Growing Broccoli

broccoli head with tight green buds in garden

A perfect head of broccoli will be big and have lots of very tight green buds.

Broccoli is a hardy vegetable that develops best during cool seasons of the year. Two crops per year (spring and fall) are possible in most parts of the country, especially with continuous improvement in fast maturity and heat tolerance that extends the life of broccoli through all but the hottest parts of the season. It belongs to the cole crop family (Brassica oleracea), which includes cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, collards, kale, and kohlrabi. Gardeners in the North typically have best success with our Packman variety.

Soil, Planting, and Care

broccoli plants in spring cool-season garden

The crop of broccoli in this spring garden is well on its way to making heads.

Broccoli needs cool weather, full sun, water, and rich soil. Plant your broccoli where it will get least 6 hours of sun daily and has fertile, well-drained, moist soil with plenty of organic matter. Mulch will help keep the ground cool and moist. The soil pH should be between 6.0 and 7.0 for best growth and to discourage clubroot disease. To be sure about your soil pH, it is best to get the soil tested. You can buy a kit or have a soil test done through your regional Cooperative Extension office. Adjust the pH with lime, if needed, according to the test results.

For good growth, mix plenty of nitrogen-rich amendments such as cottonseed meal or composted manure into the soil. Or, you may mix in a granular organic fertilizer or a coated, timed-release vegetable food such as 14-14-14 according to label directions. Or fertilize regularly with a liquid formula such as Bonnie Herb & Vegetable Plant Food beginning when you plant. Use according to label directions; plants love the liquid feeding. If this sounds like a lot of options, it is. Gardeners develop their favorite way of doing things over time. With broccoli, the important thing is rich soil and there is more than one way to achieve that.

Plant at the spacing stated on the Bonnie label. Generally, broccoli plants should be 18 inches apart. If planted in rows, space rows 24 inches apart to give yourself enough room to walk between them, but you can plant two or three abreast in a row to minimize aisle space.

Broccoli likes steady moisture to grow fast and produce good heads. An organic mulch of compost, finely ground leaves, or finely ground bark will help keep the soil cool and moist and keep down weeds. In cold climates, it’s the opposite, you may need to plant through black plastic in early spring to help warm the soil or leave the ground without mulch so that the sun can warm it.

Water regularly, applying 1 to 1.5 inches of water per week if rain doesn’t cover it. You can measure the amount of water with a rain gauge left in the garden. If your soil is not naturally rich in nitrogen from abundant earthworms and regular additions of organic, nitrogen-rich amendments, then fertilize the plants again with a liquid fertilizer such as fish emulsion or Bonnie Herb & Vegetable Plant Food as they begin to develop new leaves and continue liquid feeding until the heads are nearly ready to harvest.

Troubleshooting

a broccoli head in the garden shouldn’t be left to stretch or flower

Don’t let your broccoli head develop to this stage. It will be mealy. If the little buds start stretching or showing yellow flower petals, cut the head, no matter how small.

Broccoli is temperature sensitive. If transplants sit exposed to cold below 40 degrees for a week or two, the chilling injury triggers heads to form way too early. On the other end of the scale, if you plant too late and the weather gets hot, you’ll get the same early blooming, so plant your broccoli on time. The ideal temperature for broccoli is between 65 and 80 degrees. For local planting dates, check with your local Cooperative Extension office. The best way to avoid pest problems is to keep your plants healthy and your garden clean. The main insect pests include cabbage loopers and imported cabbageworms, cabbage root maggots, aphids, and flea beetles. Disease problems include black leg, black rot, clubroot, and yellows. Contact your regional Cooperative Extension office for more information on pest identification and current control recommendations.

Harvest and Storage

broccoli in bowl along with lettuce, greens, and cabbage for a fall harvest

Broccoli heads are harvested along with greens, lettuce, and cabbage in the cool-season garden in fall or spring.

