Growing Cauliflower in pots or containers – 13 Steps

The cauliflower belongs to the Brassicaceae family of vegetables originating in ‎the Northeast Mediterranean island of Cyprus and gradually traveling into parts of Europe like Italy and Spain. It was not until late 1600s that the cauliflower made its way into The United States of America. In 2018, the total annual consumption of cauliflower in the United States was a whopping 3.08 pounds per person!

Growing Cauliflower in pots
Growing Cauliflower in pots

The word Cauliflower means “Cabbage Flower” in Italian. It is an annual plant that belongs to the same family as Broccoli, Cabbage, Kale, Brussel sprouts and other leafy vegetables. Usually, it is only the head of the cauliflower plant that is consumed. It can easily be grown in gardens or by using containers as well.

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With urbanization comes space constraint and hence growing cauliflowers in pots or containers can be a great way to save space as well as create your own container-grown vegetable garden.

Growing cauliflower in pots or containers – 13 Steps

For propagation purposes, this tasty and nutritious vegetable can be grown both by using seeds and also by transplanting. Although the Cauliflower is naturally a cool-weather vegetable, over the years many hybrid varieties have been bred by farmers which makes them comfortable to grow in both tropical and tepid climates.

Growing cauliflower in pots or containers is a rather simplistic task and can be performed by any amateur gardener.

Step #1: Starting cauliflower plant by using seeds

For a spring crop, the seeds can be started indoors about 10 weeks before the last frost date. Start the same seeds about 12 weeks prior to the first frost if you are looking for an autumn crop. It is advised to use hard plastic pots to grow your cauliflowers.

After sowing the seeds and adding the potting mix, remember to leave a 1-inch space from the top and not fill the pot upright till its brim. Next, you can place about 4 seeds in the center of each pot and then cover them gently with additional soil. The soil must be kept moist at all times but not overwatered. Once the seeds start to germinate, they will require a great deal of light to grow.

Place your container in a spot that receives plenty of natural light, or provide your plant with a bright artificial indoor light. Once the seedlings are about 2 inches tall you can remove the weak ones and maintain only one or two of the healthier plants to continue in your container.

Growing Cauliflower from seeds
Growing Cauliflower from seeds

Step #2: Starting cauliflower plant by using transplanting method

The easiest way to start your Cauliflowers in containers is by transplanting the seedlings into your home containers. Seedlings can be purchased at a nursery or the seeds can be germinated at home.

Either way, the transplanting needs to be done about 30 days before the last average frost date for a spring crop, and for an autumn crop, the transplanting needs to be done 6 weeks before the last average frost date.

Step #3: Choosing right container

The roots of the cauliflower do not crawl deep into the soil while the plant itself spreads wide. Therefore, the ideal container should be chosen keeping these significant features in mind.

The container that you choose to grow your cauliflower plant in need not be more than 12 inches deep however its diameter should be 12 to 18 inches long in order to allow your plant to grow freely. Ensure that your container possesses enough drainage holes at the bottom for the excess water to flow out easily avoiding the rotting of the roots.

In some cases, 2 to 3 Cauliflower plants can be grown in large buckets, Whiskey Barrels, and sometimes even large enough sacks.

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Step #4: Picking the ideal location

The Cauliflower plant enjoys 6 to 8 hours of sunlight on a daily basis. Place your container on a sunny window sill or balcony area. During the hot summer months, you can move your plant to a spot that gets 4 to 6 hours of partial sunlight. Take the utmost care to provide your plant with all its requirements in order to enjoy its produce without any hindrance.

Step #5: Knowing the optimal temperature

The Cauliflower is known to be a cool weather plant and keeping in line with its reputation it thrives in the temperature of 70 -85 degrees Fahrenheit. When starting the seeds of the cauliflower, the ideal temperature should range between 50 – 85 degrees Fahrenheit while the ideal temperature during the maturing of the heads should be between 58 – 68 degrees Fahrenheit.

It is to be remembered that for sweet and tasty cauliflower produce, as well as its appearance, high temperatures should be definitely avoided as it will alter your plants quality and taste.

Step #6: Giving it the right soil

Plants hailing from the Brassica oleracea family are very choosy about their soil type and the Cauliflower is no exception!

It thrives best in a light and loose, humus enriched potting mix that contains properties of clay. Choose any commercial soil that contains compost, peat, fine bark or perlite, and your cauliflower will be good to go! It is important that the potting mix holds in the necessary moisture and nutrients and at the same time provides good drainage.

Alternatively, you can add 1/4th part peat moss to any ordinary potting mix. The caution has to be exercised not to use garden soil as it is too compact and does not allow air to circulate to the roots of the Cauliflower that desire it so.

Step #7: Providing the correct amount of water

Since the Cauliflower plant thrives in moist soil, regular watering is a necessary requirement especially during the seed germination period and at the time of the head formations. Dry soil can affect the growth and production of the heads giving you cauliflowers that are sparse and small and let’s face it, not that tasty.

You must stay clear of overwatering too as that is dangerous for your cauliflower. It can make the roots of the plant soggy and eventually cause them to rot.

