Grow these 5 perennial vegetables for winter greens

5 Perennial Vegetables for Winter Greens

In many places, like where I live in western Washington, growing perennial vegetables can provide harvests all winter long without any special care. You just need to pick the right ones. Ready to get started? Here are 5 perennial vegetables for winter greens.

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Growing traditional vegetables all winter long can be a challenge. While there are traditional vegetables (like lettuce) that can survive the cold, planning and planting a winter garden right during your summer harvest does take some effort.

You’ve got to have room for the new plants, you need to water them through the summer heat, and you don’t give your soil a break.

Plus, you don’t get a break either. Let’s face it—by the end of summer, it’s easy to be worn out with all the harvesting and preserving that happens during this time.

But there is an easier way if you live in semi-warm areas (USDA climate zones 7+) like western Washington.

Try growing perennial vegetables for winter greens.

With these perennial vegetables, all you’ve got to do is plant them once and then enjoy harvests year-round. No replanting, no having to plan a winter garden, and little to no summer watering.

Wild Tip:

And perennial vegetables can also help you build soil: 3 Ways Perennial Plants Help Build Soil

And you don’t need to give them protection from the cold—no greenhouses, row covers, or cold frames.

It really is the easiest way to get winter harvests.

Let’s look at 5 perennial vegetables you can grow for winter greens.

But before you scroll down, make sure to grab your free guide to getting started with perennial foods. From perennial vegetables to fruit and nut trees, switching to perennial food systems is a great way to cultivate abundance for people, plants and wildlife.

Here are 5 Perennial Vegetables for Winter Greens

Purple tree collards are a great perennial vegetable

With just 3 purple tree collards my family, and I can get an almost never-ending supply of collard greens all year-round.

In semi-warm areas like western Washington, there are lots of perennial vegetables that grow great here.

But what makes a good perennial vegetable for winter greens?

The key is to look for ones that don’t die back in the winter and that don’t get tough and woody.

I’ve planted lots of perennial vegetables on my property, but not all work for perennial harvests. Some, like Pacific waterleaf, die back every fall.

Wild Tip:

A great place to start is with plants that are native to your area. Several of the best perennial vegetables for winter greens that I’ve found are native to western Washington. There are likely great native vegetables in your area, too.

But with some trial and error, I’ve found some good options.

Here are 5 perennial vegetables that provide great harvests all winter long.

Info on Miner's Lettuce - Claytonia perfoliata

  • First Harvest: 1st year
  • USDA Climate Zone: 6-9
  • Sunlight Requirement: partial shade to shade
  • Plant Size at Maturity: 8 inches high and wide
  • Purchase: seeds
  • Note: Great in a shade garden - old leaves can turn bitter especially in full sun. Miner's lettuce will self-seed as an annual in colder climates or very hot climates. Learn more about Miner's lettuce.

Info on Rose Checkermallow – Sidalcea malviflora

  • First Harvest: Few leaves during 1st year, regular harvests after 1st year
  • USDA Climate Zone: 6-10
  • Sunlight Requirement: Full sun - Part Shade
  • Plant Size at Maturity: 2 feet (61 cm) high and wide
  • Purchase: Plants
  • Note: Great in your food forest! But can also be planted in your garden. Does better in drier sites than Henderson's. Learn more.

Info on Purple Tree Collard

  • First Harvest: 1st year
  • USDA Climate Zone: 8-9 
  • Sunlight Requirement: full to partial-sun 
  • Plant Size at Maturity: 8 ft high and 2-2.5 ft wide
  • Purchase: Rooted Cuttings 
  • Note: Propagated by rooting cuttings of existing plants. The link for purchasing is the best source I was able to find. This is a rare but amazing plant. Learn more.

Info on Kosmic Kale

  • First Harvest: 1st year
  • USDA Climate Zone:
  • Sunlight Requirement: full-sun 
  • Plant Size at Maturity: 2 ft high and 4 ft wide
  • Purchase: transplant 
  • Note: As a green this plant can be harvested during the first year, but leave enough leaves to keep the plant growing. Don't harvest all the leaves at once.

Info on Hooker’s Onion – Allium acuminatum:

  • First Harvest: 2nd year
  • USDA Climate Zone: 5-9
  • Sunlight Requirement: Full sun
  • Plant Size at Maturity: 1 foot (0.3 meters) high and wide
  • Purchase: Potted Plants 
  • Note: Does spread by seed but easy to manage. Produces a number of greens for harvest and small bulbs. Learn more.

Here in western Washington and other semi-warm areas, these 5 perennial vegetables are a great place to start for easy winter greens.

Next Steps with Growing Perennial Vegetables for Winter Greens

It's great to grow perennial vegetables for winter greens

These little early blue violets are another possible source of winter greens. They’re not established enough for me to start harvesting, but they might be the 6th perennial vegetable to add to this list once established.

Let’s face it—perennial vegetables aren’t as commonly grown as they should be. And it can be hard to find information about them.

This means you’ll often need to do some experimenting and just try them out.

When I was looking up perennial vegetables to try, only purple tree collards was listed as being a good perennial vegetable for winter greens.

It was only after planting a variety of perennial vegetables that I discovered that the other 4 on the list provided good harvests year-round.

And you might already have some perennial vegetables that could provide winter harvests. Sorrels, for example, are another great perennial vegetable for winter greens that are fairly common.

There are many more perennial vegetables out there. And depending on your climate, some might provide winter harvests. Here are some posts to help you get started.

  1. Plant Once With Perennial Vegetables
  2. 11 Cold-Hardy Perennial Vegetables You’ll Love to Grow
  3. 11 Perennial Greens You Will Love to Grow

And you can also explore using warm micro-climates to expand which perennial vegetables you can grow.

If you’re in climate zone 7 (or even potentially zone 6,) using warm micro-climates will likely increase your winter harvests and let you grow more perennial vegetables.

The south side of your house, (or north side in the southern hemisphere,) can be a great option. My tree collards are growing along the south side of my house, for example.

But even large rocks or rock piles can create warm micro-climates that will help you grow more perennial vegetables for winter greens.

Ready to get started with growing perennial vegetables for winter greens? Let us know which you’re going to grow.


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Daron

Daron is a restoration ecologist, lifelong gardener, and founder of Growing with Nature. He created this site to help people enjoy wildlife, grow food, and help heal our living world. He has managed the restoration program for a local non-profit, and he’s applying principles of restoration and permaculture to transform his property in western Washington to forests, wetlands, hedgerows, food forests, and permaculture gardens. He holds a Masters in Environmental Studies and an Associate of Applied Science degree in Water Resources. He loves sharing the joy of growing food with his two beautiful children.

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