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How to Grow Lettuce

Wondering how to grow lettuce? You’ve come to the right place. Having fresh lettuce in your garden is so convenient, and you won’t wonder if it’s been recalled due to contamination. 

Learning how to grow lettuce is simple – it doesn’t require much room and grows well in almost any container. Learn how to grow lettuce in your garden and containers with these six tips.

How to grow lettuce

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6 Tips for How to Grow Lettuce

1. Plant lettuce at the right time

Lettuce is a cool (not cold) season crop; it thrives when temperatures are between 60℉ and 70℉ (15.6℃ and 21.1℃). Hot weather often causes lettuce to bolt and/or become bitter. Look for heat-resistant varieties when growing in warm climates. Begin planting lettuce four weeks before the last spring frost date. Plant lettuce again in the fall in warm climates. 

In the low desert of Arizona:

Perpetual Herb, Fruit & Vegetable Planting Calendar Zone 9b
  • PLANTING GUIDE: Each month lists vegetables, fruit & herbs to plant outside & seeds to start indoors.
  • HARVEST GUIDE: Photos show what may be ready to harvest that month.
  • Planting dates are for the low desert of Arizona (zone 9b).

2. Try different varieties of lettuce

Leaf Lettuce
Leaf Lettuce
Iceberg Lettuce
Head Lettuce
Butterhead Lettuce
Butterhead Lettuce
Romaine Lettuce
Romaine Lettuce
  • Leaf Lettuce – Easiest type to grow. Harvest leaves all at once or a few at a time. Types to try: Burgundy Boston; Red Salad Bowl Mix.
  • Head Lettuce – Most difficult type to grow; very sensitive to warm weather. Types to try: Iceberg is the most common variety.
  • Butterhead Lettuce – Tightly folded heads of leaves. Mild flavored, subtle butter flavor. Types to try: Buttercrunch; Tom Thumb (good for containers).
  • Romaine Lettuce – Tight, tall bundles of thick leaves. It can be up to 20″ (50.8 cm) tall. Types to try: Paris Island Cos; Red Romaine.

* Click on the seed name to see seeds for each variety. 

3. Choose small transplants or plant directly from seed

Plant lettuce in compost-rich, well-draining soil. Lettuce does best when planted directly from seed

To plant lettuce from seed, plant seeds every ½” (12 mm) or so and lightly cover with soil. Do not let seeds dry out until they germinate. Thin seedlings (enjoy them as baby greens) until leaf lettuce is about 4″ (10.16 cm)apart, head lettuce is12″ (30 cm) apart, and romaine and butterhead lettuce is 6”-8” (15-20 cm) apart.

how to grow lettuce
Plant lettuce from seed

When planting transplants, choose young, small transplants – they are less likely to bolt. Plant transplants at the same depth as nursery containers. Space leaf lettuce transplants 4″ (10.16 cm) apart, head lettuce transplants 12” (30cm) apart, and romaine and butterhead lettuce transplants 6”-8” (15-20cm) apart.

how to grow lettuce

For square foot gardening, plant six leaf types per square foot and two head types per square foot. 

4. Do not allow lettuce to dry out

Lettuce has a shallow root system and requires frequent watering. Dry conditions cause lettuce to become bitter and/or bolt. 

To avoid problems with disease, try not to get water on the leaves when watering. Water in the morning if possible.

bolting lettuce
how to grow lettuce

WHAT IS BOLTING? When a plant is under stress from lack of water, temperature, or other environmental factors, the plant may prematurely produce a flowering stem that produces seeds. Once a plant bolts, it often becomes inedible and bitter. Plants that may bolt include lettuce, cilantro, spinach, arugula, and celery

5. Harvest lettuce a little at a time or all at once

When you harvest your lettuce right before eating, you don’t have to worry that the lettuce has gone bad. Lettuce is a great choice for the “cut and come again” method. Harvest outer leaves as needed and allow them to regrow for future harvests. To harvest the entire plant, cut off with scissors 1/2” above the soil line.

lettuce harvest

6. Add lettuce to almost any container

Because lettuce has a shallow root system, it is a good choice for containers. 

  • self-watering container gives lettuce ready access to the water it needs.
  • Do not allow lettuce in containers to dry out.
  • Use good quality potting soil. 
  • In warm weather, choose a shady spot for your container-grown lettuce.
  • Planting in containers also avoids many problems with pests
Container grown lettuce

Visual planting guides for vegetables, herbs, fruits, flowers & vines.

If this post about how to grow lettuce was helpful, please share it:

m kelly

Tuesday 31st of May 2022

How can you stop slugs from eating lettuce?

Angela Judd

Thursday 2nd of June 2022

This blog post may have some ideas:

Shenal Hooks

Monday 12th of April 2021

So happy I found you! Question, Now that it's April in Arizona, should I pull up my lettuce that is in ground since it has bolted and has become bitter tasting or do I just cut them down leaving the roots and put compost over them? Will they grow back in the fall?

Yvette Smith

Thursday 16th of September 2021

Hello Angela I planted lettuce almost 2 weeks ago and I'm not getting any sprouting. Could it because we had this little hot spell? Also can I try replanting in the same Sq foot in say 2-3 weeks?

Angela Judd

Monday 12th of April 2021

Yes, it's too hot for lettuce now. Rather than pull it up, cut it off at the roots and cover with compost. They won't regrow this fall but leaving the roots in place leaves the soil undisturbed and the roots will add organic matter to the soil.


Monday 11th of January 2021

Any suggestions for how to "fix" bitter lettuce and spinach? I'm on my first garden, and I planted spinach seeds in September and again in December. None have grown any larger than about 1 to 2" leaves (about half the size of what's in the store). Regardless of size, they are gross. Lettuce (romaine and leaf) planted from transplants from HD back in November. Again, they haven't grown much and don't taste good at all. Assuming I under-watered, causing the bitterness, is there a way to fix? Or am I out for this round?

Angela Judd

Monday 11th of January 2021

What's your soil like? That could be a part of it. There is still time to try to get a quick crop in if you want to try again.