Growing Lettuce

growing lettuce in the garden

If you grow only one vegetable other than tomatoes, it should be lettuce. Growing lettuce is so easy, takes up little space, and you can even grow it among flowers.

Lettuce grows for many weeks in the mild weather of spring and fall. Leaf lettuce is easy to tuck in between and under taller vegetables, and is perfect for containers. See our online catalog for more about the different types.

Soil, Planting, and Care

You can space lettuce closer together or further apart depending on how large you want your plants to grow.

Lettuce plants adapt to their spacing. For largest plants, space at the maximum distance given on the label.

Although lettuce grows fastest in full sun, it is one of the few vegetables that tolerates some shade. In fact, a spring crop often lasts longer if shaded from the afternoon sun as the season warms. You can grow lots of lettuce in a small space, even a container. Mix it with other taller plants, such as tomatoes in the spring, or grow a mix of different varieties for a living salad bowl.

Give lettuce fertile, well-drained, moist soil with plenty of rich organic matter and a pH between 6.0 and 7.0. To check pH, test the soil with a purchased kit, or get a soil test through your regional Cooperative Extension office. Fertilize and lime according to test recommendations.

If you don’t do a soil test, then assume that the soil isn’t ideal. Add nitrogen-rich amendments such as blood meal, cottonseed meal, or composted manure. Leaf lettuce needs nitrogen to grow tender, new leaves quickly, so fertilize throughout the growing season with Bonnie Herb, Vegetable & Flower Plant Food.

In the spring, begin setting out lettuce plants about a month before the last frost. Lettuce grows best within a temperature range from 45 to about 80 degrees. Hot weather makes it bitter; extreme cold freezes it. When well rooted, some Bibb types such as Buttercrunch will tolerate a surprising amount of frost.

Lettuce bolts and flowers when the weather gets hotter. Bolted lettuce doesn’t taste good.

Lettuce may bolt when weather warms. This bolted lettuce was left in the garden to flower. Bolted lettuce will taste bitter.

Plant fall lettuce beginning about 4 to 8 weeks before the first frost. If you use a cold frame or row cover, gardeners in many areas of the country can grow lettuce through the winter.

Lettuce spacing is not an exact science, but Bonnie varieties tend to do best with spacing between 6 and 18 inches (depending on type, so check the tag). Generally, you should space plants far enough apart so that they can grow to full size. However, many gardeners plant lettuce much closer together, preferring to harvest leaves continuously before they reach full size. The plants adapt to their spacing.

For the most tender, succulent leaves, water regularly during dry weather. Also, mulch to keep the soil cool and moist, and prevent weeds.


Plant lettuce in containers alone or mixed with flowers and herbs.

Lettuce leaves are as pretty in the garden as they are on your salad plate. This cool-weather container combo includes lettuce, pansies, and parsley.

The most common lettuce pests are aphids. They love the tender leaves and like to hide on the undersides and down in the crown of the plants.

Harvest and Storage

Harvest the outer leaves of lettuce plants first.

Harvesting leaves from the outside of the lettuce plant is the best way to get a continuous supply from your garden.

You can harvest leaf lettuce from the outside of the plant, leaving the central bud to grow more leaves, or you can cut the entire plant at the base. Leaf lettuce is ready to eat at just about any size, and you can pick the baby leaves for tender salads. Romaine lettuce forms its characteristic mid-rib before harvest; at full size it makes an upright leafy clump. Bibb types such as Buttercrunch form a loose head; you can harvest anytime, but for the classic Bibb rosette, wait until the lettuce is nearly full size (6 to 8 inches in diameter) and cut it at the soil line.

The same is true for heading iceberg types; however, in warm climates where head lettuce doesn’t make a firm head, you can harvest it like a leaf lettuce, removing leaves as they get large enough to eat.

Lettuce tastes sweetest in cool weather, which is why it is such a great fall crop. As the weather warms, plants will go to seed. By the time they begin to stretch and send out a seed stalk (called bolting), the leaves are bitter. When this starts to happen, harvest all your lettuce immediately and try storing it in the refrigerator, where some of the bitterness may disappear.

Get gardening info on the go with our free app, HOMEGROWN with Bonnie Plants. Find out more, or download it now for iPhone or Android.


