fresh cauliflower
Updated: June 10, 2021

Planting cauliflower facts

  • Hardiness: Semi-hardy (can withstand light frosts, but not heavy frosts or freezing). Biennial (a plant that requires two growing seasons to complete its life-cycle) but treated as an annual. 
  • Planting: Set out 5- to 7-week-old transplants 3 to 4 weeks before the frost-free date. Seed in beds or flats for fall transplanting or direct seed into garden soil. Planting stressed, overly-mature transplants and planting too early in spring may result in "button heads" (more information below).  Full sun requires direct light at least 6 hours/day; prefers 8 - 10 hours/day.
  • Days to maturity: 50 - 80 from transplanting.
  • Spacing: 18" - 24" in-rows x 24" - 36" between rows.
  • Fertilizer needs: High requirement for nutrients, either from soil organic matter or fertilizers. Use starter fertilizer when transplanting, and side-dress three weeks later and as needed.  Refer to Fertilizing Vegetables for details.
  • Approximate yield (per 10-foot row): 8 to 12 lbs. per 10 ft. row.

Cauliflower problems: 

Cabbage looper
Flea beetles
Harlequin bug
Imported cabbageworm

Growing and care of cauliflower

  • Many gardeners experience "buttoning" of cauliflower heads in the spring. This is a failure of the cauliflower head to gain in size after it reaches about an inch or less in diameter, usually due to environmental stress such as overgrown transplants, or hot and cold temperatures during the head formation period. Mid-Atlantic gardeners generally have better success with fall production. The seed for fall cauliflower should be sown in early July with transplants set out in the garden from late July to early August.
  • Blanching - intense sunlight can cause heads to turn yellow or purple. Blanch cauliflower when the head is about 2 inches across. Pull three to four large outer leaves up over the head and fasten with a rubber band, or break over the top of the cauliflower and tuck in on the other side of the curd. Blanching time is normally 4 to 8 days but may take longer in the fall. If the weather is warm during the blanching period, tie the leaves loosely to allow air circulation. Self-blanching cultivars that have leaves that grow up over the head may eliminate the need for this practice.

Harvesting cauliflower

  • Cut before flower sections begin to separate. The curd should be compact, firm, white, and fairly smooth.
  • Leave a ruff of leaves surrounding the head when harvesting to prolong keeping quality.
  • Cauliflower heads become grainy when overly mature.

Storage

  • Very cold, moist (95% Relative Humidity) conditions, 2 to 4 weeks.