If you planted broccoli in your garden this year, you may not have any broccoli heads growing on the plants just yet. In that case, you may be wondering when your broccoli plants will produce broccoli heads, and if there is anything you should do to help them along.
So, when does a broccoli plant produce broccoli? A broccoli plant produces broccoli heads in June or July if you plant in the spring. When growing broccoli from seed, it will take 65 to 90 days to produce mature broccoli heads. If you transplant seedlings into the garden, it will only take 50 to 75 days to produce broccoli heads.
Of course, depending on the variety of broccoli plant you choose, it may take a longer time for your plant to begin producing heads. Other factors such as over fertilization, lack of pollination, or other environmental conditions can all delay the growth of heads on your broccoli plant.
Let’s take a closer look at broccoli plants, when they produce heads, and the factors that can affect your harvest.
When Do Broccoli Plants Produce Broccoli?
Depending on the variety, a broccoli plant can produce heads 65 to 90 days (2 to 3 months) after planting from seed in the garden. When transplanting established broccoli plants, it will only take 50 to 75 days to produce broccoli heads.
Thus, if you want to give your plants a 2 week head start, plant seeds indoors and then transplant outside later. This is useful if you live in an area with a short growing season.
The Old Farmer’s Almanac recommends planting 2 to 3 weeks before the last spring frost date.
To find frost dates for your area, check out this page on frost dates from the Old Farmer’s Almanac.
For example, in Boston, MA, the last spring frost date is April 10. If you lived in Boston, you would want to plant broccoli 2 to 3 weeks before this, between March 20 and March 27.
Broccoli is a cool weather crop, and seeds will germinate in soil as cool as 40 degrees Fahrenheit (4 degrees Celsius).
Your broccoli will be ready for harvest when the head is deep green and 4 to 8 inches (10 to 20 centimeters) in diameter. The buds should be bunched up close together.
For more information, check out my article on how big broccoli gets.
If you see the buds spreading out or turning yellow, harvest your broccoli immediately to prevent it from going to seed and becoming bitter. This will also allow the plant to continue producing smaller heads, each with a diameter of 1 to 2 inches (2.5 to 5 centimeters).
How Much Broccoli Does One Plant Produce?
A broccoli plant will produce only one large central head. Some can reach up to 8 inches (20 centimeters) in diameter, but most will grow to a diameter 4 to 6 inches (10 to 15 centimeters).
After you harvest the large main head of broccoli, the plant can continue to produce several smaller “side shoots”. This may continue for months if you keep up with harvesting these smaller heads of broccoli.
These side shoots of broccoli will produce heads that are only 1 to 2 inches (2.5 to 5 centimeters) in diameter. However, they are still just as good for cooking, such as in a stir-fry.
For more information, check out my article on how big broccoli gets.
Do Broccoli Plants Die After Harvest?
No, broccoli plants do not die after harvest. As mentioned above, a broccoli plant can continue to produce small side shoots after the main broccoli head is harvested.
In fact, a broccoli plant can survive the winter, especially in warmer climates in the southern U.S. Temperatures of 26 to 31 degrees Fahrenheit (-3 to -1 degrees Celsius) can burn the leaves of broccoli, but will not kill the plant.
Although broccoli can survive the winter cold in some areas, most people will plant new broccoli plants each year.
What Kind Of Broccoli To Grow?
You have some decisions to make when deciding which broccoli varieties to grow. First, you will need to decide on the size of the broccoli heads that you want to get at harvest time.
Some broccoli plants can produce a main head up to 8 inches in diameter. Others produce only small side shoots, which may be preferable for cooking certain dishes.
Here are some different varieties of broccoli you can try.
- Eastern Magic Hybrid Broccoli – this broccoli plant produces green heads (4 to 6 inches in diameter) that matures in 60 to 65 days. This variety grows to a height of 28 to 30 inches, with a spread of 16 to 18 inches. For more information, check out the Eastern Magic Hybrid broccoli on the Burpee website.