Is leaf-type lettuce easier to grow than the head-type?

Yes. Leaf lettuce generally matures fast, which makes it ideal for home garden production. Most leaf-type lettuce varieties will mature in seven to eight weeks, but can really be harvested anytime you see leaves big enough to eat. Just take off the outer leaves and let the inner leaves stay to get bigger. Head lettuce varieties take a little longer and are more sensitive to warm weather.

The tips of my lettuce leaves are turning brown, but the base looks healthy. What is the problem?

Browning, or scorching around the margins of leaves is often caused by too little water. During dry weather be sure to water and keep the soil mulched. If the plants are getting enough water, perhaps the roots have been injured from too much fertilizer, nematodes, or too close cultivation. A lack of potassium and calcium can also cause the margins to scorch.

My lettuce plants have grown tall and flowered. What should I do?

It’s time to pull your lettuce up. The flowering stalks form at the end of the spring growing season when the days are longer and warmer.

My lettuce tastes bitter. Is it the variety?

No, all lettuce gets bitter during hot weather and when the flower stalks begin to form. You can store the leaves in the refrigerator for a day or two to see if some of the bitterness will disappear. Some gardeners like the slightly bitter taste to add punch to a salad.




A friend of mine suggested that I try growing lettuce from seeds in a small plastic container. It’s kind of a tiny terrarium. It comes with dirt pods, you put the seeds in, add water, put on the plastic cover and wait. After about two weeks, I had something that looked like tiny bean sprouts growing. Then, my friend said to add a tiny bit of fertilizer, which did. Now, the spouts are limp and just lying in the dirt. I’m wondering if I should move them outside so they can get more sun, or if they were too tall for the lid and that was a problem. Any suggestions you have would be greatly appreciated. This is my first year trying lettuce, so I’m a bit discouraged. Thanks!

Danielle Carroll

Hello Anita,
Starting seeds indoors can be a bit tricky. If the seedlings were hitting the top of the lid, then yes, the lid should have been removed. Once seeds have germinated, you must provide ample light. I am not so sure moving your seedlings outside is going to help. If they are still on the ground, you may need to start with new seeds. Take a look at these tips from Mother Earth News – on growing a quick crop of lettuce in small plastic containers. – danielle, Bonnie Plants

James K

I have some outback lettuce and believe its ready to harvest…I harvested one plant already but it just didn’t taste right. ..I washed it real good and it still seemed to taste a little like dirt. ..also…I’m not too sure how to harvest the lettuce as this is my first garden…any help would be appreciated

Danielle Carroll

Hello James,
Outback is a variety of romaine. You can harvest from the outside of the plant a little at a time OR you can harvest all at one time. Romaine lettuce forms its characteristic mid-rib before harvest; at full size it makes an upright leafy clump. If the plant is mature, just cut off at the bottom and enjoy. Lettuce does tend to get a little bitter or earthy tasting after it has matured. Harvest soon! – danielle, Bonnie Plants

Aiya Bowman

Three years ago I got a lettuce plant for my garden. It tasted okay, maybe a bit bitter. I just let it go to seed and didn’t think anything about it for another six months. Once our growing season started lettuce was everywhere. It covered my garden, was growing in our lawn, was anywhere that got a bit of water. It was a weed but at least a useful weed. Every day I make a salad or put a few leaves on my sandwich. This year lettuce is growing all over my neighborhood. I see it growing in-between the cracks in the asphalt and in my neighbor’s front lawns. I can’t really pick every single lettuce plant I don’t need but I don’t want it to be growing everywhere either. Should I get rid of my lettuce plants once they start flowering and hope it doesn’t get too bad elsewhere or is there a better way to control my lettuce?

Danielle Carroll

Hi Aiya,
If you do not want the lettuce to reseed, you will need to harvest the lettuce before it flowers OR harvest the seed before it falls. Then you are in control of the seeds! – Danielle, Bonnie Plants


Pick the lettuce that you don’t need and donate it to a food pantry. The food pantries in our area love getting local gardeners extras.

