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Endive and Escarole Seed Starting Tips

Endive in rows 1
Endive seed starting escarole
Endive seedlings

Endive and escarole grow best in the cool weather of spring and fall.

Endive and escarole are different forms of the same plant. Escarole is broad-leaved with smooth margins and a mild flavor. Endive has frilly-cut leaves and a bitter flavor.

Planting for fall and winter harvest may be the best course unless you get an early start by sowing seed in late winter for spring harvest. Endive and escarole that come to harvest as the weather warms at the end of spring and in summer can be tough and bitter tasting. Hot weather will trigger bolting and seed-stalk formation. Bolting can be slowed but not stopped by picking the oldest leaves first.

Endive and escarole mature in 85 to 98 days depending on the variety.

Endive and Escarole Sowing and Planting Tips

  • Endive and escarole seeds are viable for 6 years.
  • Endive and escarole can be grown from seeds or transplants.
  • Start plants indoors 8 weeks before the last frost or direct sow into the garden as soon as the soil can be worked—usually about 4 weeks before the last frost in spring.
  • The optimal growing air temperature is 50°-75°F (10-24°C).
  • Sow seed ¼ inch (6 mm) deep.
  • Sow seeds 1 to 2 inches (2.5-5 cm) apart; later thin seedlings to 6 to 9 inches (15-23 cm) apart.
  • Seed germinates in 19 to 14 days at or near 70°F (21°C)—but sometimes seed can take up to 2 weeks to germinate if the soil is cold.
  • Keep the soil evenly moist until seeds germinate then keep the soil moist until seedlings are well established.
  • For intensive planting space plant 10 inches (25 cm) apart in a staggered pattern.
  • Make sure there is good air circulation around maturing plants to avoid disease.
  • Endive and escarole grow best in full sun but can tolerate light shade.
  • Endive and escarole prefer a soil pH between 6.0 and 6.8.
  • Add aged compost to planting beds in advance of sowing; compost will feed the soil and aid moisture retention.
  • Avoid planting endive and escarole where radicchio has recently grown.
  • Make successive sowings every few weeks for an extended harvest.
  • Fertilize with an organic fertilizer such as fish emulsion at half strength.
  • Aphids, flea beetle, leafhoppers, snails, and slugs can attack endive and escarole.

More tips at How to Grow Endive and Escarole.

Interplanting: Interplant with non-heading lettuce, radishes, turnips, and parsnips.

Container Growing: Grow one plant in a 6-inch (15 cm) pot or grow more than one spaced 10-inches apart in a large container.

Endive and Escarole Planting Calendar

  • 12-10 weeks before the last frost in spring: direct-sow seeds in a plastic tunnel or cold frame for late spring harvest.
  • 8-6 weeks before the last frost in spring start seed indoors for transplanting out later.
  • 4-2 weeks before the last frost in spring: direct sow in the garden; minimum soil temperature should be 45°
  • Every 2 weeks from spring to early summer sow succession crops.

For mid- to late fall and winter harvest:

  • 10-8 weeks before the first frost in fall: direct-sow seed in the garden.
  • 8-6 weeks before the first frost in fall: direct sow in a plastic tunnel or cold frame for harvest in winter.
Endive seedlings seed starting
Seed start endive and escarole indoors 8 weeks before the last frost or direct sow into the garden as soon as the soil can be worked—usually about 4 weeks before the last frost in spring.
  • Endive type: ‘Green Curled’, ‘Frizz E’, ‘Neos’—all with frilly leaves; ‘Rhodos’ is mild flavor.
  • Escarole type, ‘Batavaian Full-Heart’; ‘Broad-leaved Batavian’; ‘Coral’ thick, broad leaves; ‘Sinco’ crisp, good flavor; ‘Taglio’ tolerates warm weather, good flavor.

Botanical Name: Cichorium endivia

Endive and escarole belong to the Compositae (Asteraceae) or sunflower family.

More at How to Harvest and Store Endive and Escarole.

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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