Perennial Foods: How to Grow and Maintain Them!

A perennial is a plant that survives the annual four season cycle and produces food year on year. In comparison, annual plants complete their growing cycle in a single season and biennials require two growing seasons to mature before dying out.

Perennial foods are hardy plants that will remain in your garden for a significant amount of time. These plants will take a year or two to fully establish, after which they will produce consistent yields for several years. They will bloom once in a season, produce fruits and seeds, wilt in the autumn and winter and reappear in the spring of the following year. 

Maintaining perennial plants

Improved Green Globe Artichoke (Cynara scolymus)
Forest and Kim Starr/Flickr

Most perennials are relatively low maintenance. However, they will require regular watering and mulching in the initial stages of development. Further, some need deheading of flowers to encourage the development of new blooms.

Here’s a guide I wrote on how to clean up a perennial garden.

Typically, many perennials have a short bloom period, between 2-4 weeks. Therefore, when choosing perennials for your garden, choose varieties that bloom at different times of the year to ensure that your surroundings retain color all year round. 

When properly maintained, perennials can last for years. It is important to know your plant hardiness zone and microclimate to find the best perennials to grow. Some perennials are winter hardy while others are not. If you live in a dry area, consider drought-tolerant perennials. Once you plant, it is recommended to weed regularly to create ideal growth conditions.

There is no need to worry about fertilizing the soil, as most perennials are not nutrient intensive. Using too much fertilizer on your perennials can prevent them from producing flowers. Annual pruning should be done, typically after the end of the first bloom.

Cut back your perennials to ground level to give them room to regenerate in the next season. Some perennial plants prefer to be cut in the fall, while others perform better when pruned in the spring. Before the onset of winter, remove broken foliage and other debris from the base of your perennial plants. Make sure the roots are well protected from the cold by applying an extensive layer of mulch at the base. 

Dividing perennials

Since perennials will remain in your garden for a long time, you should take measures to prevent overcrowding. Dividing perennials creates space for the plants to thrive and controls their spread in unwanted areas of the garden. This should be done when the flowering season has passed. There are perennials that need dividing every couple of years while others will not require any division. 

Follow these steps to successfully divide perennials:

  • Gently uproot the perennial that you want to divide. 
  • Separate the plant from the roots. Ensure each divided portion has at least three shoots and an established root system. 
  • Replant it in a new area and water it intensively until it is well established.

Controlling pests and diseases 

Perennials are susceptible to pests and diseases. Annuals and biennials can be rotated regularly to protect them from pests and diseases. Perennial plants will stay in the ground for a significant period and are therefore likely to be attacked by pests.

To combat this, plant native varieties that repel common pests. At the end of each growing season, clean up dead plant matter to prevent the buildup of diseases over the winter. Check on your perennials through the season to identify any pests or illnesses that will impact your yield. 

How to grow perennial foods

  1. Identify the perennial plants that are suitable for your hardiness zone. 
  2. Analyze your available space to determine the plants that will best suit your landscape. Select herbs, vegetables and small trees if you have limited space. 
  3. Choose a planting site where your plants will grow with limited disturbance. You will want your perennials to germinate and establish with little interference from humans and local wildlife. You can also grow the plants in pots and containers in your yard. 
  4. Soil preparation is vital before planting perennials. Loosen the soil using a pitchfork. 
  5. Use organic compost to enrich the soil. Avoid using chemical fertilizers as they are bad for the soil over time.
  6. Once you plant the seeds in the ground, water them until they sprout. You can use drip irrigation to ensure the soil is consistently moist. 
  7. When your perennials sprout, apply a layer of mulch to protect the soil and allow the root system to establish. 


Are tomatoes perennial?

Tomatoes are perennial when grown in their native habitat. Most farmers cultivate them as annuals so they can be harvested quickly. 

Are potatoes annual or perennial?

Naturally, potatoes are perennial and can survive for many years in warm climates. They are however grown annuals for quick harvesting. 

Is cucumber a perennial?

Cucumbers are grown as annual plants. They do not regenerate after the growing season ends and typically die after 70 days. 

Is garlic a perennial?

Garlic is a perennial but most farmers choose to grow it as an annual. Its bulbs are harvested each year. Growing garlic as a perennial requires less maintenance and ensures year-round harvests. 


Perennial plants are good for sustainable farming. Perennials stay longer in the soil, require little maintenance and offer great value to the local ecosystem. Identify the perennials that best suit your climate and enjoy prolonged yield for many years.