Sean Quire

Thank you for such an informative website. I have an idea which I am not 100% sure about. I have a farm in West Africa where I grow peppers and tomatoes but I will like to start growing iceberg lettuce and package themin baggeg like loose salad leaves. I fear because of the extreme heatwaves here the plants will bolt so I thought of harvesting them young or as baby lettuce, chopping them up, bag and seal. Now my question is at what age does lettuce bolt in heat? Do young lettuce/baby lettuce bolt as well?

Thank you

Danielle Carroll

HI Sean, Great ideas! Optimal growth for most lettuce varieties occurs at temperatures of 55 to 65 °F. Young lettuce has the same requirements. -Danielle, Bonnie Plants

Sean Quiee

thank you Danielle. How can I avoid bolting while growing my lettuce in a tropic region; do I harvest it before maturity? Or what steps could be taken to avoid bolting.

I will also like to know the best way to package and store my lettuce to avoid it going bad fast.

Danielle Carroll

Harvesting it earlier is one idea – the use of shade cloths is used in a lot of the warmer regions. This is a publication from Hawaii Extension on commercial lettuce prodcution – with notes on shade cloths and packaging that I think may help you out! – Danielle, Bonnie Plants


Can you plant the lettuce in flower pots in the house? I appreciate any help. Thanks

Danielle Carroll

Hi Monica,
Lettuce is a great veggie to grow in containers. It can be grown in the house with special attention. The most importat thing – lighting. Most veggies needs at least 6 hours of sun everyday to grow healthy. Make sure the pot is placed in a very sunny location (like a South facing window). Sometimes additional lighting is needed. Remember, lettuce grows best when grown under cooler conditions (65-70 degrees F). If you do not have the room outdoors, edible window boxes make a great space saving alternative too! – Danielle, Bonnie Plants


Hello. Is it to late to grow lettuce? I ask because I can’t find lettuce plants in my area of Corona CA.

Danielle Carroll

Hi Kimberly,
Here is a planting guide from your state of California exension. Looks like you are on the tail end of lettuce planting in your area. Fall is also a great time to grow. -Danielle, Bonnie Plants


I have had great success growing grape & patio tomatoes in “whiskey-barrel” containers on my condo balcony. Am I to understand from this article that I could plant lettuce in the same container(s) & get good results from both plants? If so, any specific type of lettuce recommended over others? Thanks.

Danielle Carroll

Hi David,
Yes, you can grow lettuce in your whiskey barrels. Check out this container with lettuce, pansies, and parsley! Because of lettuces’ small stature, it all grows well in containers although I am partial to Red Sails and Romaine.
-Danielle, Bonnie Plants


Thank you, Danielle. A follow-up question. Is it advisable to grow Romaine in the same barrel as a tomato plant, or best to grow them seperately? FYI, I’m in Northern VA, just outside of DC.

Mary Beth

Hi David,
You can grow romaine and many other items underneath tomato plantings. In fact, many gardeners should, as this is a way to make the most of your space while you wait for the tomato to grow larger and fill in. Basil, oregano, chives and many other herbs or leafy greens would be great companions at the base of your plant. ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants


My husband is on blood thinners and can’t have lots of vitamin K. Iceburg lettuce is the lowest in K as far as I know, but I can’t find any for sale in zip code 32771. Does it not grow in Florida?

Danielle Carroll

Hi Margie,
Loose leaf varieties of lettuce like Red Sails and Romaine (and Buttercruch – loose head) will grow better in the warmer areas. Iceberg lettuce will grow in these same areas, but does not form the tight head it is known for.
-Danielle, Bonnie Plants

Jeff T

We will be attempting to grow our 1st crop of Romaine lettuce this spring.
my question is this…
Ive purchased established plants from Bonnie at my local Home Depot.
Is it possible to introduce these little beauties directly into my garden now with overnight temps dropping through the upper 20’s , or should i leave indoors and wait just a bit longer ?

Jeff T

It might help to know we live in Harford county Maryland.
any additional help & tips will be greatly appreciated…Thanks a “Bunch”

Mary Beth

Hi Jeff. Lettuces can withstand cooler temps than you might think. High 20s would be the threshold. If you are certain that the nights won’t go below that, get busy planting. If you’d like to play it safe, or if you might have a lower pocket or microclimate that is cooler than the local TV forecast predicts, wait a little longer. You might enjoy this article, “These Vegetables Take a Chill.” Happy Spring! ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants


Last year, I had hundreds of aphids on my lettuce. Any tips on organically ridding my lettuce of the unwelcome guests?

