How to Grow Brussels Sprout
A tip sheet on how to grow and care for brussels sprouts.
- Family: Brassicaceae (Mustard)
- Season: Cool
- Ease of growing: Moderate
- Nutrient needs: High
- Water needs: Moderate
- Common propagation: Transplant
- Germination temperature: 45°F to 85°F
- Germination time: 4 to 20 days
- Viability: 3 to 10 years
- Weeks to grow transplants: 4 to 6
- Start: April to May
- Plant out: mid-May to mid-June
- Typical spacing: 18” x 30”
- Square foot per plant: 2
- Time to harvest: 90 to 110 days from transplants
The brussels sprout plant is distinctive in that it produces little green or red mini-cabbages in the leaf axils of the stem. This plant, like kohlrabi, is among very few new vegetables – it was unknown until about 400 or 500 years ago. It developed in the vicinity of Brussels, Belgium, where it gets its name.
Relatively few varieties are available from most seed catalogs. Use faster maturing varieties such as Oliver (90 days from transplanting) if you are late getting plants going.
Preparation and planting
The best tasting brussels sprouts are grown in fertile soil, with plenty of irrigation, and harvested after fall frosts. Brussels sprouts in Michigan are usually grown from transplants set out in mid-summer. They are hardy, and can often be harvested well into December. As with its close relative – broccoli – cold fall temperatures result in a milder, sweeter flavor. This plant requires relatively high levels of potassium, so it’s advisable to run a soil test.
See the broccoli tip sheet. It is recommended that the terminal bud be pinched in early September so that no more sprouts form, allowing existing sprouts to develop. Hot weather will give strong flavored, loose sprouts.
Insects: Aphids, flea-beetles, cabbage maggots, imported cabbage worm, cabbage loopers, diamondback moth.
Diseases: Black rot, downy mildew, alternaria.
Harvest and storage
As the season progresses, the sprouts begin to form on the lower portion of the plant first. As the leaves begin to turn a little yellow, break them off, leaving about a 2-inch stalk. This will give the sprouts more room to develop. Harvest brussels sprouts when the heads are firm and 1 to 2 inches in diameter. Each plant yields between 60 and 100 sprouts. The leaves are also edible with a kale-like flavor, and can be harvested after maturation.
Developed by James Manning, Undergraduate Research Assistant, and Daniel Brainard, Vegetable Extension Specialist; MSU Department of Horticulture; Gary Heilig, MSU Extension educator.