When you see a flower head beginning to form in the center of the plant, check its growth every day. Ideally, you harvest broccoli while the tiny buds are tightly closed. If the buds begin to swell or show yellow (the flower petals), cut the head from the stem right away, no matter how small it is, because the opening buds have a mealy texture. After cutting the main head, leave the plant to grow bite-sized side shoots in the axils of the leaves. Don’t be disappointed if your broccoli head is smaller that those in the grocery store; they are usually grown in a friendly climate and with lots of pampering. In areas where spring heats up fast, broccoli heads are often better in fall than in spring, so try again for a bigger head later. Plant in late summer. Heads keep for about a week in the fridge. Enjoy fresh heads and shoot in Healthy Broccoli Salad or Broccoli With Sesame Seeds.

FAQs

Can broccoli be grown in the spring and the fall?

Generally, yes, depending upon the variety, the region, and the time planted. Broccoli does best when temperatures remain between 40 degrees and 70 degrees F. It needs to mature during cool periods, so it does well in most areas if planted in late summer to mature in fall. In spring, broccoli is planted early enough to mature during cool weather. Temperatures below 25 degrees F can damage or kill broccoli.

How will I know when my broccoli is ready to harvest?

Generally, you should harvest broccoli when individual buds of the broccoli head are pin-head size, dark green, and tightly closed. If yellow petals begin showing, the head is past its peak quality. After growing a certain variety for several seasons, you will soon know the potential size for heads of that variety. The size of the head depends on location, variety, season, and fertilization. Most homegrown heads are three to six inches in diameter.

Can I grow broccoli in a container?

Yes, use a container 5 gallons or larger, or at least 18 inches in diameter.

After you plant broccoli, do you have to top the plants?

No, that would remove the central head and you won’t get the harvest that you expect. However, you would get small side shoots.

My broccoli foliage is developing yellow spots on the upper side with a downy growth underneath. What does this mean?

This is downy mildew, a disease caused by an airborne fungus. Some varieties of broccoli are resistant to this. Foliar sprays of chlorothalonil (Daconil¨) can be used to control this problem. Begin applications at the first sign of the disease and repeat according to label directions.

How can I control worms that get in my broccoli heads?

These are probably loopers or imported cabbageworms that can be controlled with a product containing Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) such as Dipel¨, a biological-type insecticide. This must be eaten by the worm and is activated in the worm’s alkaline gut. The worm then dies slowly from terminal constipation. This takes two to three days, which means the worms are not killed immediately.

My broccoli produced small yellow flowers shortly after I planted it and the heads were tiny. What caused this?

Hot weather is the culprit. The plant is going to seed. Broccoli flowers quickly in temperatures much above 80 degrees. Be sure that you are planting at the right time. Next time, you should cut off the broccoli heads before they form flowers, no matter how small they are.

What causes broccoli heads to become discolored and slightly slimy?

Under certain environmental conditions, such as high temperatures during the initiation of the head, discoloration occurs. This has been observed on some of the hybrid varieties. Planting at the correct time and providing good cultural care usually avoids the problem.

On some of my plants, the stem has a hole that retains water and causes rotting after I remove the main head. What can I do?

The hole in the stem cannot be corrected now. It is caused by a boron deficiency that is corrected by adding boron to the soil for next year. The rate is one-half pound per 1,000 square feet of a boron product such as Twenty Mule Team Borax. Dissolve it in two gallons of water and spray it evenly over the ground. DO NOT OVER APPLY. Boron toxicity occurs if too much is added, so use only what is required. Don’t be tempted to think that a little extra is better.

Is it normal for seconday sprouts to be smaller or should we fertilize?

The center head produced by broccoli is always the largest. The secondary heads are about the size of a silver dollar. Side-dressing with fertilizer can increase yields and size of these shoots. Although small, they are just as tasty as the large center head.

A few of my broccoli plants did not produce heads, but look healthy. What is wrong?

