Cauliflower is trickier to grow than its relatives because it doesn’t like it too hot… or too cold. Homegrown, freshly-harvested cauliflower from the garden is worth the effort of learning how to grow cauliflower successfully.
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How to Successfully Grow Cauliflower
When to plant cauliflower
To grow cauliflower successfully, it needs at least two months of cool weather (60 degrees is ideal) to mature. Cauliflower is a cool-weather crop in the Brassica family. (Brassicas include collards, kale, kohlrabi, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts).
For a spring crop:
- Start cauliflower seeds indoors six weeks before the last spring frost.
- Transplant seedlings 2-4 weeks before the last spring frost.
For a fall crop:
- Start cauliflower seeds indoors up to 14 weeks before the first fall frost.
- Plant transplants 6-8 weeks before the first fall frost date, but after daytime temperatures are below 75°F. Provide shade during warm weather.
Plant cauliflower from seed or transplant
- Plant seeds up to ¼ inch deep and 12-24 inches apart in compost-rich soil.
- When choosing transplants at the nursery, avoid ‘leggy’ transplants. Instead, look for compact green leaves on a short stem.
- Plant transplants 18-24 inches apart at the same level as nursery pot, or slightly lower if the seedling is leggy.
How to grow cauliflower in Arizona
Snowball, Snow Queen, and Snow Prince are cauliflower varieties that do well in the low desert of Arizona. Try purple or colored varieties such as ‘Violetta.’
- Start seeds indoors: August – December
- Plant seeds outside: September 15 (or when nights begin to cool off) – November
- Plant transplants outside: September 15 (or when nights begin to cool off) – January
How to take care of cauliflower plants
- Water carefully around plants, and avoid wetting leaves.
- Cauliflower likes a steady supply of moisture; do not let beds dry out between waterings.
- Soak plants to a depth of 6 inches for large tender heads.
- Adding a thick layer of mulch helps garden beds retain moisture.
- Do not disturb roots.
Cauliflower responds well to a monthly feeding with an all-purpose fertilizer. I like this fertilizer from Amazon.
Is it necessary to blanch cauliflower?
Cauliflower heads in some varieties can discolor if they are exposed to sunlight. To prevent this discoloration, try blanching (it’s not as hard as it sounds).
How to blanch cauliflower:
When cauliflower head is visible and about 2 inches wide, clip outer leaves together with a clothespin to cover head and keep out of sunlight. Clip loosely and check occasionally for pests and growth, or to let the head dry out after a rain.
Harvest cauliflower at the correct time
Cauliflower is usually ready to harvest when the head is about 6 inches across and the head is compact, firm, and white.
If the head begins to separate, harvest immediately; it will only continue to separate and deteriorate in flavor.
- To harvest cauliflower, cut the stem below several sets of leaves with a sharp knife.
- Unlike broccoli, cauliflower doesn’t produce side stems after the main head is harvested, so remove the remaining plant from the bed by cutting at the soil level.
- Cauliflower will store for about a week in the refrigerator.
- To freeze, follow the instructions for how to freeze broccoli (blanch for 3 minutes).
For recipes to make the most of your home-grown cauliflower, check out this post.
If you’ve tried growing cauliflower before without success and you are wondering what went wrong, check out this post
sally a weaver
Friday 16th of July 2021
should I trim some of the large bottom leaves that are close to the ground? it's pretty full
Friday 16th of July 2021
If they are damaged, then yes - remove them. Otherwise the leaves provide the energy for the growing cauliflower and it's best to leave as many as you can.