How to Plant and Grow Salsify

An heirloom root vegetable with lots of history, salsify is hard to find in stores but super easy to grow in your garden.

Originally from Europe and North Africa, salsify is a biennial wildflower and root vegetable that has a long history. Cultivated since at least the 16th century, salsify is prized for its edible taproot, which is sweet and slightly resembles the flavor of oysters or artichokes.  Salsify is also grown for its edible, grass-like leaves and attractive, purple flowers

close up of salsify

Marty Baldwin

Salsify is difficult to find in stores, so if you want to taste this vegetable, growing your own is your best bet. Salsify closely resembles parsnips and has similar growing requirements to most root vegetables. As a cool weather biennial, salsify’s creamy white tap roots can be harvested during the first or second year of growth. Boiled, mashed, or roasted, salsify is a versatile vegetable and fun to grow too.

Salsify Overview

Genus Name Tragopogon porrifolius
Common Name Salsify
Plant Type Vegetable
Light Sun
Height 12 to 36 Inches
Flower Color Purple
Foliage Color Blue/Green
Season Features Spring Bloom, Summer Bloom
Special Features Cut Flowers, Good for Containers
Propagation Seed

Where to Plant Salsify

Salsify has similar growing needs to carrots and other root vegetables and should be planted in full sun. Because these plants are mostly grown for their tap roots, prepping your garden soil is extra important, especially if you want to get large roots.

For best root development, till and loosen your garden soil to a depth of 8 to 12 inches. Remove any rocks that you find, which can cause deformed roots. Mixing in aged manure or compost as you till can also improve root development.

How and When to Plant Salsify

Salsify is usually planted in spring, about 1 to 2 weeks before your last frost date. In warm areas, salsify can also be planted in autumn to avoid issues with bolting and to guarantee a tasty winter harvest.

Directly sow your salsify outdoors by planting seeds about half an inch deep in rows spaced 12 inches apart. Seeds may take up to three weeks to germinate, so be patient. After your salsify sprouts, thin plants out, leaving four inches of space between seedlings. 

Because salsify is a slow-growing plant, it can easily get overwhelmed by vigorous weeds. To prevent this, add an organic mulch around your salsify seedlings after they germinate.

Care Tips for Salsify

Whether you’re a seasoned gardener or new to gardening, salsify is an incredibly easy plant to grow.  You can sow seeds in spring or fall, or you can plant seeds throughout the growing season for a continual harvest. Plants take about 100 to 120 days to reach harvestable size, although you can leave roots in the ground until you’re ready to use them.


Salsify will grow best in full sun and should receive at least 6 to 8 hours of bright light daily. If you live in a warm climate, locate your plants in an area of your garden that receives some afternoon shade to keep roots tender.

Soil and Water

In general, salsify will grow best in loose, well-draining, sandy soil that is light in texture and has a pH of between 6.0 and 6.8. Dense, rocky soil can cause your salsify to grow stunted or deformed.

Salsify grows best with regular and consistent watering, especially during a drought. Even watering will improve salsify’s texture and prevent fibrous and stringy roots. For best results, aim to provide your plants with 1 to 2 inches of water per week.


Salsify is a cool season crop and may turn tough if grown in hot weather. To avoid this, spring or fall plantings are recommended. Like other root vegetables, salsify’s flavor may be enhanced when roots are harvested after a light frost.


Mix compost or aged manure into your soil at the time of planting. In midsummer, side dress your salsify with a balanced fertilizer to support root and leaf development.


Salsify is ready to harvest about 100 to 120 days after planting, although some gardeners may choose to wait until the following year to get larger roots. Spring-planted salsify should be ready to harvest in mid to late fall, while fall-planted salsify can be dug in spring.

Salsify roots are quite brittle and break easily, so you’ll want to be careful when harvesting them. To dig up your plants, gently loosen the soil around the roots with a spading fork and then gently lift your salsify and shake off excess soil. If a root breaks, rinse it off and then squeeze some lemon juice over it to prevent oxidation.

Pests and Problems

Salsify is naturally resistant to most pests and diseases, although there are a few exceptions.

Root-knot nematode: This variety of nematodes can cause distorted or forked root development and the formation of galls. Rotating your crops and planting resistant salsify varieties will help to protect your plants.

Wireworms: These small, brown worms look a lot like mealworms and can riddle your salsify crop with holes. Rotating your crops and tilling your garden soil prior to planting can help reduce wireworm populations.

How to Propagate Salsify

Salsify is best grown from seeds, which can be purchased online or at garden centers. Alternatively, you can also harvest your own salsify seeds after your biennial plant goes to seed during its second year.

Types of Salsify

While salsify usually has cream-colored roots, black root salsify (Scorzonera hispanica) is an intriguing variety that boasts attractive black roots. Taking between 100 to 130 days to mature, black root salsify has the same growing requirements as other salsify varieties but is perennial rather than biennial.

Mammoth Sandwich Island salsify (Tragopogon porrifolius) is a classic, white-root type of salsify. This pleasing plant has been around since the 1800s and produces a reliable harvest of parsnip-like roots.

Companion Plants for Salsify


Mike Dieter

Not only do carrots and salsify have similar growing requirements, but growing salsify near carrots may also help repel destructive carrot flies.


harvested potatoes

Marty Baldwin

Like salsify, potatoes also require well-tilled soil that’s free of rocks and light enough to support tuber development. This means that if you prep your soil for salsify, potatoes will usually happily grow there too!


close up of lettuce in the garden

Kindra Clineff

Lettuce is a compact and fast-growing plant that won’t compete with salsify for nutrients and light. Interplanting salsify with lettuce will also help maximize your garden space, as you’ll be able to harvest lettuce while your long-season salsify is still maturing.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can salsify be eaten raw?

    Salsify is a versatile plant that can be eaten raw or cooked. Choose young roots and slice them thinly if you don’t want to cook them. Tender greens can also be eaten raw in salads and other dishes.

  • Do bees like salsify flowers?

    In addition to being delicious, salsify produces pretty flowers that pollinators love. These plants are ideal for attracting native bees, butterflies, moths, and other beneficial insects.

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