If the growing tip of a broccoli plant is injured, it may not head. This is called blindness. The transplant could have been injured in transit, while planting, or by an insect in the garden.

70 Comments

Organic gardener

Hi, great article :) Does anyone out there know the optimal NPK ratio for broccoli oh and where would you recommend buying a good organic pesticide

Danielle Carroll

Hello there,
The optimum NPK ratio on the fertilizer that you buy for broccoli will depend on what it in your soil already. To get this information, try a soil test. They are usually available at your local extension system for a nominal charge. – Danielle, Bonnie Plants

Shayna Nalani

So I bought four Broccoli plants early this spring. I put them in my raised bed garden and they seemed to be doing OK. Though, the outer leaves are coopering and slowly falling off, but the the center looks alright, in fact they are starting to grow its broccoli heads. Any suggestions for the coopering leaves ?

Danielle Carroll

Hello Shayna,
Keep the broccoli as healthy as you can. Now that the heads are starting to form, it does not take them long until they are ready to harvest. I am not sure what you mean “coopering” leaves. If they are strarting to shrivel before falling off, be sure and keep watering like you have been doing during the gardening season. You will find it normal that a few of the outer leaves start to fall off as the plant starts to head up. Be sure and harvest the broccoli head before it starts to show any signs of yellowing which means the flowers are on the way! – Danielle, Bonnie Plants

Meg Wilson

I planted my broccoli plants about 3 months ago in a raised garden bed and they look really healthy. I have been watering them regularly and they are getting lots of sun. The plants have just started to grow tiny little heads of broccoli and now they are starting to flower! What should I do? Does broccoli grow better in the fall?

Danielle Carroll

Hello Meg,
Harvest the tiny heads before they start to flower. Once you do, you will smaller side shoots grow that can be harvested. You are right, in a lot of area, broccoli will grow better in the Fall as Spring temperatures heat up quickly in some areas. Secret Life of Broccoli is an article in the Bonnie Plants library that addresses the ins and outs of broccoli plants. – Danielle Bonnie Plants

Mary Gaston

I live in North/Central Alabama and am a first time gardener. I planted my pacman broccoli plants 56 days ago. The plants themselves are lovely and large. The heads have just begun to form and are very small, the size of a gumball. In reading the plant description I would have thought I should be harvesting by now (35-55 day harvest). Should I give these heads more time, or have I just produced a miniature harvest this year?

Danielle Carroll

Hi Mary,
You will want to harvest the broccoli heads while the buds are still tightly closed. Watch it, if the buds start to swell – it means the broccoli is going to flower and set seeds (and you want to harvest before that). Spring harvests in the deep South are usually not as plentiful as the Fall harvests because of the warm weather. Once you harvest the main head, several side shoots will grow that you can harvest as well. See here to read more about the Secret Life of Broccoli. – Danielle, Bonnie Plants

Leann

I planted some broccoli in the house and they are really spindly. Is this normal for the first couple of weeks or do I need to transplant them already. They have only been in the grow trays for one week but already some are 3″ long and spindly. Please help :)

Danielle Carroll

Hello Leann,
Did you start them from seed indoors? If you did, they probably lack light. Seedlings need about 16 hours of artificial ( and natural) light to grow well. Here is a guide from Clemson Exension office to help you out. – Danielle, Bonnie Plants

Debbie Picciolo

I bought Brocc. plants and they arenot growin. All there is stems with yellow flowers.I water every day. I live in Arizona. Maybe I should wait for the cold weather.

Danielle Carroll

Hello Debbie,
Looks like the broccoli heads have already opened to flower. The unopened flower buds are the harvestable broccoli spears. Try cutting off all the flowers to see if the side shoots will continue to grow. Broccoli is testy and has a secret life of its own! – Danielle, Bonnie Plants

Mary K

Hello, I am starting a new raised bed garden with several beds. I have bought 9 pk plants of broccoli, kohlrabi and brussel sprouts. Will these do well in a small area? Can I plant them next to each other? I have read they cross pollinate. My beds are 4 x 8 and approximately 2 feet apart. I will have 3-4 beds when finished.

