Cauliflower Plant Growth Stages

Cauliflower is a cool season vegetable that has many different stages of growth from planting the seed to harvesting the mature head.

In this post I’ve listed the growth stages of cauliflower plants along with some tips to help you to grow an abundant crop of cauliflowers in your garden.

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cauliflower growing stages

Cauliflowers are part of the brassica family and are closely related to broccoli, cabbage, kale and Brussels sprouts. [1]

Cauliflower plants have six distinct stages of growth which include germination, seedling, foliage growth, growth of the head, flowering and producing seeds.

Cauliflowers are available in white, light green, purple and orange varieties or for something different you could plant Romanesco cauliflower (pictured below) which is light green in color with a beautiful spiral pattern.

Growing Brassica vegetables


Stage 1 – Planting the seeds

Cauliflower seeds can be planted in spring or fall in seed trays or directly in the garden.

Cover the seeds in a thin layer of soil and keep the soil moist.

Stage 2 – Germination

Cauliflower seeds usually take about 8 to 10 days to germinate and the first leaves to appear in the seedling are called cotyledons or seed leaves, which are then followed by the true leaves.

Stage 3 – Seedling

If you’ve planted the seeds in pots you can transplant them out to the garden once they’ve grown about two inches (5 cm) tall.

Plant the seedlings in rows with around 12 inches (30 cm) between each plant to give them space to spread out.

Cauliflower seedlings are quite delicate at this stage and need to be handled very carefully until they’re well established.

The young plants will benefit from some shade during the heat of the day for the first few days after being transplanted outside.

It’s also a good idea to put out some snail pellets or set up a beer trap to protect the seedlings from slugs and snails.

cauliflower seedlings

Stage 4 – Foliage Growth

As the cauliflower grows it will produce large leaves and during this stage the plants will need regular watering, especially if there isn’t much rain.

Regular weeding will keep the area free from weeds and you can use mulch around the base of the plants to help suppress weeds and retain moisture.

At this stage you can also feed the plants with a liquid fertilizer every week or two.

Stage 5 – Growth of the head

Once the cauliflower heads start developing, you can gather the leaves to cover the head and secure them with string or elastic.

This will protect the cauliflowers from sun and wind damage.

small cauliflower plant

Stage 6 – Harvesting

Cauliflowers are ready to harvest 85 to 130 days after planting the seeds, depending on the variety and the weather conditions.

Cauliflower heads should be harvested when they reach a diameter of around 8 inches (20 cm).

The heads should be well formed, compact and firm.

To harvest cauliflowers, make sure they are well watered first and use a sharp knife to cut the heads from the base of the plant.

Leave a few leaves attached to protect any side shoots that may be growing and these can be harvested a few weeks after the main head.

harvesting cauliflower

Stage 7 – Bolting / Flowering

The last stage of cauliflower plant growth is bolting or flowering, which occurs when cauliflowers are grown when the weather is too hot or if they’re left in the garden for too long.

When cauliflowers bolt they send up a large flower stalk, which is pollinated by bees and other pollinating insects.

After the flowers are pollinated they will produce seeds.

If you’d like to save the seeds you can cut off the flowers when they turn brown and leave them to dry out in a cool dark place for a couple of weeks.

Once dried, gently tap the flowers to remove the seeds and store them in an envelope until you’re ready to sow your next crop.


So there’s a quick overview of cauliflower growing stages that you’ll see as the cauliflowers mature in your garden.

Watching the cauliflower growth cycle is interesting and it’s very satisfying to harvest your own homegrown cauliflowers.

Have you tried growing cauliflowers in your vegetable garden? Let me know in the comments below.

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Kelly Martin

Hi, I'm Kelly Martin, a landscape gardener and designer with over 10 years experience. I have a passion for small space gardening and I love designing and creating beautiful outdoor spaces that maximize the potential of small urban gardens. Read more

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