Pruning Asparagus

A question came in to Ask Gardenerd this week:

you please help me understand how to trim my 4’ tall asparagus patch
that was planted in the fall? Does it need to turn completely brown? How
low do I trim it?

Great question, and the answer can be confusing, because there are two schools of thought on the matter.  Many gardeners, including those at Peaceful Valley Farm and Garden Supply (here’s their video), recommend cutting asparagus back in the late fall and mulching with straw to protect the plants from frost.  This can help prevent the crowns from rotting from fungi that develop on the plant over winter.  Some say to cut back the fronds at soil level, other say to cut them about 1 inch above the soil.

On the flip side of the coin, there are gardeners and farmers who leave their foliage until spring.  Much like bulbs, those fronds are collecting nutrients for next years production.  There are farmers who also claim that the existing foliage will tent snowfall (if you have that) and insulate the plant from frost damage.  My own personal pruning preferences reside on this side of the coin.

One of our asparagus beds in late fall.  Partially brown, not yet ready to cut back

There’s a reason why I leave the foliage until spring: habitat.

About 3 years ago, when I first planted asparagus, I noticed in late summer and early fall that ladybugs would “move in” to the asparagus patch to mate and lay their young.  The benefits were obvious.  Ladybug larvae eat about 400 aphids in a couple weeks, meaning my garden would be practically aphid-free by the end of their visit.

Just one of hundreds of lady beetles that makes our asparagus patch home for the winter

Behind the dead asparagus fronds is a renegade tomato plant. 

This year our lady beetles have more to munch on.  Our renegade tomato plant volunteer from summer is still producing, but is beginning to be covered with aphids.  The lady beetles are taking swift action, enjoying themselves immensely.

So in the spring, I will cut down my asparagus foliage, and layer about 1 inch of compost in each bed.  That will give them the signal that it’s time to start producing.  Over winter, I still water occasionally, but much less often.  In snowy conditions you wouldn’t do this, of course.

I hope this helps. Thanks for your questions – keep writing in.

Hey gardenerds, what do you do with your asparagus? Share your experiences with us here.

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23 Responses to Pruning Asparagus

  1. Laurie says:

    I have a newly matured asparagus bed. This year, I have been distracted with home projects and rainy weather, so wasn’t cutting spears as often as necessary. Some of the stalks are large in diameter as well as tall. They are still producing minimally but since it’s so early in the season, should I cut back the stalks now and maybe get more produce? Would that hurt the plants, or maybe benefit them?


    • Christy says:

      Given the timing, it’s an odd time to cut back all the stalks. Cut away any brown stalks, but leave the green ones for now. In the fall you can cut everything down if you like.

  2. Matt Walsh says:

    OK, I have them cut back, but how high? Right now sprint is just right around the corner and my asparagus is about 6-9″ tall. Too high? Not high enough? We left them at about 18″ over the winter and they caught a nice amount of snow for insulation. We just cut them back a bit more in preparation for growth. Should I take them down even further?

  3. Gary says:

    Do dear eat asparagus? I have my plants fenced in. This is my 1st year so maybe I’m overprotective. So I’m wondering if I really need the fencing? Do deer eat asparagus? Thanks.

    • Christy says:

      HI Gary,

      I don’t have deer where I live, but from what I’ve read on forums where people have deer, they say that deer don’t mess with mature asparagus, but some have said they eat the young spears. Others say they never touch it. If you can fence it in, I’d go that route, just to be safe.

  4. MR. JOHNNY says:


  5. Anna Hill says:

    I wish I could send a picture of how my asparagus beds look they now have tiny red seed like balls on them very pretty. Can I save them to replant?

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