Danielle Carroll

Hi Mary,
Yes, you can plant these next to each other. Cross pollination is possible among plants within the same species. However, this will not show up in your plant or the harvetable parts. If you save seed of crosses – you will see the difference. Hope this helps.
-Danielle, Bonnie Plants

Marcus G

I live in Northern California and lately we have been having good weather, 70-80 degrees. My broccoli plant is on my front porch and the plants have grown to almost 5ft tall, but have not produced heads of broccoli but they have all flowered w/ yellow flowers. After reading other people’s problems I am thinking I should cut the top portion w/ the yellow flowers but am unsure. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Danielle Carroll

Hello Marcus,
When we eat broccoli, we are eating the unopened flowers – the tight buds which become the yellow flowers. Some varieties produce small sideshoots after the heads are harvested, and I have cut off the flower head and had the side shoots come back as well. Broccoli seems to have a secret life of its own. The heads are very sensitive to temperatures – heat triggers and cold injury. Hopefully this article with broccoli will help you with its quirks.
-Danielle, Bonnie Plants

Pauline

Hi, just started planting some Bonnie Plants and after reading some of these questions, I have a few of my own, I planted broccoli plants just now (as I heard they like cooler weather), but am now wondering if it is too early. I live in Stone Mtn, GA and the weather for this week is gonna be in the High 50s and lows between mid to high 30s. I also planted some peppers, collard greens, brussell sprouts, and some onions. I have grape tomatoes in containers. Any advice would be appreciated. I grew all (except onions) last year with no problem, but planted them later in the year. Thank you.

Danielle Carroll

Hello Pauline,
Plants are considered cool weather and warm weather. Broccoli, collard greens, Brussels sprouts and onions are cool weather. Tomatoes and peppers are warm weather. This is the planting chart for Georgia. It is on time for cool weather plants (hoping there is not a hot spring). It is early for pepper and tomatoes which can not handle frosts. Cover them and protect these plants when temperatures are low. Many growers with hoop houses and green houses do plant them this time of year in your area.
-Danielle, Bonnie Plants

Lee

We live in South Alabama and our Bonnie broccoli plants have been planted about 3-4 weeks. Now we have tiny pieces of heads forming, and have the yellow tint like when they are a large head. Should we prune them back, or leave them?

Danielle Carroll

Hi Lee,
If the broccoli has flower heads forming, don’t prune it back until you are ready to harvest. Then cut the head (unopened flowers) off to eat and wait for the smaller side shoots to appear. You can harvest those as well. A yellow tint is usually present when the head is about to flower, and you want to harvest while the flower buds are tightly closed. Saute the heads for a great supper!
-Danielle, Bonnie Plants

e liquid flavors

Hi there, just become aware of your weblog via Google, and found that it is truly informative. I am gonna be careful for brussels. I will be grateful in the event you proceed this in future. Numerous people might be benefited out of your writing. Cheers!

John R

Bastrop/central Texas I planted two 9 packs in December and they’re doing great. Harvested & ate the broc in Feb from one nine pack & let the other 9 bloom for the honey bees. They’re still blooming & have lots of bees. The other group of 9 are now flowering. They’re great for the ecosystem & have provided a nice yell0w winter color with the blooms. You are hereby encouraged to let some of your broc bloom for the honey bees especially in the winter when there is little for them. Thanks Bonnie!

Danielle Carroll

That’s awesome, John!
I have a hive of bees and enjoy watching them buzz around the flowers. Presently, they are enjoying the turnip flowers.
-Danielle, Bonnie Plants

Danielle Carroll

Hello Daniel,
Your broccoli may be off to a slow start above ground, but hopefully it is taken root below ground. Make sure that the ground is well draining and if you didn’t fertilize at planting, it’s time now. Broccoli will grow well with good soil moisture and readily available nutrients. Read here to learn about the Secret Life of Broccoli!
-Danielle, Bonnie Plants

Lilly

We planted our broccoli about two weeks ago and some of our plants started growing heads of broccoli, but one has also sprouted a yellow flower. Should we cut the whole head off? Or just the flower? Will it grow another head if we do cut it off?
Thanks for any advice!