Danielle Carroll

Hi Jorge,
You are not alone. They love the tender leaves and like to hide on the underside and down in the crown of the plants. Letting beneficial insects do the work for you is a great way to get a nice balance in your garden. However, sometimes the enemy aphid gets out of hand. Sometimes a spray of water with the garden hose is enough to knock the aphids off. You may also try insecticidal soap available in most stores with a garden section. Although it is an organic insecticide, always follow the label directions carefully.
-Danielle, Bonnie Plants


I had slugs and I had to kill the lettuce how can I stop it?

Danielle Carroll

Hello Beth,
Those pesky slugs! Snails and slugs like the moisture. You can try placing cardboard around the garden. Slugs and snails are attracted to the dark moisture underneath. Check it in the mornings and discard the cardboard…and the slugs.
Beer is also used as a slug/snail attractant. Haven’t found a brand that works better than others 🙂 Bury the bowl so it is at ground level. Snails and slugs will crawl into the bowl of beer. Discard the pests and refill.
The best control for slugs and snails is to use the slug and snail baits. The baits are found readily in most stores. Pay careful attention to the label and make sure it is labeled to use in the veggie garden (not all slug/snail baits are). More advice for gardeners can be found on this blog!
– Danielle, Bonnie Plants


Hi there
Reading your site with much interest.
I’m growing romain lettuce varieties in South Australia and we are about to come in to our cooler months with winter about 2-3 months away.
Just so I get this right. When the lettuce bolts that’s it? Can we harvest the seeds and plant them again or do I now have to pull the roots out and buy new lettuce plants?
Ideally I’m looking for a leaf that I can keep cutting off the outside and will continue to yield leaves, a bit like spinach I suppose.
Thanks for your very helpful website.

Danielle Carroll

Hello Ashley,
Seeds of open pollinated, heirloom varieties can be saved. If you grow a hybrid variety, the seeds will not be true. Choose loose-leaf or “cut and come again” types that will form loose, open leaves if you want to harvest and have new leaves form. Check out the harvest and storage tab here.


Can I pick some of the larger outer leaves while waiting for my lettuce to form a head?
Or will this inhibit the growth.

Mary Beth

Hi John,
You most certainly can. It’s your choice, whether you’d like to harvest “from the outside in” and picks leaves at a time, or to wait until a head forms and take it all at once. Make sure you have a “heading” variety like Iceberg or romaine if you are waiting for a head to form! Others are loose-leaf or “cut and come again” types that will form loose, open leaves. ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

Perly B

Im growing iceberg lettuce here in south texas….is already in the 80s hereand im afraid my lettuces will bolt before they get big enough…..can i pick the outer leaves and eat that or I cant do that with iceberg lettuce??

Mary Beth

Hi Perly B,
Sorry this reply seems very late; your comment was sitting in cyberspace. If it’s not too late… Yes, you can eat a few outer leaves of loose-leaf or heading lettuces as they grow, or harvest all at once. Did you iceberg lettuce form a head in the time since you last wrote? ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

Russell Daviess

Can you tell me the lowest temperature that leaf lettuce will tolerate. The temperatures on the east coast are to go down into the teens. I am growing the lettuce in a planter that is in front of and up against the south side of my home.

Mary Beth

Hi Russell,
Lettuce, by nature, thrives in cold weather. Some types of heading lettuces are more “cold hardy” than others, though they should all be fine in the 20s. You may also benefit from a protective southern wall. The good news is that if your nights get too much colder, lettuces in containers are easy to cover, as they are low to the ground and contained in a small area. Hope that helps! Spring will be here soon. ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

Madelynn Allwein

How does lettuce develop? Outer leave grow first then keep on growing, getting larger, while new leaves come out of the center????? Some say lettuce has no stem while others refer to the center stem. This question came up because we questioned why we had to wash the whole head if only the outer leaves were the ones to get ‘dirty.”

