How to Plant and Care for Brussels Sprouts

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Without a doubt, brussels sprouts are known for their love-hate relationship. You either adore the flavor of these mini cabbages, or you detest it. If you’re in the percentage that can’t stand these little globes, this info isn’t helpful. However, if you’re in that group that loves these green beauties, you really should try your hand at growing your own.

Growing brussels sprouts isn’t nearly as common as beans, or radishes, or tomatoes. They can be a little tricky to grow in the garden, but don’t let that dissuade you. Everything you will want to know about planting and caring for brussels sprouts is right here at your fingertips!

Brussels sprouts can be successfully grown with the proper care.

General Info

Known as a “cole crop,” brussels sprouts (Brassica oleracea ‘gemmifera’) are in the Brassica family, along with broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, and kale. They are a relatively newer vegetable; records trace them back to the 13th century. The plants are thought to be descendants of wild Mediterranean kale, first growing in the Brussels area.

There are many popular brussels sprouts varieties, varying in their time to maturity and tolerance to heat and drought. When picking a type to grow, always consider your local climate and the length of your growing season. Plants that mature quicker are an excellent option if you have a short growing season but typically yield less. 

  • ‘Bubbles’ (88 to 90 days): heat and drought tolerant, resistant to rust and powdery mildew, and grows 2-inch sprouts.
  • ‘Churchill’ (90 days): grows fast and matures early, yields over 14 ounces per plant, adaptable to many climates.
  • ‘Diablo’ (110 days): known for its reliability and heavy production of medium-sized heads.
  • ‘Falstaff’ (98 days): has a red/purple hue that holds when cooked
  • ‘Jade Cross’ (87 to 100 days): deep-green, smaller sprouts on a disease-resistant, compact plant. Tolerant of heat and drought.
  • ‘Long Island Improved’ (80 to 115 days): heirloom, high-yielding, semi-dwarf plant with self-supporting stems.
  • ‘Oliver’ (85 days): shorter growing season, early-maturing variety with sweeter sprouts that are easy to pick.
  • ‘Royal Marvel’ F1 (85 days): very productive plant, dark-green sprouts, resistant to tip burn and bottom rot.
  • ‘Rubine’ (85 to 95 days): heirloom plants are late-maturing, producing sweet, purplish sprouts. Lower yielding than green varieties.
Plump and crisp brussels sprouts that look like mini cabbages


Growing brussels sprouts is tricky because of timing. They are a cool-weather crop, growing best in Zones 2-9. The challenge, though, is they have a long growing season but prefer cooler weather between 45 and 75°F. You must time planting for either a spring harvest or a late fall harvest, avoiding plants growing in the heat of summer to prevent bolting.

When determining planting dates, assume plants need three to four months from germination to maturity, and then plant accordingly.

  • In areas with mild winters (temperatures rarely drop below freezing), plant seeds in January or February for a spring June harvest. For a late fall or winter harvest, direct sow or start seeds indoors in August.
  • In areas with cold winters, it’s best to plant for mid-fall or early winter harvest; a spring harvest is challenging to achieve. Start seeds in early to mid-summer; usually, July is a good time.

Starting Seeds Indoors

If you choose to start brussels sprout seeds indoors, you want to time planting about 3 to 4 weeks before moving the seedlings outdoors to your garden. Starting them indoors is helpful in areas with a shorter growing season or cold winters, allowing you to get a jump start on the long season.

  1. Fill a container almost full with a premoistened potting mix or coconut coir.
  2. Sow seeds ¼ to ½” deep and three inches apart, covering them gently with growing media.
  3. Mist the potting soil using a spray bottle.
  4. Place the seeds where the temperature is at least 70-72°F, or slightly above.

Soil Preparation

Brussels sprout plants like well-drained, fertile soil with a slightly acidic soil pH (between 6.5 and 6.8 is optimum). About a week before transplanting or direct sowing, work two to three inches of decomposed manure or finished compost to a depth of at least eight inches. If your soil needs fertilizer, work in a slow-release formula too.

Hardening Transplants

About a week before it’s time to transplant seedlings outdoors, start acclimating them to the outdoor conditions. Set your plants outdoors in a protected yet sunny spot for a couple of hours, gradually increasing the length of time they’re outside, and bring them indoors at night. Hardening them like this helps minimize transplant shock.

