and trees would be a great fit.


If you’re looking for tidy rows of plants coming up right where you want them, the majority of the plants on this list won’t work for you. But if you’re open to letting the plant work its magic underground, you’ll be rewarded for your cooperation with abundant harvests of bountiful root crops year after year, without any spring planting.

For more strategies on how to add perennial vegetables to your homestead, check out my introduction post into perennial vegetables.

So what are you waiting for? Get started with perennial root vegetables today.

Oh, and don’t forget to download the free, easy-to-print cheat-sheet with all the information you need to get going. Good luck!

11 Perennial Root Vegetables for Your Garden

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Daron

Daron is a restoration ecologist, a lifelong gardener, and the founder of Wild Homesteading. He manages the restoration program for a local non-profit, and he applies restoration and sustainable gardening techniques on his family’s own wild homestead. He loves sharing the joy of growing food with his two beautiful children. In addition, to running this site Daron manages the restoration program for a local non-profit and is a husband to an amazing wife who makes this site and the homestead possible and daddy to 2 perfect kids.

  • Lacey says:

    What a great, informative post! Thank you so much for sharing at the Homestead Blog Hop! I am definitely pinning this to read it again!

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