Mary Beth

Hi Lilly,
Just so I understand…your broccoli seedling has been planted only two weeks? Was it a small seedling from Bonnie or a larger-sized plant? That’s pretty fast for heads of broccoli! The flowers indicate that the plant is done forming a head and will now attempt to bloom and set seed. You actually eat immature flower buds when you eat a fresh head of broccoli, so you want to catch it before it gets to that stage. That being said, a few yellow blooms in the saute pan are edible and quite tasty (and pretty on the plate). Cut and enjoy now. ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

Lilly

It was a Bonnie plant we bought from Lowes. Each plant was about 4 inches tall with 5-7 leaves. I am new to gardening so I am not sure if seedling is the right term for the size of the plant. The head was so small, I thought the broccoli heads would be bigger before it was time to cut them. Will they continue to produce heads if I cut one off, or cut the flower portion off? We let that paticular broccoli continue to grow and it probably has about 8 yellow flowers now, with more on the way. Thanks for your advice!

Danielle Carroll

Hi Lilly,
Go ahead and cut the flowers off. Broccoli will develop smaller heads after cutting off the main head. It is possible that smaller side heads will develop after cutting the flowers. Usually broccoli grown in home gardens is not as big as the broccoli heads we buy in the store which are grown under ideal conditions. It tastes better, though.
-Danielle, Bonnie Plants

Kelly

I bought a tray of Bonnie broccoli plants and transplanted them into my GARDEN on January 13th. It said on the package 45 days until maturity, but I still haven’t noticed any “broccoli” growing. I water my GARDEN daily. I have organic fertilizer. What am I doing wrong??

Mary Beth

Hi Kelly,
It sounds like you are about 30 days in the growing process and have 2-3 weeks to go. If your broccoli is in ideal growing conditions with sunlight, food and water, you should begin seeing a tiny cluster of activity in the middle of the leaves and stem. That central area will begin to form the broccoli head. Keep an eye on it and stay patient! ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

Carol

The 45 days are under ideal conditions. I planted my broccoli in early November 2012, they grew slowly and are just now approaching harvest time. I live in n/e Contra Costa, CA and this is a normal growth time for me. If you live where it is colder or warmer you will have a different growing season than I do. Also broccoli are heavy feeders you need to fertilize them about twice or you get almost no head. I would fertilize them now with a slow release one like liquid fish, OH! and spray for bugs now also with a good organic spray. Nothing is worse than aphids in your broccoli heads, they can’t be washed out and I for one won’t eat them that way.

Joyce

I have no problem growing brocc, I have a problem with it bunching? Cant seem to get more than stalks? Help me please!! Thanks Joyce

Mary Beth

Hi Joyce,
Broccoli is very sensitive to temperature and timing. You have to find the right time to plant for your area. Some of the southernmost gardens, for example, have an easier time growing it in the Fall. Your local Cooperative Extension office may have a regional-specific planting calendar to help you. Also, check out this article on the “Secret Life of Broccoli.” I hope this helps you grow healthy-sized heads! ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

Joyce

Thank you Mary beth I did plant in late fall. I guess some things arent meant to be Joyce

Mary Beth

Hi Joyce,
Never give up! You know, the weather has been so fickle and up/down this past season. It’s worth trying again now. And, your broccoli plants have to “head” at some point, as that is how they flower and set seed before dying off. Maybe they’ll surprise you soon. ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