The ideal way to water would be to keep a vigilant eye on the soil. When you notice that it has started to dry up, immediately provide water until the excess water starts to drain out from the bottom. In hot and dry weather the soil will dry up quicker hence you do need to monitor your plant closely.

Step #8: Fertilizer needs of the Cauliflower plant

The Cauliflower likes to be fed nutrients on a regular basis. While planting, add some compost or well-rotted manure to your potting mix. The same should be added after a few weeks into the growth period of the plant. A well-balanced water-soluble fertilizer can do wonders!

Feed it to your plant once a month and watch it thrive to its fullest! Of course, keeping in mind all of its other needs.

Step #9: Keeping in mind Mulching and Blanching

When growing Cauliflowers in pots or containers, you can opt to skip the process of mulching all together. However, if you do decide to indulge, it can only additionally help in regulating the soil temperature giving your plant its ideal conditions to thrive. In effect, your plant will stay protected from extreme temperatures, hot or cold.

Blanching is a process performed only on white-colored Cauliflower heads when they have grown to about 2 to 3 inches in diameter. This is done in order to protect them from the harsh sun and other conditions. Blanching is referred to as the action of plucking a few of the cauliflower leaves and covering the cauliflower heads with them. This act results in healthy and wholesome produce that is full of flavor!

Some varieties of the Cauliflower are “self-blanching”. The leaves of these varieties naturally curl up around the head forming a sort of canopy giving it the protective cover required to secure the head. If this does not occur naturally, then you need to carry out the blanching method for your Cauliflower heads.

Step #10: Protecting your container-grown Cauliflowers from Pests and Diseases

The Cauliflowers in your containers are quite prone to being infested by pests such as the flea beetles, cabbage butterfly, moths, aphids and whiteflies. A common disease that can completely destroy a Cauliflower plant is called Clubroot. This can be controlled by using good quality soil in the containers and steering clear of powdery mildew. Powdery mildew can negatively affect your cauliflower plant by attacking the leaves.

You can avoid this by ensuring the leaves do not remain constantly damp. Refrain from watering the leaves of the plant and instead, water the soil directly. The other types of disorders noticed in Cauliflowers are black rot, black leg, and black leaf spots. These disorders can be detected by observing your Cauliflowers. Such infections can cause stunted head growth, hollow stems, browning, and “button heads”.

Step #11: Watch out for Button Heads

Button Heads is a common occurrence when growing Cauliflowers in pots or containers. Causing stress to your Cauliflower plant by providing irregular or fluctuating temperatures can result in either no production of headsor merely small button heads.

To avoid such a situation certain effective steps can be followed. Firstly, the moisture levels in the soil need to be monitored and maintained. Not only the top but also the root level of the soil should be taken into consideration.

The temperature provided to your Cauliflower in containers should be constant at all times. This helps in the growth of the cauliflower heads. Keeping in mind that most varieties of the Cauliflower do not tolerate hot weather, you need to start your plant in early spring.

Lastly, head formation is greatly affected by the nutrients provided to the soil while planting and during fertilizing. Hence, make sure that this aspect is not ignored. Taking care of your plant can go a long way and continue to provide you with delicious and healthy produce throughout the season!

Step #12: Following proper tactics to harvest

There is no particular time of the year to harvest Cauliflowers. The maturing of your produce depends solely on the season that they have been planted in, the Cauliflower variety, and the climatic conditions. Generally speaking, the Cauliflower in your container should be ready for harvesting in around 3 to 4 months after planting.

When the Cauliflower head is 6 to 8 inches in diameter, it is advisable to harvest it as this is the time when the head is at its prime. You can use a pair of clean and sharp scissors to cut the Cauliflower head. Ensure to cut low enough so that a few of the leaves are cut along, accompanying the cauliflower head. After harvesting the edible flower, you can reuse the rest of the plant to make compost.

An important point to remember here is never to reuse the same soil to grow another Cauliflower or any other plant belonging to the same family as this would only result in producing diseased plants. However, this soil can be used to grow vegetables such as peas, beans, lettuce or tomatoes.

Step #13: Best ways to storage your Cauliflowers after harvesting

Cauliflower cannot be stored for long periods of time. They are best kept wrapped in plastic in the refrigerator. Freshly harvested cauliflowers can last up to 2 weeks if stored correctly. After about a week, you can cut them into smaller florets and move them into sealed boxes.

These are the tips for Growing Cauliflower in pots.

Choosing right variety when growing cauliflowers in pots or containers

Cauliflowers come in hundreds of ancient and new-age varieties that are frequently grown across the United States. North Carolina University in North America, holds a record of growing and maintaining an extensive list of over 80 such Cauliflower varieties.

Growing cauliflowers can possess commercial value for gardeners and farmers across the world.

