Cauliflower is a tasty vegetable that’s surprisingly versatile. I don’t know who thought of using cauliflower to make pizza crust or mashed potatoes, but it’s actually pretty good! If you’d like to add more cauliflower to your diet, growing your own is the best way to get the freshest and tastiest cauliflower.
In this guide, I’ll show you everything you need to know to learn how to plant cauliflower from start to finish. From what growing conditions you need to when to harvest and everything in between. Keep reading and soon, you’ll be a pro at growing cauliflower!
Types of Cauliflower to Grow
We most often see it in white, but cauliflower comes in several unique colors! Here are some interesting varieties to try that are sold by one of our favorite seed retailers, Hoss Tools.
- Flame Star Cauliflower is a beautiful, bright orange. This variety matures early. It’s ready to harvest about 55 days after planting.
- DePurple Cauliflower is a rich, dark purple color with a hint of blue. It maintains its color even after cooking.
- Graffiti Cauliflower is a stunning fuchsia-purple color with medium to large-sized heads.
- Minuteman Cauliflower is a traditional bright white. It’s more heat tolerant than other varieties of cauliflower so it’s a good option if you live in a warmer climate.
- Snow Bowl Cauliflower is another white variety. It produces uniform white heads that resemble a bowl of fresh snow.
Is Romanesco Cauliflower?
Spiky green romanesco is one of the most interesting vegetables you can grow. It’s very similar to cauliflower because it’s a cross between cauliflower and broccoli.
Growing romanesco is very similar to growing cauliflower or broccoli so the same information applies.
Growing Conditions for Cauliflower
Learning how to plant cauliflower starts with providing the right growing conditions. Here’s what cauliflower needs to grow.
Cauliflower does best in well-draining, fertile soil. A soil pH between 6.5 and 6.8 is ideal but anything between 6.0 and 7.0 will work.
Adding organic matter when planting is a good way to increase the nutrients in the soil and make it more fertile. Compost, aged manure, or leaf mold are all good options.
Work the organic matter into the top several inches of soil before planting cauliflower. If you use a no-dig approach, simply add it on top of the soil.
Full sun is best for cauliflower. Plant it in a sunny location that receives at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight daily.
Temperature and Weather
Cauliflower is a cool-season crop. It grows best in spring or fall, when the temperature is around 75 degrees or below. Certain varieties, like Minuteman, are more heat tolerant and can handle higher temperatures.
How to Start Cauliflower from Seed
Starting cauliflower from seed is one of the best ways to grow this tasty vegetable. Seeds are inexpensive and widely available both at online seed retailers and in stores.
Depending on the weather where you live and what variety you’re growing, you can start cauliflower seeds indoors or direct sow them directly into the garden.
Starting Cauliflower Indoors
For many gardeners, starting cauliflower seeds indoors is the best way to go. Cauliflower takes anywhere from 50-80 days to fully mature and it’s picky about the weather.
Since the plants don’t like heat, starting cauliflower seeds outdoors is tricky. You need to wait until the ground is warm enough to plant in but if you wait too long, summer may arrive before the cauliflower has time to produce good-sized heads.
In many areas, there simply isn’t enough time to start seeds directly in the ground. That’s why starting indoors makes a lot of sense.
You can start cauliflower seeds indoors 4-5 weeks before the last spring frost. For a fall crop, start seeds in late summer, about ten weeks before the first expected frost.
Seed Starting Equipment
To start seeds indoors, it’s helpful to have some basic equipment. Here are some things I use that work well.
How to Start Cauliflower Seeds Indoors
Choose a container to plant in, like a seed starting tray or small pots. Fill your containers with seed starting mix and plant 1-2 seeds per cell or container.
Water thoroughly using a spray bottle. I recommend a spray bottle at this stage because cauliflower seeds are tiny and easily displaced in the seed starting mix. The fine mist of a spray bottle adds water gently without displacing the seeds.
