How and When to Plant Cauliflower in the UK

For a veggie patch that’s head and shoulders above the rest, just add some cauliflower power. Read on to learn how to grow cauliflower in the UK.

12 April 2024

If you think cauliflower is just a broccoli that’s had a bit of a fright, think again. Because this vibrant veggie is full of surprises.

It’s a superstar of the Sunday roast, the sneakiest of pizza crust substitutes, and the creamiest of soup celebrities. It can even pretend to be rice. Oh, and it comes in a range of colours, shapes and sizes. Yes, it has a bit of a reputation for being tricky to grow, but worry not. We’ve got the low down on exactly how to grow cauliflower in the UK, including tips and tricks of where and when to plant cauliflower in the UK. Ready? Let’s sow.

Cauliflower Power

Purple cauliflower (Credit: Westend61 via Getty Images)

Before exploring how and when to grow cauliflower in the UK, it’s worth looking at the what of it all by getting to know our floret friend. Firstly, it is a brassica. In other words, it’s a member of the cabbage family. In fact, its name means “cabbage flower,” because its elegantly formed single head or “curd” is exactly that: an immature flower. One that can range anywhere from four inches to a foot wide.

As well as its mild yet distinctively nutty flavour, it’s choc full of fibre, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. And there’s more. Because different types of cauliflower have different traits. For instance, while white is the expected colour of cauliflower, it’s far from the only one, with yellow, green, and purple varieties all on offer. With all that in mind, just how does one grow cauliflower, and especially in the UK?

How to Grow Cauliflower in the UK

Cauliflower in the vegetable garden (Credit: Deepak Verma via Getty Images)

First, some good news: cauliflowers fit the UK climate like rain in a puddle, loving nothing more than cool, damp conditions. But that doesn’t mean one can rest on their laurels. The process of growing cauliflowers involves, among other things, choosing a good planting site, preparing the soil, and lots of care and attention. We’ll take a look at all these elements along with troubleshooting and harvesting tips. But before all that, one must select which cauliflower variety to sow. These are usually grouped according to their harvesting season. And, given there are varieties that can be harvested pretty much year round, the first question becomes not how, but when to grow cauliflower in the UK.

When to Sow Cauliflower in the UK for Summer Harvest

Cauliflower on the cutting board (Credit: Cavan Images via Getty Images)

Usually started from seed, cauliflowers are highly flexible, benefitting from being sown indoors, but also good to sow outdoors in seedbeds. In terms of when to sow cauliflower seeds in the UK, summer varieties should be sown indoors from winter to early spring. This offers fast growth and smaller heads suitable for early harvests in four to five months. Mini-cauliflowers, a subset of summer varieties, mature even faster and can be ideal for container gardening, maturing in about three months.

When to Sow Cauliflower in the UK for Autumn Harvest

Cauliflower in a basket (Credit: Martin Harvey via Getty Images)

Autumn varieties are sown in mid- to late spring, designed to endure higher temperatures and perfect for cool autumn harvests.

When to Sow Cauliflower in the UK for Winter/Spring Harvest

Cauliflower in a box (Credit: DigiPub via Getty Images)

For winter varieties, the best time to sow cauliflower seeds in the UK is from late spring to early summer. They are slower-growing, requiring six months or more to mature, and produce large heads. These varieties require more space but are hardy and can be harvested into spring.

Soil Preparation

Growing cauliflower (Credit: Mint Images via Getty Images)

Soil preparation plays a foundational role in how to grow cauliflower in the UK. Cauliflower demands well-drained, fertile soil with a pH between 6.5 and 7.5. Applying lime to the soil in the winter before planting can raise a low pH, while compost or well-rotted manure before planting can improve fertility and structure.


Planted cauliflower seedlings. (Credit: Philippe Gerber via Getty Images)

Regardless of when to sow cauliflower seeds in the UK, most of the time, it’s best to start indoors or in seedbeds. This means eventually transplanting the growing veggies to their final planting site. This generally happens when they reach a height of between four and six inches, usually within about six weeks.

The next vital decision when considering how to grow cauliflower in the UK is selecting the right planting site. A location receiving full sunlight and protected from strong winds can significantly bolster the plant’s development and yield. It’s also important to space each of the veggies with plenty of room to grow. Finally, regular watering and mulching help retain soil moisture and temperature, creating an optimal growing environment.

Cauliflower Care

Roasted cauliflower (Credit: istetiana via Getty Images)

The care regimen for cauliflower involves regular watering, particularly during dry spells, to maintain consistently high soil moisture. Over-watering, however, should be avoided to prevent root rot and other moisture-related diseases. The key is that the ground should be damp, but not waterlogged.

Fertilisation schedules should be adhered to, with a balanced high potassium general fertiliser applied at planting and during the growth period to support healthy development. Meanwhile, monitoring for pests and diseases and implementing organic control methods when necessary can mitigate potential threats to the crop.

Harvesting and Storing Cauliflower

Harvesting cauliflower (Credit: Mint Images via Getty Images)

As we’ve seen, the question of when to grow cauliflower in the UK depends in large part on when one intends to harvest it. Generally, cauliflower takes roughly three to six months to mature. The readiness for harvesting cauliflower is indicated by the development of a compact head within the plant’s leaves. Timing is crucial, as heads can become over-mature if left too long. Proper harvesting techniques involve cutting the head from the main stem while leaving a few leaves attached to protect the head. Cauliflower can be stored in a cool, dry place for short periods, or blanched and frozen for longer storage.

Common Problems and Solutions

Cauliflower in the garden (Credit: PaulMaguire via Getty Images)

Cultivating cauliflower in the UK is not without its challenges. Common issues include bolting, where the plant flowers prematurely due to temperature fluctuations, and the development of loose, ricey heads. Preventative measures include choosing bolt-resistant varieties, ensuring optimal growing conditions, and sheltering cauliflower from hot, dry weather. Regular inspection for pests and diseases and the application of organic control methods when necessary can maintain plant health and productivity.

How to Grow Cauliflower in the UK

Cauliflower on a market stall (Credit: Crispin la valiente via Getty Images)

Overall, understanding when to plant and how to grow cauliflower in the UK is dependent on the key factors outlined above, principally involving careful selection of varieties, precise timing, and diligent care.


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