Why Is My Cabbage Plant Giving Tall Sprouts?

Sprouting is essential to plant growth as it relays minerals, starch, and vitamins from the soil to the plant. However, tall sprouts in cabbage plants can cause alarm as they indicate unhealthy growth. This might force you to harvest the cabbage prematurely to prevent the plant from going to seed.

Your cabbage plant is giving tall sprouts because of over-fertilization, insufficient light, or stress. These factors make the plant produce more leaves than necessary, stunting the cabbage heads’ growth.

In this article, I’ll discuss the causes of tall sprouts in cabbage plants along with their remedies. I’ll also provide some tips for growing healthy cabbage plants, so make sure to keep reading until the end.

Also read: Why Are My Cabbage Leaves Turning Purple?

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Causes of Tall Sprouts in Cabbage Plants

Tall sprouting in cabbage plants hinders the development of the heads. Poorly-developed cabbage heads, or lack thereof, result from environmental stressors the plant experiences. Consequently, the harvest is also affected.

The leading causes of tall sprouts in cabbage plants are discussed below:


Cabbage plants are heavy feeders and require a lot of nutrients, especially nitrogen, to grow properly. However, too much fertilizer can lead to tall sprouts. This is because the excessive fertilizer produces more leaves than necessary, stunting the growth of the heads.

Nitrogen is the main culprit of tall sprouts in cabbage plants. Excessive nitrogen speeds the growth of plants and makes them spindly. This is evidenced through lanky foliage growth instead of the normal fuller appearance.

Nitrogen concentration in the soil is an essential factor to consider before fertilizing your cabbages. You might want to test your soil first if you live in areas with high nitrogen concentrations like Missouri, Wisconsin, and Indiana. This is to ensure that you’re not over-fertilizing your cabbage plants.

A soil test is the best way to determine the nitrogen concentration in your soil. You can either do it yourself or have it done by a professional.

A soil test will help you figure out the nutrient levels in your soil, allowing you to amend it if necessary.

Other symptoms of over-fertilization are:

  1. Yellow leaves
  2. Small heads
  3. Leaf roll or cupping
  4. Stunted growth
  5. Thick stems
  6. Small leaves

Check out: How To Save a Freezing Cabbage Plant?

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Insufficient Light

Cabbage plants need at least six hours of full sun daily. The University of Minnesota states that plants need this light for photosynthesis (which produces energy). Without this energy, cabbages grow spindly and produce fewer heads.

Plants growing in places with insufficient light develop long spaces between the nodes and the leaves. These spaces are called internodes. The longer the internodes, the taller the plant will grow.

Light green leaves are a surefire way to confirm that your plants are deprived of light.


Cabbage plants are also susceptible to stress caused by various factors like extreme temperatures, pests, and diseases. These stresses force the plant to produce more leaves as a defense mechanism. The result is a tall and spindly plant with fewer cabbage heads.

High temperatures, for instance, force the plant to use its energy to stay cool instead of developing heads.

On the other hand, pests and diseases damage the plant and hinder its ability to produce food. These stresses make the plant produce more leaves to compensate for the lost energy.

Planting the Cabbages Too Close

Spacing is an essential factor when planting cabbages. Maintaining the right amount of space ensures that the plants have enough room to grow and develop properly.

Cabbages compete for water and nutrients when planted too close, leading to taller sprouts. They also become more prone to pests and diseases because of the lack of air circulation.

Generally, you should space your cabbage plants 15-27 inches (381-685.8 mm) apart. This will give them enough room to grow without having to compete for resources.

Have a look: How To Grow Cabbage in Containers?

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How To Prevent Tall Sprouts in Cabbage Plants

The main reason for planting cabbage plants is to harvest their heads. Consequently, anything that affects head growth, like tall sprouts, will directly impact the yield. You can prevent excessively tall sprouts by:

Using the Right Quantity and Type of Fertilizer

Deciding on the right quantity and type of fertilizer for your cabbage plants can be challenging. These plants are heavy feeders and need a lot of nutrients, especially nitrogen, to grow properly. However, the nitrogen concentration in the soil varies from place to place, making it hard to generalize the amount of fertilizer to use.

A soil test is the best way to determine the right quantity and type of fertilizer you’ll need. This will help you determine the nutrient levels in your soil and make amendments accordingly.

