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BETA vulgaris

Image of Beta vulgaris

Jessie Keith

Family

Chenopodiaceae

Botanical Name

BETA vulgaris

Plant Common Name

Beet

General Description

Best known for bright red color and sweet flavor, beets are true biennials that produce edible greens and sweet, bulbous roots only a couple of months after planting. They are European origin but enjoyed by many cultures worldwide. In the first year, they store lots of fuel in their large, fleshy, edible roots and then bloom in the second season. If subjected to high heat, plants may bolt in the first year. Their unimpressive flowers are borne in spikes along the floral stems. If allowed to mature, they produce lots of seed that can be saved are resown from year to year.

Beetroot comes in a variety of colors including blood red, purple, orange and pink. There are many cultivars on the market like the heirloom variety, ‘Bull’s Blood’, which is very dark red. Beets perform best when temperatures are cooler, so they are generally sown in late winter to early spring and harvested by late spring or early summer. Beet greens are also edible and can be eaten separately from the root.

Swiss chard (Beta vulgaris var. cicla) is grown exclusively its large, fleshy leaves and stems that taste somewhat like spinach. These come in all colors of the rainbow including red, pink, white, yellow and orange. In fact, the highly popular Bright Lights mix is award-winning mix and comes in all available colors. Swiss chard has a mild flavor, if grown where summers are mild, but adopts a bitter flavor if grown in high heat.

Both beetroot and chard perform best in full sun and fertile, friable garden soil. They require regular water and light fertilization. The seeds germinate more quickly if soaked in warm water for 30 minutes before planting. Chard can be harvested all season long, but beetroot is only harvested once. Both generally take 40 to 50 days before they are mature enough to harvest. To harvest chard, remove the individual leaf stalks by cutting them near the base of the plant.

These vegetables are especially popular in Northern European and Russian cooking because both grow best in cooler, northern regions. Beets taste great pickled, roasted, sautéed or added to salads or soups, like borscht. Chard tastes best sautéed with garlic and oil. It may also be steamed and served with butter.

Characteristics

  • AHS Heat Zone

    12 - 1

  • USDA Hardiness Zone

    6 - 10

  • Sunset Zone

    A1, A2, A3, H1, H2, 1a, 1b, 2a, 2b, 3a, 3b, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24

  • Plant Type

    Vegetable

  • Sun Exposure

    Full Sun

  • Height

    1'-2' / 0.3m - 0.6m

  • Width

    6"-12" / 15.2cm - 30.5cm

  • Bloom Time

    Late Spring, Early Summer, Summer

  • Native To

    Europe

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Neutral

  • Soil Drainage

    Well Drained

  • Soil type

    Loam, Sand

  • Growth Rate

    Very Fast

  • Water Requirements

    Average Water

  • Habit

    Rosette/Stemless

  • Seasonal Interest

    Spring, Summer, Fall

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    Insignificant

  • Flower Color

    Red, Green

  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    White, Yellow, Red, Green, Orange, Dark Green

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    White, Yellow, Red, Green, Orange, Dark Green

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    White, Yellow, Red, Green, Orange, Dark Green

  • Fragrant Flowers

    No

  • Fragrant Fruit

    No

  • Fragrant Foliage

    No

  • Bark or Stem Fragrant

    No

  • Repeat Bloomer

    No

  • Showy Fruit

    No

  • Edible Fruit

    No

  • Showy Foliage

    Yes

  • Foliage Texture

    Coarse

  • Foliage Sheen

    Matte

  • Evergreen

    No

  • Showy Bark

    No

Special Characteristics

  • Usage

    Bedding Plant, Edible, Herb / Vegetable, Mixed Border

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    No

  • Invasive

    No

  • Self-Sowing

    Yes