Learning Download: How to Grow Salsify

From Seed to Harvest: A guide to growing salsify.

Salsify, also known as the oyster plant because of its light oyster flavoring, is a root vegetable not commonly found in grocery stores. The vegetable is similar to a carrot but with white flesh. The young roots can be eaten raw if finely shredded onto a salad, but the roots are usually cooked in stews. Salsify has a longer growing season, but is relatively simple to grow and can be a unique addition to any garden. Although it looks similar to a carrot, salsify is actually related to the dandelion and chicory.

To plant:

Salsify can be grown over the winter in warmer climates of planted in the spring in cooler climates. If planted in the spring, salsify is harvested in the fall and if grown over the winter, salsify is harvested in the spring. The plants do best when started from seeds directly sown into the garden. Plant outdoors two weeks before the last spring frost for a fall harvest and plant 1/2 inch deep and 1 to 2 inches apart in rows set 18 to 24 inches apart. Prior to planting the seeds, make sure you loosen the soil 12 inches deep and remove any debris such as rocks that could get in the way of the growing roots.

To grow:

Salsify requires frequent weeding, as the plants are such slow growers that fast-growing weeds can overtake them. Mulching around the plants can help deter weeds. Since it is a root plant, salsify also requires frequent, deep water. Salsify plants do best in soil with a pH of 6.0 to 6.8. In warmer months, the plants require shade during the hot parts of the day, so plant near fast-growing vegetables that are tall enough to cast a shadow. The shade will encourage more tender roots. Carrot rust flies and wireworms can be pests that cause problems to your salsify plants. To deter carrot rust flies, spray insecticides or use outdoor sticky traps. For wireworms, leaving a cut piece of potato nearby will distract the pests form the salsify plants.

To harvest

Salsify is ready to harvest when the roots are 12 inches in length. This can be up to 120 days after planting. Use a spading fork to harvest, as the roots grow deep and if they are broken, their storage time decreases. If harvesting in the fall, wait for the salsify to withstand a few frosts prior to digging up the root as it enhances the taste and makes the root sweeter. Once pulled from the ground, remove the tops and store in a cool, dry place for two weeks so the roots can dry.

What salsify craves:

Prior to planting, spread aged compost around the salsify planting site and work it into the soil several inches deep. Don’t use manure or high-nitrogen fertilizer as this can cause the roots to split and fork. Although salsify has a long growing season, it doesn’t require much fertilizing as over-fertilizing can fork the roots. Apply a general-purpose fertilizer at the time of planting and mid-season through the summer.

Where to buy salsify seeds:

You can find salsify seeds at Urban Farmer.

Learning Download: Common pests and diseases: Salsify

Common pests and diseases: Salsify

When growing vegetables, it is always exciting to care for the plant throughout its growing phase and then harvest it for delicious recipes later on, but one thing to watch out for is pests and diseases. Different plants are susceptible to different types of pests and diseases, and it is important to make yourself aware so you can keep a watchful eye and also take any preventative methods to keep your plants safe throughout their lifespan. 

Salsify can fall victim to several different pests and diseases, most of which also affect carrots.


For the most part, salsify is largely resistant to most pests, though it can be affected by some of the pests that also effect carrots such as the carrot rust fly and wireworms.

Carrot is caused by carrot rust flies. The flies lay their eggs in the soil around where the top of the carrot or salsify plants come through. When the eggs hatch, the larvae then burrow into the soil and into the roots of the salsify, where they eat leaving rust-colored tunnels in the lower portion of the roots.

Wireworms affect the root of the salsify plant, and they will appear as shiny, thin brown and hard-shelled worms that can reach up to an inch and a half long. These worms can remain in the larvae stage for two to five years, and they will move around in the soil depending on soil temperature and moisture. Adult wireworms don’t feed much, but the larvae cause the most damage. Larvae feed on the salsify roots underground and can bore straight into the root. To manage wireworms, rototill the garden in the fall, which will expose the worms. Add Diazinon granules to the soil, which will provide protection for the entire season.


Similar to pests, salsify is highly resistant to most diseases, which is good news for gardeners who wish to grow the root vegetable. The two diseases that can cause problems include root knot and soft rot. 

Root knot will cause forked roots and irregular galls throughout the plant’s root system. It also affects carrots. This is caused by the nematode. To prevent this disease, plant resistant varieties of salsify and also practice goo crop rotation.

Soft rot will affect the leaves of the plant and it causes molds of varying colors to appear on the surface of the leaves. The molds can be black, white, brown or gray. The root will lose its firmness, and it can even become soft. The symptoms soft rot causes may look similar to damage caused by insects. In order to prevent this disease, try to avoid injuring the root during the harvest and cool the root quickly if storing it indoors.