Growing Cauliflower in containers
Cauliflower vegetables

Cauliflower colours and their various types

Cauliflowers come in a variety of distinctive colors with white being the most common one. The whiteheads of the cauliflower plant are often referred to as “curd” due to its resemblance to cheese curd. In this White category of cauliflowers, the ones that are most popularly grown in containers are –

  • Snowball Cauliflower – This universally grown white variety was first bred in America in the 1890’s and to this day, is the most popular self-blanching cauliflower to be grown in containers. It requires fertile and well-drained soil, plenty of sunlight, and a cool climate to thrive. The Snowball can be harvested in 60 to 70 days from the germination of its seed.
  • Snow King Cauliflower – This variety of Cauliflowers is heat tolerant and is ready to be harvested in a short period of 50 days from the time that it is planted. It is an All-American Award-winning plant whose heads can weigh up to 1 kg! A fully mature Snow King’s head measures about 8 – 9 inches in diameter.
  • White Corona Cauliflower – This variety of Cauliflowers produces very small heads about 3 to 4 inches and needs a short growing period of around 30 days by when it is ready to be harvested. It has smooth whiteheads and is one of the fastest-growing variety out there

Besides the traditional white, Cauliflower is also found in colors of orange, green, and purples. The Orange variety has originated from Canada and has a high content of beta-carotene which is an organic orange pigment seen in other crops like carrots, sweet potatoes, papayas, and apricots. Under this group, a popularly grown variety is the –

  • Cheddar Cauliflower – This variety of orange Cauliflowers also known as the Orange bouquet. It has a mild and creamy taste and comes packed with Vitamin A. It does well when grown in containers. This is a self-blanching type of cauliflower that comes entirely covered by its leaves. Give them full sun with moist and well-drained soil adding a touch of nitrogen fertilizer. Your orange wonders will be ready to be harvested in 50 to 60 days.

The Green cauliflower, also known as ‘Broccoflower’ is a popular growing vegetable in America and Central Europe since the 1990s. This category of Cauliflowers requires 80 to 100 days to mature and be harvested. The various types under this category include –

  • Alverda Cauliflower – This variety has the most uniformly assembled heads in bright lime green in color. The heads of the Alverda are so unique and of great quality especially when harvested in the cooler weather. It can take up to 100 days to fully mature and be ready for harvesting.
  • Green Goddess Cauliflower – This is a hybrid variety that takes 60 to 70 days to mature for harvesting. It does not require blanching and can grow with the least amount of fuss. The Green Goddess is known for its exquisite taste and is popularly consumed roasted and in salads or pureed.
  • Vitaverde Cauliflower – This compact variety with its bold and bright green curd has a mildly sweet flavor. You can grow this plant throughout the summer without losing its qualities. It requires nutritious well-drained soil and is known to be heat tolerant. The head is heavy and strong and can be cooked in no time

And finally, the Purple cauliflower. This surreal vegetable gets its color from the presence of a substance called the anthocyanin which is water-soluble and is found in various other species such as the red cabbage, blueberries, and eggplant skin. While growing purple cauliflowers in pots or containers you can consider the below varieties –

  • Graffiti Cauliflower – One of the most visually enamoring vegetables out there, the Graffiti Cauliflower is grown across the United States for its appearance and place in our raw vegetable platters or salads. The plant is fairly large in size and can grow up to 18 inches in height. The heads can grow up to 8 inches and hence each plant must be spaced well. The Graffiti Cauliflower can mature within the first 2 months of germination giving it a wide window of time and flexibility for harvesting. It does well in humid weather conditions and requires well-drained moist nutrient-rich soil.
  • Violet Queen Cauliflower – This variety of Cauliflowers grows quite aggressively when given the right conditions. A firm, rich, and well-drained soil with full sun is all it needs to thrive. Besides its edible purple heads, the leaves of the Violet Queen can also be consumed. When cooked the florets lose their purple color and turn green.
  • Purple Cape Cauliflower – This delicious and hardy Cauliflower type is native to South Africa and was first introduced in the 1800s. They produce large purple heads bursting with exquisite flavor. The heads can weigh up to 1.5 kgs and can take a long time to grow and mature. It is an insect-resistant winter heading plant, whose seeds have become difficult to find.

What are the benefits of growing cauliflowers in pots or containers?

Now, we will see what are the benefits of growing cauliflowers in pots or containers?

The Cauliflower is recognized for its immense nutritional value and that explains the increasing interest to grow this vegetable at home and in containers.

Although generally, it is the green leafy vegetables that get all the healthy credits, the cauliflower plant is a hidden gem! It has definitely captured our attention for being high in nutrition and found its rightful place for its beneficial powers. Cauliflower has a high content of Vitamin C and K and boasts of the presence of folate and fiber.

Cauliflowers contain phytochemicals and antioxidants which help the human body to fight against chronic diseases such as cancer. It helps maintain a healthy heart and digestive system. Cauliflower can be eaten raw, steamed, baked, roasted, or fried. It holds a special place in multiple cuisines where it is used as the main ingredient for soups, salads, and stir fry or as side dishes, appetizers, and accompaniments.

The Cauliflower plant produces a single head per plant and does not regrow using the same stalk. While growing Cauliflower in pots or containers this needs careful consideration. Compared to other vegetables that are grown in containers, the produce of Cauliflower is limited in quantity.

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Owing to its multiple health benefits and loving nature goes the saying “Most flowers say “I love you” but cauliflowers say “I hope you live forever” and that’s more intense than love.” I hope these 13 steps and detailed guide helps to Grow Cauliflower in pots or containers.