Brussels Sprouts (Brassica oleracea, gemmifera 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), cauliflower (Brassica oleracea, botrytis 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: Tall, long stemmed, leafy "sprouts" form in the leaf axils along the stem
Days to Harvest: 90 to 110
When to Plant: All brassicas are cold tolerant to some degree -- the flavor of Brussels sprouts is even improved by some exposure to frost. One of the final crops planted in spring. Time planting so that they can be harvested after a few light frosts by calculating back from your average first frost date using the estimated days to harvest indicated on the seed packet to figure out the approximate date you should direct-sow it in the garden.
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: As heads form along the stalk, break off the leaf below each one as it swells to allow room for it to grow. Individual sprouts should be harvested when they are large, before the leaves loosen and aphids can set in. After a light frost, the entire stalk may be harvested.
For complete growing instructions of each vegetable in the Brassicas family, please see our individual growing guides below.