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How to grow romaine lettuce

Follow these steps to regrow romaine lettuce from its stem end. A fun way to use kitchen scraps. If you love growing things and fun kitchen experiments, here’s an experiment for you – regrow lettuce from the stem. Works best for romaine lettuce, but will work for any lettuce with a distinct stem end still intact.

Have a look at my You Tube video and continue reading below. You’ll see it’s super easy and you have nothing to lose!

On the left is a full grown leaf from a store bought romaine lettuce, on the right are 12 leaves regrown from a romaine stem after about 4 weeks

Unlike regrowing green onions or regrowing celery, you won’t be able to regrow a full head of lettuce. You’ll just regrow a few leaves 2-4 inches long. Enough for a sandwich. Regrown lettuce will bolt (send out a seed stalk) before it grows a full head of lettuce. But don’t let that stop you – it’s such a cool experiment.

Steps for How to Regrow Lettuce from a Stem

  1. Eat your purchased lettuce, cutting the leaves at about 1 inch from the bottom.
  2. Place remaining stem in a shallow dish of water (about 1/2 inch).
  3. Place on a window sill or under grow lights.
  4. Change water in bowl every 1 to 2 days.
  5. Watch your lettuce grow. It is truly remarkable how quickly the new shoots start. You may also notice that roots will start to grow on the bottom.
  6. After 10-12 days, your lettuce is going to be as big as it will likely ever get. It’s not going to be a full head of lettuce, it’ll just be enough to top a sandwich or make a small salad. But how cool is that!
  7. If you leave your lettuce beyond this point, it will become spindly and bitter as it attempts to produce seed. It won’t be pleasant to eat at this point. You’ll know it has reached this point when the leaves start turning a blue green color and/or the main stalk shoots up and leaves become less dense. Trust me, eat it when it’s like the photo below.

Here’s a photo journey

Leaf lettuce on the left, romaine on the right. The romaine is ready to harvest!

Does Regrowing Lettuce Always Work?

Not always, results will vary! I’ve tried growing lettuce from the fridge at least twenty times by now. Not every lettuce will work perfectly. Sometimes it won’t grow at all, sometimes it will bolt (go to seed) very quickly and other times it will grow for a few days and then wither away. On some occasions you may even get weird brown spots. So, if the first lettuce you try doesn’t work, don’t give up – try again. Really, what have you got to lose? Here are some various results.

Four different samples grown at same time. If you notice brown spots starting, harvest right away. Cut around brown spots.

I have also tried potting my romaine lettuce, but I have not had great success with the plants thriving and turning into a full head of lettuce for us to enjoy. I’ve had much more success in this regard with celery and green onions.

This is lettuce that is bolting – it is close to producing flowers and seeds. The leaves taste bitter. It did not survive for very long after planting in soil.

In conclusion, don’t expect a full head of romaine lettuce to fill your salad bowl. Regrow lettuce for fun, for topping a sandwich and to become more acquainted with the food you eat. Enjoy the process!

How and When to Harvest Regrown Lettuce?

After about 12-15 days, or until it’s the size in the photos below, your lettuce will be ready to harvest. Do not wait much longer, hoping it will get bigger or better. At some point the lettuce will turn bitter, bolt or start to spoil.

Don’t expect a full sized head of lettuce. These mini-me’s are ready to harvest.

Just cut or break the leaves from the plant and add to a salad, sandwich or wrap.

That’s four heads of lettuce! Better than nothing! Enjoying my lettuce for lunch in a falafel wrap.

What Else Can I Regrow From Stems?

1.Celery

I have had great success regrowing celery from stalk ends. I have even been able to successfully transplant celery to the garden.

Here’s a video on how to regrow celery from stem ends.

2.Green Onions

Green onions are another highly successful vegetable to grow from the root ends. And yes, these can be transplanted outside as well. You can harvest repeatedly.

3.Other Kitchen Scraps

I’ve tried regrowing avocado from the pit and pineapple from the crown, but I wasn’t too impressed. Sure I got greens to grow, but it would be years before you’d ever get anything you can eat! I’m not that patient, nor do I have a lot of room to grow bigger plants. It’s like the time my kids planted a seed from an apple – we got a sprout, but that poor little seedling never really had a hope!

Herbs are a different story. Those you can clip, grow roots and regrow with much success. Basil, mint, cilantro, thyme, rosemary and oregano are all great contenders. One day, I may write more about that.

Have you ever tried regrowing any stem ends? I’d love to hear about your experience.

If you try regrowing romaine and you’re on social media, take a photo and tag #getgettys so I can see it and like it!