Mary Beth

Hi Madelynn,
That’s correct; the new leaves come out of the center. It’s more easily noticeable on those varieties that are looser in form than those that form tight heads. You can also see a more defined stem when the plant decides to bolt and grow upright to bloom and set seed. It’s a good idea to wash everything picked from the garden, as dirt particles do find ways into the smallest crevices, or to remove any traces of invisible liquids. If you have a wandering neighborhood cat who might like to mark your territory, for instance. . . (I’m kidding about the last part; it’s just a good idea to wash first as one grain of sand or grit can ruin a great fresh homegrown salad.) Happy growing, Mary Beth / Bonnie Plants


I have planted romaine, and it is doing quite well, though I have found on the underside on the outside and inside leaves a bunch of small, dark bugs. I harvested some leaves and one entire stalk, washed them thoroughly, and then made a soap spray and applied to the rest. What might these bugs be, and is what I did ok? I want to give some away, just want to know it is safe.

Mary Beth

Hi Rick,
Is there any damage to your leaves or are they simply hiding within them? Insecticidal soap, or homemade soapy water treatments are good measures for preventing pests on edibles like lettuce. You’ll have to reapply after rainfall or overhead watering but it is a simple, good solution. After washing the lettuce, it is perfectly fine to eat. However, let’s figure out what these small, dark insects are. For identification, you can send a photo to Ask An Expert service, where we work with an Extension agent to answer your regional questions via email with photos. Thank you. ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants


There is very sporatic leafe damage, aka small pin holes, and some browning. I checked out a site on aphids, and it appears that they are what are on the lettuce. Thanks for your help


I planted several iceberg lettuce plants. I thought they were suppose to turn into a ball like the iceberg lettuce we buy out of the store. But they never did. All the leaves are growing up and some of them are bolting. What happened to them. Have I lost the ones that have grown very tall and seeds on top?

Mary Beth

Hi Viola,
It sounds like they have indeed bolted and have already flowered and are forming seeds or have flower buds. At this point, you can enjoy them for tall, flowering aster-like plants or pull them up for compost. If you are into saving seed or letting them go to seed, you might have another crop from these. Lettuces bolt when they get too hot. They prefer to grow in cooler temperatures of spring and fall. If fall is still above 75-80 where you live, or they had a few days of unusually high temps, it’s most likely they bolted from that. Thanks for asking and let us know how the rest of your garden grows. ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants


I planted lettuce seeds in one of those seedling containers with about 50 pouches and they all sprouted but after the initial two leaves they haven’t grown any more. They have been at this stage for over a week. What has happened?

Mary Beth

Hi Lorraine,
Starting seeds indoors requires specific light and moisture requirements, as well as sterile soil. We sell transplants of lettuces for those who want a quick and easy, healthy headstart. If you would like to learn more about the details of starting seed for a tasty cut-and-come again garden, this article will be helpful. It sounds like yours probably need a little time and to ensure you have adequate lighting in place. They’ll be edible in four weeks. ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

Mary Beth

Hi Cissy,
We need a little more information to properly identify what’s going on with your lettuce plant, but this document with photos may help. Have you have lots of rainfall or high levels of watering and moisture on the leaves lately? It could be this. Or, if it is on the tips and is simply a tip burn, you can harvest those leaves, cut off the brown areas and eat the rest. Send a photo to Ask An Expert to be sure, so that you can identify if it is something that may carry over to your other plants. ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants


I learned about bolting today. I think that is what my one type is doing. The green butter crunch in the City Garden Mix? The leave keep growing and the stem is getting higher.I tried planting some of it under the dirt to see if it would still grow? There are no flowers or seeds yet, it isn’t that big, but definitely long. We still have cool months so I am going to look for more. Kelly I just love all your help here and my salad. Thank you so much for these help hints!

Mary Beth

Hi Sandy,
Yes, you are correct. What you’ve identified is the beginning stage of bolting. You can harvest the leaves off of that stalk before it gets much taller, as they will get more bitter as the plant goes into bloom. Or, you can consider it a pretty ornamental that will bloom head and shoulders above the rest of your lettuce. Or, you can rip it out and start with another plant to endure your cooler months. Happy Thanksgiving and thank you for joining the conversations on our page! We have a lot of fun over on our Facebook page, too, if you care to “Like” and learn there also. ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants


Why is it the best way to start Butterhead lettuce in hot beds when lettuce seeds won’t germinate when soil and air are hot?

