Advanced Search Filters

Plant Type
Hardiness Zone
Heat Zone
Sunset Zone
Function
Sun Exposure
Soil Moisture
Water Requirement

LACTUCA sativa

Image of Lactuca sativa

Felder Rushing

Family

Asteraceae

Botanical Name

LACTUCA sativa

Plant Common Name

Garden Lettuce

General Description

Growing fresh crispy lettuce in the garden is as easy as 1-2-3 if you have good soil and the right climate. This fast growing cool season annual is relished for its crisp heads of tasty sweet foliage.

Lettuce originates from Northern Europe, Africa and Asia and is known to have been eaten by the Ancient Egyptians and Romans. The wild lettuce species, Lactuca serriola, is the parent to all cultivated lettuce and has sparse rosettes of foliage, but over time it was selected and bred to produce the dense, succulent heads we eat today.

There are many forms, colors and types of lettuce. The most familiar of these is probably crisphead or iceberg lettuce, which has the large, round, juicy sweet, pale green heads that are most commonly used in family-style restaurants. Loosehead, butterhead or bibb lettuce are common garden-grown types with smooth, thin, buttery leaves and looser heads. Romaine types have dense elongated heads of thickly ribbed leaves that are the main ingredient of Caesar’s salads. And finally there are looseleaf types, which are favored for spring mixes, and summercrisp types, which have denser often curly-leaved (savoyed) heads. Leaf shape can be round, linear, oak-like or pointed and color ranges from all shades of green to bronze, purple and red. When temperatures warm up, the whole leafy clump elongates and grows upwards. At this stage they are no longer good eating. When fully elongated they become topped with tall branched stems covered with pale yellow flowers followed by fluffy white seedheads.

Lettuce grows best in cool weather. In most temperate zones it is favored as a spring and fall crop and it can be grown as a winter crop in the south where the season is cool and frost-free. Full sun and light, fertile, nutrient-rich soil and regular water are needed to produce good lettuce. Days to harvest vary from cultivar to cultivar but average around 30 to 45 days. The leaves of looseleaf types can be harvested individually whereas the whole plant is commonly harvested with head-types. Once your plants begin to bolt, pull them or allow them to set seed for collection. Once lettuce is subjected to hot weather and begins to bolt its flavor becomes bitter.

Characteristics

  • AHS Heat Zone

    12 - 1

  • 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

  • Bloom Time

    Indeterminate

  • Native To

    Northern Europe, Northern Africa, Asia

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Neutral

  • Soil Drainage

    Well Drained

  • Soil type

    Loam

  • Growth Rate

    Very Fast

  • Water Requirements

    Average Water

  • Habit

    Rosette/Stemless

  • Seasonal Interest

    Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    Insignificant

  • Flower Color

    Light Yellow

  • Fruit Color

    Tan, Brown

  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    Green, Light Green

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    Green, Light Green

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    Green, Light Green

  • Fragrant Flowers

    No

  • Fragrant Fruit

    No

  • Fragrant Foliage

    No

  • Bark or Stem Fragrant

    No

  • Flower Petal Number

    Single

  • Repeat Bloomer

    No

  • Showy Fruit

    No

  • Edible Fruit

    No

  • Showy Foliage

    Yes

  • Foliage Texture

    Coarse

  • Evergreen

    No

  • Showy Bark

    No

Special Characteristics

  • Usage

    Container, Edible, Herb / Vegetable

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    No

  • Invasive

    No

  • Attracts

    Butterflies

  • Self-Sowing

    Yes