Larry

Finally got my greenhouse ready last April, turned in a mix of compost/manure with the sandy soil. Decided to experiment with several different seedling and seeded varieties of veggies and planted during May. In June, temps hit the 100’s and stayed that way until October! No matter what I did temps inside were up to 120 daytime and only 90-100 overnight. Tomato seeds grew to over 8 feet, watermelon, honey dew, and cantaloupe produced OK, but broccoli and cauliflower only grew to about 8-10 inches, never bolted, and are still looking good at 12-14 inches. Got over 6 dozen very tasty meaty tomatoes from just one plant, have 6 more plants going now. With freezing temps common now, day and night, I’m keeping greenhouse temps between 40 to 70 degrees night to day. Think there’s any chance my broccoli and cauliflower will come through? Oh, and my strawberries have propagated well, developed 18 new plants from the original 2.

Mary Beth

Hi Larry,
You’ve been busy! Sounds like you might benefit from more ventilation and perhaps a slight shadecloth on that house in the middle of summer? You’re right to wonder about the cole crops; they do not like heat the sames as your tomatoes. Let’s be optimistic about your broccoli and cauliflower. When were they planted, by the way? The ideal temperature for broccoli is between 65 and 80 degrees. If truly nothing is happening with the broccoli, there is also a term called blindness, which means the terminal growing point of the plant is missing. When a broccoli plant has this condition, the foliage is dark green, large, thick and leathery, but has no center growing point. This anomaly can occur when the terminal growing point is damaged due to cold temperatures (exposure to 50F or lower for an extended period of time), cutworms , or trauma during transplanting.

Cauliflower is the most sensitive of the cole crops to adverse conditions and should never be stressed for water or fertilizer. Cauliflower plants must be kept growing vigorously from germination through harvest. Any interruption in growth caused by drought, heat, or cold can cause the head to fail to develop (button). Cauliflower must be planted early enough in the spring to ensure that the crop is harvested before temperatures become too hot.

Congrats on your harvests and your continued success. Post pics on our Facebook wall and share your experience with others there, too. ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

jake

Greetings from Rayne, LA. I teach a special education class in our local middle school. We planted Bonnie Broccoli and Cabbage October 9. We are almost ready for harvest. We had a cold front come in (down to 65 degrees), and this morning when we checked the garden, we had secondary heads coming out near the base of the larger leaves!! We are very excited. I have read about this happening, but have never observed it first hand, fascinating.
On the subject of leaves, I like to cook them like mustard or collard greens. I think they are even better.
Cheers,
Jake

Mary Beth

Hi Jake,
This is exciting indeed! A garden holds so many wonders, for all of us at any age. Thank you for what you are doing with your class and know that we at Bonnie Plants treasure teachers. Hilarious that you say a “cold front” at 65 degrees; be careful or your northern neighbors will be jealous! Please do join our Facebook page to share photos of the school garden or enjoying recipes of your broccoli leaves. We have a lot of fun with community garden, school garden, cabbage program and family photo sharing. Happy growing, ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

Amenta

I planted broccoli back in August. The leaves are very healthy, so much so that I have been taking some of the lower leaves and adding them to salads. Now that the heads are forming, I am afraid that I may have caused some harm to the continued growth of the heads. Is my steady removal of some of the leaves in any way hampering the growth of the head of florets?

Mary Beth

Hi Amenta,
Good for you! Many people don’t know the tastiness and nutrition of the leaves. Unless you’ve stripped it to a naked stalk, you should be fine. Make sure you leave enough leaves at the top half of the plant to provide energy and food for the plant to continue to prosper. ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

Tony

what is the best month to begin a fall garden in fla?(tomatoes,broccoli,pumpkins)I am very new to gardening and need all the help I can get.Also do u know a site a can go to and get very detailed planting instructions?