Mary Beth

Hi Locky,
Not sure what you mean by hotbed? Lettuce is a cool-season plant and actually germinates better with soil between 45-70 degrees or so. If you are growing it on a heated seed mat, you may find that the seeds pop up quickly at 90+ degrees but the seedlings will be leggy and weak and the older plant may bolt due to stress. We sell seedlings already started for gardeners. This link from Extension may help you get started with seeds. Happy growing, Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

Donald Buck

Oh I love you very much! (x2)
Yes I do!
Yes how I love it when our lips connect
So let us not stop and let the chorus continue~


My Romaine heads are just begining to bolt. Is it too late? Is there anything I can do to save them?

Mary Beth

Hi Brittni,
While you can’t save lettuce that is bolting, you can enjoy a few more leaves if you cut off the main stalk to slow down the process. It will soon change the flavor and you may not enjoy it’s bitterness. Or, you can enjoy it’s statuesque form and let it bloom, possibly to collect seed if you are interested. It’s a good idea to constantly replenish your lettuce crop so that you always have a fresh supply of young greens. Hope this helps! ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

Anna Butler

I planted Butter Crunch lettuce last weekend and they looked so pretty in my container pots. Well I get up this morning and the rabbits have found one and crewed it down to a stub. Will it come back or do I need to just put it up and buy another one? I have since gone out a sprayed everything with liquid rabbit/deer fence. Any other suggestions besides this?

Mary Beth

Hi Anna,
Oh no! Bad bunny… They are cute until they eat your dinner. I found a few of their pellets in my lettuce patch this morning, too. It’s hard to say about your buttercrunch without seeing it, but if it’s a “stub” with no leaflets it will probably not grow new leaves. Buttercrunch and head lettuces are usually harvested at once from the main stem, but you can also pinch leaf by leaf from the outer leaves moving in and continually harvest. Only if the “head” or the center stalk is not removed will it continue to grow. Better get another one… As for preventatives, rabbit fencing that also extends into the soil is the only foolproof method, unless you have a garden cat? ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants


I purchased red lettuce and kale. Unfortunately I forgot to water it on 1 hot day. When I realized it, I watered them as soon as I got home. The leaves weren’t crunchy or dried out for the most part. More like limp and withered. Can I still save the plants with watering? Will they become bitter?

Kelly Smith Trimble

Hi Kisha,

I think your plants should be fine. Go ahead and plant them in the ground or in a larger container as soon as possible. If it’s still hot in your area, you might try planting them where they can get some shade. Lettuce and kale both grow well with a little shade. Happy growing!

Kelly, Bonnie Plants

Ramona G

Hi, How do I know when my lettuce is ready to be picked, and how do I pick them? we have the leafy romaine lettuce.

Kelly Smith Trimble

Hi Ramona,

Click above on the “Harvest & Storage” tab for this info. Happy growing!

Kelly, Bonnie Plants


I water my head lettuce every day to every other day and it doesnt look like it should its my first time they get plenty of sun but its somewhat browning it looks no good no more why

Mary Beth

Hi Joe,
Lettuce forms a head when the temperature conditions are favorable; if it gets too hot, it will “bolt” or send up a bloom stalk. Are you having unseasonably warm weather for this time of year? Also, some folks have success with lettuce in the heat of summer by planting it where it can get a little afternoon shade. That may be why yours is browning, or from too much water. There are lots of possibilities, but given the warm weather in most of the country right now it is most likely the heat. Try a leaf lettuce that you can harvest easily leaf by leaf until it gets a little cooler. Sign up for our e-newsletter to get tips, advice and gardening how-to’s if you would like more information from us. ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants


i purchased buttercrunch lettuce in the spring and planted. it didnt turn into a head of lettuce it only started growing taller and taller so i left it for it to turn into a head and now it seems it has bolted. i am not sure if the bottom leaves are still good or not. the tops of a couple of the plants have what looks like buds but others arent budding yet. are the shorter (but still tall) plants edible by chance? would the leaves near the base still be ok to eat? also when i pick some leaves it looks like white liquid is coming out of the picking spot. is this still a good sign as to these leaves being ok to eat? it is my first time growing this and i am a little bit sad it didnt actually grow into a head. when it flowers can i harvest the seeds for later use?