A seedling that is growing in the ground after being transplanted

Plant Spacing

Since plants grow between two and three feet tall, they need plenty of space to prevent shading neighboring plants. It’s recommended to space them 18 to 24” apart within rows, with 30” between rows. If you are direct sowing, place seeds 3-inches apart in rows and thin plants when the seedlings are about 6-inches tall.

Caring for Brussels Sprout Plants

Many gardeners say that growing brussels sprouts is trickier than other vegetable plants like tomatoes and peppers. While this is true, the toughest part is timing planting and harvesting around cool weather. Caring for plants is similar to other cabbage crops or common vegetables. They need plenty of sunlight, water, and fertilizer, with minimal competition from weeds and pests.

Sun Requirements

Like most of the other commonly-grown garden vegetables, brussels sprouts grow best in full sun areas. Plants want a minimum of 6 hours of sunlight every day but will grow better if they get even more. They will tolerate partial shade, but growth is hindered, and the harvestable crop will be smaller.

Watering Frequency

Watering requirements for brussels sprouts are similar to other garden veggies. During the growing season, give plants about one to one and a half inches of water weekly. The goal with watering is keeping the soil evenly moist without it being soggy or waterlogged. Try to keep moisture off the foliage; instead, it’s best to water the soil around the plants.

Proper watering is crucial to a successful growth.


Brussels sprout plants are classified as heavy feeders because of their rapid vegetative growth. They need soil nutrients frequently replenished to fuel this growth. At a minimum, feed them twice during the growing season. For best growth, feed monthly with a high-nitrogen fertilizer that contains boron. Plants need more boron than other vegetables to prevent hollow stems and tiny buds.


These plants develop a shallow root system, so they can’t access nutrients or water deep within the soil. Because of this, weeds pose a significant threat since they compete for these resources. Keep your planting bed free of competitors, pulling weeds by hand instead of hoeing to avoid damaging the roots.

Pest and Disease Management

One of the challenges with growing sprouts is pest management. Not surprisingly, they are susceptible to the same bugs plaguing other Brassica crops, including aphids, cabbage loopers, cabbage worms, cutworms, flea beetles, harlequin bugs, and thrips. Covering plants with row covers or using aromatic companion plants helps to minimize infestations.

Sprouts are relatively disease-free but are susceptible to powdery mildew and clubroot disease. Powdery mildew is easily treated with a fungicide containing sulfur. Practice crop rotation to minimize clubroot, keeping in mind it can stay active in the soil for numerous seasons.

Here you can see that they are growing on the stalk, not being bothered by any pests


The globes will begin maturing from the bottom of the stalk upwards. They are ready to harvest once the vegetables reach 1 to 1½ inches in diameter. Once they are mature-sized, hard, deep green, and compact, you can snap, twist, or cut off sprouts using clean, sharp scissors. Make sure to harvest before the leaves start turning yellow.

After harvesting, store unwashed sprouts in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to five days. For long-term storage, you can blanch the sprouts and freeze them or pickle them and can them in jars. 

Growing Tips

  • Remove the lower leaves from the stalk to speed up the development of the edible sprouts.
  • Wait until after the first frost in the fall to harvest brussels sprouts for improved taste.
  • After the initial harvest, remove all of the leaves up to the bottom buds. Removing the bottom leaves encourages upward growth and the production of more sprouts.
  • Add mulch or straw to the soil to keep soil temperatures down and retain soil moisture.
  • If a hard freeze is forecasted, pull up the entire plant, roots, and all. Then hang the stalk upside down someplace cool and dry to extend your fall harvest.

Companion Plants

Brussels sprouts benefit significantly from carefully selected companion plants. The best companions are usually aromatic or ones that act as a natural trap for common pests. Using companion plants helps to eliminate or control insect problems, reducing the need for chemical pesticides. Other cabbage family members are also good options.

  • Basil
  • Beans
  • Carrots
  • Chives
  • Dill
  • Garlic
  • Marigolds
  • Mint
  • Mustard
  • Nasturtiums
  • Onions
  • Peas

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About the author: Carley Miller is a horticultural expert at TheGreenPinky. She previously owned a landscaping business for 25 years and worked at a local garden center for 10 years.

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I can’t find Bubbles Brussel Sprouts seeds for sale anywhere. Do you of any vendors that still sell the seeds?Bubbles is one of two varieties that have done well for me in Central Florida. The other was Nuggets, but I can’t find seeds for either for sale now. Thanks