- Waltham 29 Broccoli – this broccoli plant produces green heads (4 to 6 inches in diameter) that matures in 74 days. This variety grows to a height of 24 to 30 inches, with a spread of 24 inches. For more information, check out the Waltham 29 broccoli on the Burpee website.
- De Cicco Broccoli – this broccoli plant produces green heads (3 to 4 inches in diameter) that matures in 50 days. This variety grows to a height of 30 to 36 inches, with a spread of 12 inches. For more information, check out the De Cicco broccoli on the Burpee website.
- Royal Tenderette Hybrid Broccoli – this broccoli plant produces green heads (1 inch in diameter) that matures in 50 to 60 days. You get lots of these smaller heads from this sweet, early broccoli. This variety grows to a height of 24 to 30 inches, with a spread of 12 to 18 inches. For more information, check out the Royal Tenderette broccoli on the Burpee website.
Does Broccoli Need To Be Pollinated?
No, broccoli does not need to be pollinated to produce heads.
However, if you want to produce and save seeds, you will need successful cross-pollination. You will need two broccoli plants that are cross-compatible in order to grow seeds.
For more information, check out my article on how to save seeds.
Usually, insects like bees will carry pollen from one broccoli plant to another. Keep in mind that very cool or hot temperatures can prevent bees from going out to do their work of pollination.
For more information, check out this article on broccoli seed from the University of Arizona.
What Other Factors Affect Broccoli On Plants?
The quality of care that you give your broccoli plants will help to determine how good of a harvest you get each year. Some of the most important factors are temperature, watering, and fertilizing.
Temperature For Broccoli Plants
Broccoli is a cool weather crop, so they can tolerate colder temperatures than many other plants. In fact, broccoli seeds can germinate in soil as cool as 40 degrees Fahrenheit (4 degrees Celsius).
However, keep in mind that prolonged exposure of young broccoli plants to such cold temperatures can cause heads to form too early. This will ruin your broccoli harvest.
Heat can have the same effect if broccoli is planted too late in the summer. Extreme heat can also cause a broccoli plant to grow tall and flower (bolt), sometimes without producing a large main head.
For more information, check out my article on broccoli bolting.
The ideal temperature range for broccoli is 65 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit (18 to 27 degrees Celsius).
For more information, check out this article on broccoli from the University of Maryland Extension.
Watering For Broccoli Plants
Broccoli plants have shallow roots, so they cannot handle any drought stress. Thus, it is important to avoid letting the soil dry out too much.
Remember that heat-tolerant broccoli varieties are not drought-tolerant!
If you find that you have a problem with dry soil, check out my article on how to treat dry soil.
On the other hand, over watering your broccoli plants can lead to root rot and eventual death.
The best way to decide when to water is to feel the soil with your fingers. If the soil feels dry 2 or 3 inches below the surface, then go ahead and water.
For more information, check out my article on over watering your plants.
Try to water early in the morning, rather than at night, to allow water to soak into the soil. Avoid getting the leaves wet to prevent rot, mold, and diseases.
To learn more about growing broccoli and ideal conditions, check out this article on broccoli from the Old Farmer’s Almanac.
Fertilizing For Broccoli Plants
Before you sow broccoli seeds or put transplants in your garden, add some compost to your soil. It will provide organic material and nutrients for your plants as they grow. The best part is that you can make compost yourself from ordinary yard and kitchen waste!
For more information, check out my article on how to make compost.
It may be necessary to use fertilizers as a supplement to compost, in order to provide extra nutrients if your soil is lacking. The best way to tell if you need fertilizer is with a soil test.
For more information, check out my article on soil testing.
Finally, remember that it is possible to harm or kill your broccoli plants by over fertilizing them.
By now, you have a much better idea of when your broccoli plant will produce heads. You also know a bit more about how to take care of broccoli plants and how to avoid the problems that can affect your harvest.
I hope you found this article helpful – if so, please share it with someone who can use the information. If you have any questions or advice about broccoli plants, please leave a comment below.