Mary Beth

Hi Kat,
What you are experiencing is a buttercrunch that bolted (grew a bloom stalk to flower and set seed) when the temperatures were too hot. If it is not planted early enough to mature before warmer days of summer, it will indeed bolt. The leaves are usually bitter then and not particularly tasty. I know you are sad, but the best lessons and the ones we remember are the ones we usually learn from mistakes. It’s not your fault the summer decided to get so hot so quickly! Try again in the cooler season of Fall and also try leaf lettuces that are instantly edible and grow back as you cut/harvest them. The white liquid is normal; it is sometimes described as a “milk.” After your lettuce blooms and sets seed, you will see brown, dry, teeny seeds with a white fluff. Let us know how it goes in the Fall! ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

Donna poe

I planted buttercrunch lettuce and has gotten verry tall is that ok when do i pick it this is the first time i have grown it ever will it tast good looks like romane almost

Kelly Smith Trimble

Hi Donna,

If your lettuce plant is getting tall, I am pretty sure that it’s bolting, also called flowering or going to seed. Lettuce prefers cool weather and bolts in warm weather. Look above at the last picture in the “Soil, Planting, and Care” tab to see a photo of a lettuce plant in full flowering mode. At this point, your plant is done producing good lettuce leaves, and it should be taken out and replaced with a warm-weather crop. Happy growing!

Kelly, Bonnie Plants



You helped me out fantastic in the onion forum. I live at 43 north and have had 6 bonnie lettuce plants growing amazingly the last few months… got more lettuce then I know what to do with!

With the last two weeks of heat in the 90’s and the humidex pushing it well over 100, 4 of our 6 lettuce plants have begun to bolt. We harvested all of the outer leaves which were still delicious, but the inner bolt is of course incredibly bitter.

Is it possible to reset the plants? or do we have to replant new plants when it cools down? Would LOVE to have more lettuce. 2 months was just not enough!

Thank you!

Kelly Smith Trimble

Hi Priscilla,

Glad to know you enjoyed your lettuce plants so much! Yes, you should pull up your bolted plants and plant new ones when the weather cools down. Lettuce grows best within a temperature range from 45 to about 80 degrees. Happy growing!

Kelly, Bonnie Plants


We planted 28 heads of Romain Lettuce. At first they looked great but now they have fallen over and now look live vineing lettuce plants. What on earth did we do wrong?

Kelly Smith Trimble

Hi Alicia,

Take a look at the last photo in the Soil, Planting, and Care tab above. This photo shows a bolted lettuce plant. Do your Romaine lettuce plants happen to look like this? If so, your plants have simply started flowering due to the hotter weather of summer. Lettuce prefers cool weather and will start going to seed when the temperature rises. If this doesn’t look like what’s going on and you think you have another problem, send your question, preferably with a photo, to our Ask an Expert service.

Happy growing!

Kelly, Bonnie Plants


I planted Romaine Lettuce in planters outside (in the spring). They are growing nicely, however, the leaves that I have picked are very dark and bitter. Also, there is white stuff (looks like glue) coming out of the stems when I pick them. I live in Albuquerque, NM. Could it be way too hot to grow Romaine? Thanks!

Kelly Smith

Hi Sue,

It could be that your climate right now is too hot for growing lettuce. Lettuce doesn’t grow well in temperatures above 80 degrees. Were the plants growing well earlier in the spring when temps were cooler? If you think it might be a bigger problem with a disease or pest, send your question, preferably with a photo, to our Ask an Expert service, but it sounds like hot weather to me. Try again in the fall! Happy growing!

Kelly, Bonnie Plants

Kelly Smith

Hi Hal,

Are you growing Iceburg lettuce? I’m not sure where you live, but if the weather is already hot, this could be the cause. Head lettuce needs to be harvested in spring when the weather is still cool. This rotting could also be the result of soggy soil caused by overwatering or lots of rain. Do any of these sound possible? If you can, harvest and eat those nice outer leaves and go ahead and remove the rotten head from your garden.

Kelly, Bonnie Plants

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