What is the likelihood that self-seeded asparagus will be female?


I have an asparagus bed of many years’ duration. Although I tried to plant all males, I have plenty of female plants. I assume they are the ones responsible for some self-seeded small asparagus popping up in other places. My obscure question is, what is the likelihood that the self-seeded plants will be females, also?


Jonathan Foster, Special Project Assistant 

While asparagus plants are indeed dioecious (having distinct male and female plants), there are naturally occurring hermaphroditic individuals that can successfully self-pollinate. That may be the source of your female plants, or you may have received incorrectly labeled ones from the nursery. Either way, my gut feel was that the male-female breakdown should be 50% when I first read your question, based on simple genetics.

However, I wanted something a little weightier to offer you by way of response: please check out this fantastic discussion of asparagus genetics from Rutgers University. While the focus of the article is on hybridized male varieties and the different yields vs female plants, there is information on basic asparagus genetics confirming my first thought. Generally speaking, unless you are growing a specialized variety, you should expect to see about a 50-50 split on the offspring.