Getty Stewart is a Professional Home Economist, speaker, frequent media guest and writer dedicated to putting good food on tables and agendas. She is the author of several recipe books on enjoying and preserving fruit, Founder of Fruit Share, a mom and veggie gardener. Sign up to get articles by Getty delivered to your inbox. You’ll get recipes, practical tips and great food information like this.

If you enjoy the taste of romaine or cos lettuce, you’re not alone. Humans have been planting romaine lettuce for nearly 5,000 years. Romaine is a popular sandwich topping and the lettuce of choice in Caesar salad recipes. This nutrient-rich vegetable is an excellent source of minerals and antioxidants, yet still boasts an amazingly low 10 calories per cup of lettuce.

To keep up with consumer demand, commercial growers have dedicated thousands of acres each year to growing romaine lettuce. Unfortunately, it’s estimated green leafy vegetables account for 20% of food-borne illness. This has resulted in numerous recalls of romaine lettuce in the past decade and, for many families, eliminated salad from the Thanksgiving menu in 2018. Many gardeners find growing romaine lettuce at home to be a safer alternative.

Romaine Lettuce Care

Growing romaine lettuce is fairly easy. It’s a cool-weather crop that can be planted in early spring and late summer in most areas of the United States. Growing romaine lettuce quickly is the secret to producing crispy, great-tasting leaves. If you’re looking for the best way to grow romaine lettuce, try following these tips:

  • Start spring crops indoors. Romaine needs 70 to 75 days to mature. To prevent bolting of springtime crops, start romaine indoors. Romaine seedlings can withstand frost and can be transplanted into the garden as soon as the soil can be worked. Fall crops can be directly seeded into the garden during late summer. Mature lettuce is not frost-tolerant.
  • Use a nutrient-rich, moist soil. Romaine requires both nitrogen and soil moisture to grow quickly. Fertilize or amend the garden soil with plenty of compost. Salad connoisseurs believe romaine grown in soil tastes better than hydroponic lettuce.
  • Avoid planting romaine lettuce in midday sun. Instead, transplant romaine seedlings on a cloudy day or in the evening to prevent the plants from dehydrating and to reduce transplant shock.
  • Provide adequate spacing. Space romaine plants at least 12 inches (30 cm.) apart. Giving romaine lettuce plenty of room to grow results in larger heads. This also improves air circulation which may reduce rotting. When direct sowing into the garden, try using seed tape to achieve better spacing.
  • Protect from pests. Rabbits and slugs love the sweet taste of romaine. To prevent rabbits from harvesting your crop before you do, try using floating row covers, or opt to grow romaine out of reach in a hanging basket or in elevated containers. To control slugs, try making slug traps or using diatomaceous earth around the romaine. It’s advisable to avoid pesticide use on lettuce, as it’s readily absorbed by the leaves.
  • Plant fewer plants more often. For a continuous supply of leafy lettuce throughout the growing season, try planting romaine lettuce every couple weeks. Romaine can also be harvested leaf by leaf to extend the harvest.

In comparison to other types of lettuce, romaine is considered more heat tolerant and bolt resistant. It grows well in pots and is a popular choice for container and vertical gardening. For year-round harvest, try hydroponically growing romaine lettuce inside during the winter.

Romaine lettuce is one of the most popular greens in both the garden and the kitchen. Gardeners love fast-growing Romaine lettuce. It forms a loosehead, that is easy to harvest. It takes up little space in the garden, too. The average American gardener grows a variety of greens. Romaine lettuce is usually one of these varieties. Use this guide on “How to Grow Romaine Lettuce” and you’re on your way to a great crop of greens. So, purchase some romaine lettuce seeds and get growing!

Sweet and delicious, Roman Emperor Caesar knew what the best tasting lettuce was. Romaine lettuce is the basics for Caesar Salad.

Lettuce Trivia: The ancient Greeks believed lettuce induced sleep. SO, they served it at the end of meals.

Common Varieties of Romaine Lettuce

Parris Island, or Cos, is by far the most popular variety of Romaine lettuce.

Baby Romaine grows smaller and matures sooner.

Red Romaine adds color to salad bowls and as a garnish.

Valmaine has better heart and cold tolerance than other varieties.

Sowing Romaine Lettuce Seeds

Like other lettuces, Romaine lettuce seeds are very fine. Plant in rows, spreading the seeds as thinly as possible. No matter how hard you try, the seeds are very difficult to disperse. Thinning seedlings is a must. Cover the seeds with a very fine layer of loose soil or starting mixture.

Romaine is a good candidate for an indoor start. They transplant easily. You can also plant indoors in pots, or in containers for a lettuce garden on the deck. When transplanting in the garden, it is much easier to give them the proper spacing.

