Cauliflower is a cool-weather crop that requires 55 to 100 days of cool, even temperatures to reach harvest.
Start cauliflower seed indoors 6 to 10 weeks before the last frost in spring. Transplants can go into the garden 2 to 6 weeks before the last frost, usually 6 weeks after sowing.
Direct seed cauliflower into the garden where the soil temperature is between 65°F and 75°F and the weather will remain cool.
Crops for a fall harvest can be direct-seeded 8 to 12 weeks before the first expected frost in fall. Transplants come to maturity in 55 to 80 days; from seed, cauliflower requires 70 to 120 days.
About Cauliflower. Cauliflower is a cool-weather half-hardy biennial grown as an annual. Cauliflower is grown for its edible buds which form a solid head atop single stalks. Heads are sometimes called curds. Heads can be cream, white, purple, or green colored. Broccoflower is a hybrid cross between a cauliflower and broccoli; broccoflowers have green heads.
Cauliflower Yield. Plant 1 to 2 plants per household member.
Site. Cauliflower grows best in rich, well-drained, moisture-retentive soil with a pH within the 6.5 to 8.0 range. Plant cauliflower in full sun. Broccoflower prefers partial shade. Add aged compost to planting beds before planting.
Cauliflower Planting Time. Cauliflower requires 55 to 100 days of cool, even temperatures to reach harvest. Start cauliflower seed indoors 6 to 10 weeks before the last frost in spring. Cauliflower germinates at 45°F. (Cauliflower is usually grown from transplants.) Transplants can go into the garden 2 to 6 weeks before the last frost, usually 6 weeks after sowing when plants have 4 to 5 true leaves. Direct seed cauliflower into the garden where the soil temperature is between 65°F and 75°F and the weather will remain cool. Crops for a fall harvest can be direct-seeded 8 to 12 weeks before the first expected frost in fall. Cauliflower does not like extremes of temperature, hot or cold; it does not tolerate dry conditions. Plant cauliflower in autumn for a winter harvest where winters are mild and frost-free. Extreme temperatures will cause cauliflower to bolt and go to seed.
More tips: Planting Cauliflower.
Cauliflower Planting and Spacing. Sow cauliflower seeds ½ inch deep and 2 to 3 inch apart. Thin plants to 15 to 24 inches apart; space rows 24 to 30 inches apart. Set leggy or cooked-stemmed transplants deeply, up to their first leaves, so that they will not grow top-heavy. For succession crops, plant a couple of heads at a time or plant early and midseason varieties at the same time.
More tips: Cauliflower Seed Starting Tips.
Companion plants. Beets, celery, herbs, onions, potatoes. Avoid pole beans, strawberries, tomatoes.
Container Growing Cauliflower. Grow cauliflower in a container at least 8-inches deep. In large containers, plant cauliflower on 18-inch centers.
Caring for Cauliflower
Cauliflower Watering and Feeding. Cauliflower requires evenly moist soil for uninterrupted, vigorous growth and head formation. Do not let the ground dry out. Add aged compost to the planting bed before planting and as a side dressing again at midseason.
Cauliflower Care. Keep cauliflowers planting beds free of weeds. Avoid deep cultivation which can damage roots.
White cauliflower is often blanched to keep the heads white and to protect the heads from rain and too much sun; blanching does not improve flavor greatly. Blanch white cauliflower varieties when the head gets to be about the size of an egg: draw three or four leaves over the head and secure them with a rubber band. Check the heads weekly to make sure pests are not hiding under the leaves. Self-blanching cauliflower does not need to be tied but it will not blanch in hot weather.
Cauliflower Pests. Cauliflower can be attacked by cutworms, cabbage loopers (preceded by small yellow and white moths), and imported cabbage worms. These pests can be controlled by fine mesh row covers, handpicking, and spraying with Bacillus thuringiensis.
Cauliflower Diseases. Cauliflower is susceptible to root rots–an initial symptom is the yellowing leaves. Plant disease-resistant varieties, keep the garden free of debris and avoid handling plants when they are wet. Remove and destroy infected plants immediately so they cannot spread disease to healthy plants. Downy mildew which occurs in cool, wet conditions can cause cauliflower head to brown.
More on cauliflower pests and diseases: Cauliflower Growing Problems: Troubleshooting.
Harvesting and Storing Cauliflower
Cauliflower Harvest. Time from planting to harvest is 55 to 100 days for cauliflower grown from transplants 85 to 130 days for cauliflower grown from seed. Under good growing conditions, the heads develop rapidly to about six to eight inches in diameter. The mature head should be compact, firm, and white. Cut the whole head from the main stem. The leaves can be cooked like collards or cabbage.
More tips: How to Harvest and Store Cauliflower.
Storing and preserving. Cauliflower will keep for one week in the refrigerator unwashed and wrapped in plastic. Cauliflower can be frozen, pickled.
Cauliflower Varieties to Grow
Check the cultivar to be sure it is suited to the growing season: spring, summer, and autumn, or winter.
- White: ‘Candid Charm’ (75 days); ‘Cashmere’ (52 days); ‘Dominant’ (68 days); ‘Inca White’ (70 days); ‘Incline’ (76 days); ‘Majestic’ (66 days); ‘Ravella’ (70 days); ‘Rushmore’ (51 days); ‘Self-Blanche’ (70 days); ‘Serrano’ (63 days); ‘Sierra Nevada’ (68 days); ‘Siria’ (65 days); ‘Snowball’ (59 days);’ Snow Crown’ (50-68 days); ‘Snow King’ (60 days);’ Pak’ (62-85 days); ‘Solide’ (67 days); ‘Starbrite’ (68 days); ‘Super Snowball’ (55 days); ‘White Rock’ (69-100 days); ‘White Sails’ (68 days); ‘Yukon’ (71 days).
- Purple: ‘Burgundy Queen’ (70 days); ‘Sicilian Purple’ (85 days); ‘Purple Cape’ (200 days); ‘Violet Queen’ (55-65 days).
- Green and Broccoflower: ‘Chartreuse’ (62 days).
Common name. Cauliflower
Botanical name. Brassica oleracea botrytis
Origin. Europe, Mediterranean
Handy tips to take to the garden: Cauliflower Growing Quick Tips.