Mary Beth

Hi Tony,
Welcome to a long growing season and many options! You’ll want to become fast friends with the folks in your local Cooperative Extension office and make use of their extensive website data sheets. Click around to find your county’s Home & Garden section and calendar for growing. For instance, October is the time to plant strawberries in your region. Get busy! Once you get your regionalized calendar for what to plant when, come back here for great step-by-step growing, fertilizing and harvesting information for each plant type. Also, what you see in stores our our shelves is selected for your region and season. Let us know what you grow and keep us posted on Facebook with photos of your successes. (Failures, too, as that’s how we all learn and help one another in gardening…). ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

Adriane

A groundhog keeps eating the leaves of my broccoli plants. They have grown more leaves, but there are no signs of broccoli. With it being the beginning of Sept. do my plants have any chance of producing or should I just tear them up for this year? Thank you for any advice you can give me.

Mary Beth

Hi Adriane,
Battling groundhogs in your vegetable plants is no fun. Have you had any success trapping or fencing him out? If you do find any tips that will help other gardeners, post it on our Facebook page. We’ve had a few folks like you ask for any way to rid their yard of the hungry guys. As for your broccoli, if the leaves are still producing, the plant is still in good shape to keep growing. The heading of broccoli depends on when you planted (in time for it to mature in chillier Fall temps) and timing it before it freezes. And, of course, there is always the chance that you can have a late Winter or mild Fall. Why not leave them in and see if you can deter the groundhog? ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

Lesley

I just want everyone on here to know how crazy broccoli is. My husband and I planted our first garden (in AL) last April including broccoli. Something kept on eating the leaves all through the summer and the plants never did get more than 2 inches tall. We ignored our garden after the okra stopped producing. One day in December, my daughter went out to the garden and came back in with broccoli! The plants were well over 15 inches tall and heads of broccoli! We had given up on them in June and never even watered or fertilized them!

ANTHONY J PEARSON

I GOT 3 PLANTS FROM A FOOD PANTRY, I PLANTED THEM BACK IN JUNE 2012, WHEN I LOOK AT THEM , THE STEMS LOOKS LIKE SOME KIND OF FOREING PLANT. THE LEAVES ARE VERY LARGE. ARE THESE BROCCOLI OR CAULIFLOWER PLANTS, HOW COULD I TELL?

Mary Beth

Hi Anthony,
Oftentimes your local Cooperative Extension office is a wealth of information and great service. If you need help identifying a plant, try sending in a photo with a description to be certain. Since you can’t share a photo here, you can message our Ask An Expert service to attach a photo. Thanks and I hope you get the plant you wanted! ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

Jason Lamb

We actually planted our broccoli a little late this year (second week in May) and because of that we are just now starting to have small heads form. Our spring was very warm and mid-summer was pretty hot Is it possible for high temperatures to cause broccoli to go dormant if it is before the heads form? And have you found any ways to protect the plantsfrom high temperatures? Maybe some kind of cover?

Jason

Kelly Smith Trimble

Hi Jason, Our article on “The Secret Life of Broccoli” should give you some insight into this temperature-sensitive plant. Heat shouldn’t make broccoli go dormant. In fact, it should make the plant try to bolt, or flower. Planting in slight shade might help cool the plant down and resist the urge to bolt, just make sure the plant gets at least 4 hours of sun to grow. Gardeners in some really hot regions like the Southwest will sometimes use shade cloth for their summer crops. If you’re really desperate, you could try something like that, but since we’re heading into fall and cooler temperatures soon, your plants might just be OK. Happy growing! Kelly, Bonnie Plants

Sabrina

I am new to this gardening thing. I planted 4 broccoli seedlings and while my plants are nice and big, I am not getting any heads on them. Just more leaves. Can you suggest something or am I just being impatient? Thanks!

Emily

I live in Michigan and planted my broccoli in April. While the plants are very large and look healthy, they haven’t flowered yet. Am I missing something? I feel like I have a bunch of duds. Is there something I should be doing differently? We’ve had a warmer than usual spring/summer. Could that be the problem?

Kelly Smith Trimble

Hi Emily,

Have the plants created broccoli heads? You actually don’t want your broccoli to flower. When it does, that means the plant is done. Read our article “The Secret Life of Broccoli” for more info about growing this plant. I hope this helps!