You can use a heating pad under your seed tray to speed up germination, but it’s unnecessary. Since cauliflower is a cool-season crop, it will still sprout in temperatures as low as 50 degrees.
As the seedlings start to emerge make sure they have adequate light. Place the plants in front of a sunny window or use a grow light.
Once the seedlings develop their first set of true leaves, thin the plants to one per container or cell in the seed tray.
For more information on growing healthy seedlings, check out our guide, How to Care for Seedlings.
Direct Sowing Cauliflower
Planting cauliflower directly in the garden is possible if the weather is right. For best results, you may choose an early maturing variety like Flame Star or Candid Charm, or a heat-tolerant variety such as Minuteman.
Here’s how to plant cauliflower directly outside in the garden.
- Wait to plant cauliflower outside until 2-3 weeks before the last expected frost.
- Water the soil before planting to make sure it’s evenly moist.
- Plant seeds 1/4 inch deep and gently press the soil to ensure good contact with the seeds.
- Water thoroughly.
- Space cauliflower plants 24 inches apart in rows that are 24-36 inches apart. The recommended spacing varies depending on the variety. Check the back of your seed packet to see what’s recommended for the particular cauliflower variety you’re growing.
How to Plant Cauliflower Seedlings
After tending your little seedlings indoors, it’s exciting to finally plant them in the garden.
If you don’t want to start cauliflower from seed, buying starter plants is another good option. It’s easy to find cauliflower seedlings at plant sales, garden centers, and nurseries in early spring.
Starter plants are the easiest and fastest way to plant cauliflower since you don’t have to wait for seeds to grow.
Whether you started cauliflower from seed or purchased starter plants, they can be transplanted into the garden when the first spring frost is about two weeks away.
If you started cauliflower from seed, harden off the seedlings for about a week before transplanting. Seedlings that were grown inside need time to get used to the outside elements slowly.
Usually, starter plants from a store have already been exposed to the elements and don’t need hardening off.
Planting Cauliflower Seedlings
- Choose a suitable location and prepare the soil by adding organic matter.
- Dig a hole for each plant that’s about twice as large as the container the seedling is currently in.
- Carefully remove your plant from the container and place it in the soil.
- Bury the plant to the same depth as it was planted in the previous container.
- Water thoroughly.
Caring for Cauliflower Plants
Once planted in the ground, it’s important to provide the right care to help cauliflower plants develop.
Keeping the plants healthy and happy is the best way to get large, full heads of cauliflower.
Cauliflower does best with regular, even watering. The soil should stay moist, but not soggy.
Water deeply about once a week by using a watering can or a sprayer wand to apply water at the base of your plants. Try to avoid overhead watering, as this can lead to fungal disease.
To keep the soil moist and help reduce weeds, use a natural mulch like straw or crushed leaves around the base of your plants.
When it comes to fertilizing cauliflower there is a lot of mixed information. The best course of action depends on your soil.
If you have rich, fertile soil, additional fertilizer may not be necessary. Adding organic matter like compost is often enough to keep the plants healthy and grow good-sized heads.
If your soil is only moderately fertile, adding fertilizer is a good way to ensure the plants have plenty of nutrients to thrive.
If your plants need a boost, use a slow-release fertilizer such as AgroThrive. Apply fertilizer following the instructions on your package about once every two weeks during the growing season.
Cauliflower is ready to harvest when the heads are compact and firm. Depending on the variety you’re growing, they should be between 6-12 inches in diameter.
To harvest cauliflower, cut the plant’s stalk about 1-2 inches below the head.
After harvesting, soak cauliflower heads in a saltwater solution for about 30 minutes. This is the best way to get rid of any cabbage worms that may be hiding in there.
Use cauliflower immediately or keep it in the fridge for up to a week.
Wrapping up How to Plant Cauliflower
Well, that about wraps up how to plant cauliflower! Are you ready to try your hand at growing your own crop of cauliflower?
For more planting and growing tips, make sure to visit the Seed Starting page on our website. There, you’ll find information on all things growing to help your garden get off to a great start!