If you find that the soil has enough nitrogen for the growth of plants, you can use a fertilizer with a higher concentration of phosphorus and potassium. This will help the plants develop strong roots and resist pests and diseases.

On the contrary, if the soil is deficient in nitrogen, you can use a fertilizer with a higher concentration of this nutrient. This will help the plants develop strong leaves and prevent them from becoming stressed.

Mulching the Soil

Mulching is one of the best ways to conserve moisture in the soil and prevent tall sprouts in cabbage plants. It also helps regulate the soil’s temperature and control weeds’ growth.

Mulching involves covering the soil around the plants with a layer of organic material like straw, leaves, or wood chips. This layer will help preserve the moisture in the soil and prevent evaporation.

It’s essential to mulch your cabbage plants when they’re young and actively growing. This will help prevent the growth of tall sprouts and ensure that the plants develop properly.

Check out: How To Get Seed From Cabbage Plant

Providing Sufficient Light

Lighting is another crucial factor that affects the growth of cabbage plants and the production of tall sprouts. These plants need at least six hours of direct sunlight every day to grow properly.

However, in some cases, the plants may not get enough light because of the weather or the time of year. In these cases, you can provide artificial lighting using grow lights.

Using grow lights is an excellent way to ensure that the plants get enough light, even in winter.

Spacing the Seedlings Appropriately

Cabbage plants need enough water, nutrients, and sunlight for proper growth, including developing the correct sprouts. Sufficient spacing is one way to provide these conditions.

As mentioned, you should space your cabbage plants 15-27 inches (381-685.8 mm) apart to allow for proper growth. The rows should be between 23 and 35 inches (584.2 and 889 mm) apart.

This spacing will eliminate competition for nutrients and light, preventing the formation of tall sprouts.

You can also thin out the seedlings once they have germinated and are a few inches tall. Thinning involves removing some seedlings to provide more space for the others to grow. This will ensure that the plants have enough space and resources for proper growth.

Read: How Do I Know if My Cabbage Plant Is Dying?

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Tips for Growing Health Cabbage Plants

The following tips will help you grow healthy cabbage plants that produce the correct type of sprouts:

  • Grow in the right location: Cabbages perform well in well-drained and fertile soil. You should amend the soil with manure before planting to aerate it and improve drainage. It must also be an area with full sun.
  • Choose the suitable variety: There are many varieties of cabbage, each with its own characteristics. Make sure to choose a variety that is suited to your climate and growing conditions. The key factors to consider include the amount of rain and temperature.
  • Plant at the right time: Cabbages are cool-season plants that should be planted in early spring or late summer. Planting at the wrong time can result in bolting, which is when the plants produce tall sprouts.
  • Water regularly: Cabbage plants need to be watered regularly to prevent them from becoming stressed. The soil should be kept moist but not waterlogged. You can avoid water logging by irrigating only when the top 2 inches (50.8 mm) of soil become dry.
  • Apply fertilizer: Applying fertilizer substitutes the soil with the essential nutrients the plants need for proper growth. You should fertilize your cabbage plants every few weeks to ensure they have all the necessary nutrients. However, you should test the soil first to determine the right amount of fertilizer to use.
  • Mulch: Mulching is one of the best ways to conserve moisture in the soil and prevent tall sprouts in cabbage plants. It also regulates soil temperature and prevents weeds from growing. You should apply a layer of mulch around the plants after transplanting.
  • Prevent cabbage pests: Aphids, caterpillars, and slugs are some of the most common pests that attack cabbage plants. You can prevent them by using row covers or insecticidal soap.
  • Harvest at the right time: Cabbage heads are ready to harvest when they are about six inches (152.4 mm) in diameter. You can confirm maturity by gently pressing on the head with your fingers to see if it’s firm throughout. Most cabbage plants are ready for harvesting after 82 days.
Cabbage Plant Tall Sprouts
Cabbage Plant Tall Sprouts

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Tall sprouts in cabbages indicate that the plants are not receiving the right conditions for proper growth. The most common causes include insufficient spacing and sunlight. Tall shoots hinder the development of the cabbage heads.

You can prevent tall sprouts by spacing the plants correctly and providing full sun. Alternatively, you can thin out the seedlings after germination for proper growth. The goal is to reduce sprouting as much as possible in an effort to achieve fluffer heads and increased harvest.