Kelly, Bonnie Plants

Brandon

Sometimes, any vegetable variety may take longer or even produce sooner than labels say. Broccoli, I have found, does not “grow by the rules”. Last year my broccoli produced at different times and, even though I planted mine in late April, mine didn’t head until late July (if I recall correctly). Do not give up on your plants, although it may be a good idea to give them a dose of fertilizer higher in nitrogen or spread some partially decomposed grass clippings around the base of the plant. Good luck and happy growing!!

hal

my brocolli head was looking, but not quit big enought to pick . but now it has gone to little yellow flowers? whats up?

Kelly Smith Trimble

Hi Hal,

This is called bolting, and broccoli plants do this when the weather heats up or when it gets too cold. Broccoli is a super-sensitive plant! Learn more about this in the Troubleshooting tab above and in our article “The Secret Life of Broccoli.” Happy growing!

Kelly, Bonnie Plants

Karen

Would red bark or peat moss be a good mulch for broccoli? and what other plants?

Kelly Smith Trimble

Hi Karen,

While peat moss is sometimes used as a soil amendment, it’s actually not a good mulch because it can wick moisture away from the soil. I am not sure what you mean by red bark, but I think you’d be interested in reading our article on organic mulch, which will give you some good options for mulching your vegetable garden. Happy growing!

Kelly, Bonnie Plants

Valery

This year it got so hot in the spring. I tend to plant early. I get really anxious for my own veggies. But my broccoli still bolted and flowered. It wasn’t even fully grown. And the leaves look like swiss cheese. What is eating my plants up? And can I keep the same plants for a fall crop? Providing the bugs leave me the plants. Valery

Kelly Smith Trimble

Hi Valery,

Yes, the heat really does cause those cool-season crops to bolt. The holes in the leaves could be from cabbage worms, which attack all members of the cabbage family, including broccoli. You can remove the worms by hand (you’ll usually find them on the undersides of leaves) and also spray with bacillus thuringiensis (BT), an organic control, according to label instructions. You shouldn’t keep these same plants after they’ve bolted (they don’t produce again after being cut back) and especially not if you’ve had a pest problem. You’ll need to plant again in fall. Read our article about broccoli secrets for more tips on growing broccoli. Happy growing!

Kelly, Bonnie Plants

Candice

Ive planted broccoli and cauliflower from seed and the plant is doing great, we may have had some super warm weather lately so there isn’t too much growth in the way of edible florets, however the leaves on these plants are massive, my question is can I trim down some of the leaves without damaging the plant itself?

Kelly Smith Trimble

Hi Candice,

Congrats on your broccoli and cauliflower. You must be in a northern climate to be growing these crops in late June. Do you want to trim the leaves because of space in the garden? We typically discourage unnecessary pruning, because it can lead to problems with diseases and pests. Maybe you can keep the leaves on the plant and keep watching for those heads to form. Happy growing!

Kelly, Bonnie Plants

GreenThumb Verdad

Do I just need to put 1 broccoli seed in each hole, or should I put 2 in a hole?

GreenThumb Verdad

Thank you. Yes my entire garden is from Bonnie starters, save the few seeds I just planted. I am very pleased with the results.

Jackie

my sons girlfriend planted broccli, and it looks like long green and has small yellow floweres but the flowers are only two or three together? weed or not? thnakyou jackie

Kelly Smith Trimble

Hi Jackie,

It sounds like your son’s girlfriend’s broccoli is flowering. Look above at the Troubleshooting tab for a photo of a broccoli head beginning to flower. Does this look a little like what you’re seeing? As the head really starts flowering, the little yellow blooms appear, as you’re describing. Broccoli and other cool-weather crops flower as the temperatures heat up. You should go ahead and cut the head from the broccoli stem. I hope this helps!

Kelly, Bonnie Plants

Comments are closed.