Cauliflower (Brassica oleracea, botrytis group) are part of the Brassicaceae family which are also called "Brassicas," "crucifers," and "cole crops". This family also includes broccoli (Brassica oleracea, italica group), Brussels sprouts (Brassica oleracea, gemmifera group), cabbage (Brassica oleracea, capitata group), kohlrabi (Brassica olereacea, gongylodes group), kale, and collards (both Brassica oleracea).
For more growing tips on vegetable varieties, visit our Vegetable Growing Guide.
Habit: Upright, short stemmed, head forming
Days to Harvest: 50 to 80
When to Plant: All brassicas are cold tolerant to some degree. For spring/summer harvests, start seeds indoors 6 to 9 weeks before last frost and place in the garden 1 to 3 weeks prior to last frost. For fall/winter harvest, sow seeds directly in the garden 10 to 12 weeks before first frost.
Light: Full sun
Soil: Well-drained soil amended with compost.
Watering: Keep well watered. Mulch helps keep roots cool and moist during hot weather.
Fertilizing: Regular fertilizing with a liquid fertilizer at half strength is helpful, especially with broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower, which are best grown quickly.
Pest Problems: Cabbage loopers and imported cabbageworms are voracious caterpillars that can make alarmingly short work of the leaves. Their color camouflages them on the plant perfectly, so you'll notice their damage before you find them. The use of floating row covers from planting time to harvest means that the adult moths cannot access plants to lay eggs; you can also spray plants with hot pepper or garlic spray, but this must be done at the appropriate time. Check with your state's extension service to find out when the pests emerge in your area. Slugs are also fond of broccoli (part of the Brassicas family). Handpick them at night, or trap them with beer or soda in a saucer nestled into the soil overnight.
When to Harvest: Harvest when heads have reached full size but before they loosen. One week before cauliflower is to be harvested, its leaves should be bundled around the florets and secured at the top to keep the head white.
For complete growing instructions of each vegetable in the Brassicas family, please see our individual growing guides below.