Final Spacing: Space plants 6 – 12 inches apart, in rows 18 inches apart. Plant smaller varieties at the minimum for this range, and larger varieties at or near the maximum.

For maximum growth, avoid overcrowding. Whether starting indoors or out, you will likely want to transplant your seedlings with the proper spacing for fast, full development.

How to Grow Romaine Lettuce Plants

Grow Romaine lettuce plants in full sun. However, the plants will benefit from partial shade during peak sunlight hours on hot days.

Romaine plants like cool weather and lots of moisture in rich, well-drained soil. Transplanting should only be done in cool, preferably cloudy weather. If the weather is hot and sunny, we recommend putting off transplanting, if possible. If this is not possible, then transplant in the early evening hours. Water thoroughly and every day after, unless it rains, for about a week.

The key to growing crisp, sweet Romaine lettuce, is to get it growing at a fast pace. That means plenty of water and a healthy dose of fertilizer.

Apply fertilizer every two weeks. The plants respond well to liquid fertilizer.

Tip: When transplanting lettuce in hot weather, place some form of sun shade over the plant for a couple of days. Any makeshift shade will do.

Succession planting is a common and useful practice. Plant successive crops for a constant supply of Romaine all season long. Plant small rows or sections of your garden with Romaine every two weeks.

Keep Romaine lettuce plants weeded. This will allow maximum sunlight, moisture, and nutrients to reach the plant.

I’m guessing you’ve probably eaten your fair share of romaine lettuce, also known as cos lettuce in other English-speaking parts of the world. It is, after all, one of the four most popular types of lettuce (along with crisp head, butter head, and loose leaf) and has long been the star of Caesar salads.

That being said, you haven’t really tasted romaine until you’ve had it fresh from the garden, not trucked in from California or Arizona, where 99 percent of all the romaine found in our grocery stores is grown.

So, try to romaine calm when I tell you how easy it is to grow one of the most popular kinds of lettuce right in your own backyard (or on a balcony!).

Added bonus: you don’t have to worry about all those E. coli recalls on the news when you grow your own.

how do you grow romaine lettuce?

Lettuce varieties fall into two categories: loose leaf and those that form a head. Romaine produces more and more leaves around a tight center to form a fairly compact head.

plant in the Cool Season

Romaine grows really well during the Cool Season (it loves temperatures between 45-65 degrees), but unlike a lot of other lettuces, romaine can usually tolerate some heat. It’s best to grow romaine in the spring and the fall. In the spring, wait until the threat of frost has gone.

You can start romaine from seed in the garden or indoors before your final frost date. If you’re starting it indoors, keep in mind that it will be a bit fragile to transplant into the garden later on.

If you’re trying to grow romaine into the warmer parts of the year, plant some taller plants around it to give it some shade. Once it grows too hot outside, your plant will start to produce a milky white substance, which doesn’t harm you but will affect the flavor. It’s time to toss your plant in the compost bin and start again when the weather gets cool!

pack in your plants

Romaine grows really well in sandy loam soil. (Our comprehensive Salad Garden Guide goes into all the details you need to set up your own productive salad garden, soil and all.)

Because lettuce plants are small, you can grow at least nine plants per square foot of garden space as long as you plan to harvest the older, outer leaves regularly. This will ensure your plants still get plenty of air flow.

protect

To protect your romaine from pests like earwigs, slugs, cutworms, or even squirrels, it’s a good idea to cover it with garden mesh.

cut and come again

Romaine needs 70 to 75 days to grow a full head, but you can begin harvesting leaves from the outside of your plant sooner than that. Give each plant time to recover after a harvest before you cut more leaves. Always take the oldest, more mature leaves from the outside of the plant to encourage your plant to keep producing leaves for you.

what is the nutritional benefit of romaine?

If you’re concerned about eating too much kale or spinach, romaine contains a much smaller amount of oxalate, which can be difficult for those with compromised gut health, and because it’s less fibrous and higher in water, it’s easier on your digestion. Plus, there’s more than 100% of your daily vitamin K needs in a single serving of romaine, not to mention tons of folic acid, vitamin C, and minerals.

When you eat romaine fresh from your garden, the leaves will be packed with more nutrients than those leaves that have been picked in one of only two places in the United States, wrapped in plastic, trucked to your grocery store, and plopped on a shelf to sit for who knows how long.

To enjoy the full goodness of romaine, add it to your sandwiches for a bit of crunch. You can blend it into your smoothies or keep the ribs attached and add the leaves to stews. It’s good for so much more than Caesar salads.

Lettuces are one of the best plants to start off with in the kitchen garden. They grow quickly, don’t take up a lot of space, and provide harvests again and again. In fact, you can easily regrow your own romaine lettuce from a store-bought head. Here’s how!

