11 Quick Answers to Your Lettuce Questions


Close up image of several butterhead lettuces planted in a garden.

Lettuce is a fantastic choice for both the novice and seasoned gardener. In this post, I’ve gathered 11 key questions about growing this leafy green. 

So, if you’re ready to explore the wonders of lettuce, then let’s dive in!

11 Lettuce Questions Answered

A head of leaf lettuce

What Are the Different Types of Lettuce?

There are four types of lettuce: crisphead, loose-leaf, romaine, and butterhead.

Crisphead lettuce, also known as iceberg lettuce, forms a tight, dense head. The leaves are crispy and mild flavored. Crisphead lettuce is one of the most consumed lettuce types in the United States and Canada. 

Unlike crispheads, loose-leaf lettuces have loosely packed leaves with a mild, somewhat sweet taste.  Loose-leaf lettuce is a good choice for novice gardeners because they’re easy to grow.

Romaine lettuces have long, crisp leaves with a slightly bitter flavor. The leaves are rich in nutrients and great for salads and sandwiches.

Butterhead lettuces, also known as Bibb lettuces, have soft, tender leaves with a buttery flavor. 

When Is the Best Time to Plant Lettuce?

The best time to plant lettuce is in the spring or fall.  Lettuce is a cool weather crop and doesn’t do as well in the heat of midsummer.  You can also plant lettuce in winter in warmer, frost-free climates.

Can I Grow Lettuce in Containers or Pots?

You can definitely grow lettuce in containers. In fact, lettuce makes an excellent crop for container gardening and is a favorite growing method for many gardeners.   

Lettuce has a shallow root system, so it doesn’t require a deep, heavy pot. And a lighter container means you can take advantage of more locations, such as patios, balconies, or even windowsills. This makes growing lettuce more accessible for urban or limited space gardeners. 

Two rows of young lettuce plants in a raised bed and protected by wire mesh.

How Much Sun Does Lettuce Need?

Ideally, lettuce should have 5 – 6 hours of sunlight each day.  But, that range can extend between 4 – 8 hours, depending on the variety.  

Butterhead and crisphead lettuces need 6 hours of sunlight on average.  Romaine lettuces need more – about 8 hours. Leaf lettuces, on the other hand, can survive with only 3 – 4 hours. 

How Can I Protect My Lettuce From the Sun?

There are several ways you can protect your lettuce from the hot, midday sun.

First, choose a location that provides partial shade or dappled light. If that’s not possible, plant your lettuce alongside a taller plant, such as a tomato plant. As the taller plant grows, it’ll provide your lettuce with a bit of shade.

Alternatively, consider planting your lettuce in containers. These offer better control over soil conditions and allow for easier relocation to shadier spots if needed.

Using a shade cloth is another option. A shade cloth creates a protective barrier that helps reduce the intensity of direct sunlight.  

Lastly, water your lettuce regularly, keeping the soil consistently moist. Mulching around the plants can also help retain soil moisture and regulate temperature. 

By implementing these measures, you can safeguard your lettuce from the scorching sun and promote healthy growth.

Can I Grow Lettuce in the Shade?

Lettuce can tolerate shadier spots. In fact, in hot climates, dappled light or afternoon shade is a must. However, though your lettuce can stand lower light, it still needs some sunlight. Aim for a minimum of 3 – 4 hours of light each day. 

And keep in mind, some varieties, like leaf lettuces, will be more forgiving of shade than others. Experiment with different varieties to find the ones that work best for your garden.

Does Lettuce Need a Lot of Water?

Lettuce appreciates consistent moisture and prefers evenly moist soil. As a rule of thumb, water mature lettuce once or twice a week, depending on the weather conditions.  Aim for 1 – 2 inches of water, penetrating to a depth of about 6 inches. 

Seeds and seedlings will need more frequent watering.

Mulching can help retain moisture and reduce evaporation. And water at the base of the plant, rather than overhead.  

Keep in mind, moderation & consistency are key when it comes to watering lettuce. Water regularly to keep the soil damp but don’t let it become waterlogged. I’ve written a whole article on overwatered lettuce. Take a look if you have any concerns about overdoing it.

Close up image of mesclun lettuce mix seedlings.

What’s the Best Soil for Lettuce?

Lettuce thrives in well-draining soil that’s rich in organic matter. A loose, loamy soil texture works best, providing good drainage while retaining moisture. 

Prior to planting, amend your soil with compost or well-rotted organic matter to enhance its fertility and texture. This ensures your lettuce plants have the ideal growing medium to develop healthy roots and abundant leaves.

Why Is My Lettuce Flowering?

When lettuce starts flowering, it’s a sign of bolting.  In other words, your lettuce thinks it’s reaching the end of its lifecycle and so it’s starting its seed production.

Early bolting is a problem gardeners often face with lettuce. Factors such as heat, long daylight hours, or stress from inconsistent watering can trigger early flowering. 

To prevent this, be consistent with watering and protect your lettuce from the hot afternoon sun, especially in southern climates.  Harvesting lettuce leaves regularly will also help the plant from redirecting energy into flowering. Lastly, select slow-bolting varieties. 

To learn more about flowering lettuce, take a look at my article on tall, leggy lettuce.

How Do I Keep My Lettuce Leaves From Becoming Bitter?

Bitterness in lettuce leaves can be a result of high temperatures, water stress, or maturity. 

To prevent bitterness, ensure your lettuce plants receive sufficient moisture, especially during hot spells. This keeps them hydrated and cool. Harvesting leaves when they’re young and tender can also help maintain their sweetness. 

If bitterness still occurs, try growing heat-tolerant lettuce varieties and consider planting in a shadier location.

What’s the Best Way to Store Lettuce?

To keep your freshly harvested lettuce crisp and delicious, follow these simple steps. 

First, harvest your lettuce in the morning, when the leaves are fresher. Then, once picked, gently wash and dry the leaves thoroughly. 

Personally, I wash my leaves thoroughly, then use a salad spinner to dry them. Then, I store them in a bag in the fridge.  But, you can also line a storage container with a clean, dry paper towel and place the lettuce leaves in a single layer. Try to avoid overcrowding with this method. 

Keep your lettuce in your refrigerator’s crisper drawer or in a cool part of your fridge. But, don’t store lettuce in the same bin as apples or bananas.  These fruits emit ethylene, which causes lettuce to ripen and decay rapidly.

Lettuce can be kept in the fridge for up to 10 days, but it should really be eaten within a few days.  


These are some important questions about growing lettuce, but they don’t cover everything. To learn more about how to grow lettuce, take a look at my beginner’s guide. It’ll give you a thorough introduction to growing your own lettuce.

Angela

Hi! My name is Angela Carr. I started this site to share my love for plants and gardening. My aim is to provide my readers with easy tips and tricks on plant care, fun facts, and encouragement for the new plant owner or anyone questioning the colour of their thumb!

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