For more leafy inspiration, check out our top ten salad greens to grow in the garden. If you still don’t have your salad garden set up yet, here are the best containers for growing salad greens.

want to learn more about romaine?

In Episode 6 – “Romaine Calm” of the Grow Your Self Podcast, I explore the interesting history of romaine and how it became the staple lettuce it is today, plus how we can avoid those scary lettuce recalls on the news.

Here’s to filling up on lots of romaine in the future!

Learn the step by step to plant, set up and grow your own organic salad garden and enjoy fresh greens at least six months each year

This extensive Salad Garden Guide was developed from Gardenary’s online course: Salad Garden School.

In this ebook, you’ll learn the step by step for every part of developing and growing (and troubleshooting) your own organic salad garden in a raised bed or other container.

Romaine lettuce can be easily regrown from cuttings. All you need is the bottom of a stalk of lettuce to allow the root system to spread. Romaine lettuce is a convenient plant to buy for the garden, and it's an edible green that thrives in a container. It is quite easy to grow lettuce from seedlings, but for those who want little fuss, it is entirely possible to just buy the lettuce at the grocery store to be regrown.

Step 1: Buy the Lettuce

Buy romaine lettuce. The size and shape of romaine lettuce make it a good candidate for beginner gardeners to replant.

Romaine lettuce can be bought at your local grocery store.

Step 2: Cut Off the Bottoms

Cut off the bottom of the lettuce bunch. Not too short, but long enough to plant without difficulty. Do as many stalks of romaine lettuce as you wish.

Cut the bottom off of the lettuce stalk. Not too short, but long enough to be planted.

Step 3: Soak the Bottoms

Place bottoms into water. It is best to soak the bottom overnight to hydrate. Some gardeners soak bottoms for three days before planting.

Soak the bottom of lettuce overnight to hydrate. Do not submerge, only the very bottom needs to soak.

After one day of soaking, the bottoms begin to sprout.

After three days of soaking.

Each bottom has sprouted, and each one will become a new stalk of Romaine Lettuce.

Step 4: Plant the Bottoms

Place bottoms into the dirt. The soil should be rich to promote growth. For these pictures, I placed the pot in a sunny spot, but lettuce grows best planted in the shade. If lettuce is placed in a container, move the container to a shady spot. If planted in the ground, choose a shaded area.

Place bottoms into the dirt.

For this picture, I placed the pot in a sunny spot, but lettuce does best planted in the shade.

Step 5: Water and Cover

Water the lettuce and cover it with mulch to retain moisture. Dried leaves or plain straw will also work. Lettuce requires a good amount of water, so it's best to place this vegetable into a pot or cover it with mulch. Damp soil also keeps plants from drying out and retains the tasty flavor of the leaves.

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Water the lettuce after planting and cover with mulch.

Lettuce is a leafy plant that requires a lot of water, so it is an ideal vegetable to plant in a container to control water usage. However, romaine lettuce will thrive in the ground as well.

Twelve days after planting, the lettuce leaves have become bigger!

That’s it! Regrown romaine lettuce is as simple as that. Enjoy!

Questions & Answers

Question: Can romaine lettuce be grown in the kitchen in a sunny window?

Answer: Absolutely! The lettuce will grow on a windowsill. They do not need full sun to thrive. they do best in shaded areas.

Question: We've tried growing romaine lettuce from cuttings recently, and they're growing like crazy, but the leaves aren't growing in a group, they're all kind of going up a stem. Any thoughts as to why?

Answer: Many things may be the cause. extreme heat will shrink it's growth. If the soil is deprived of moisture they will also elongate that way. Sometimes they have already been harvested to their max. Mulch may help them acquire the nutrients they need to develop large leaves.

Question: Can you grow romaine lettuce in a pot in the kitchen?

Answer: Absolutely! Romaine lettuce can be grown right in your kitchen, and requires little space.

Question: After you pick the leaves, does the romaine lettuce keep growing?

Answer: Yes. Unless the cutting has already been harvested to its max. If grown in soil it should continue to grow after harvesting.

Question: How deep does the pot need to be?

Answer: I use garden pots five to six inches in depth. Some gardeners use even smaller planters for lettuce cuttings. Be sure the cutting are placed in rich soil and is watered daily.

Question: Can the lettuce grow in water the whole time?

Answer: Yes, it is possible. The leaves may grow out much softer and not as firm growing in water.

Question: Do you need to wait for roots before planting romaine lettuce from cuttings?

Answer: It is not necessary to wait for roots. The cutting do not develop an elaborate root system.

Question: What could be causing brown spots on the new growth of my romaine?

Answer: Too much sun or the leaves have been left submerged in water. The lettuce will also brown if not watered daily.