Brussels sprouts grow slowly in cool weather, which may make them seem less than ideal for containers, which tend to be dry, warm environments. However, they can do well in containers and there are even advantages. For example, hot temperatures (over 80° F) can hinder Brussels sprouts. However, containers can be moved out of the direct sun during the hotter parts of summer. Containers are also good for preventing pests and controlling the water and nutrients your plants receive. Here’s how to grow Brussels sprouts in containers.
BEST CONTAINERS FOR GROWING BRUSSELS SPROUTS
Brussels sprouts do best in large pots. They’ll need at least 8 inches of soil depth but a 5 gallon container or larger is best for each plant. If you are growing multiple plants in even larger containers, allow 24-30 inches of space between them. Be sure each container drains well; add drainage holes if necessary. Because Brussels sprouts tend to prefer cooler temperatures, it’s best to choose light colored containers, which will help to keep the soil from becoming too warm.
WHEN TO PLANT
Brussels sprouts taste best when matured in cool weather and should be grown in temperatures ranging from 45° F to 75° F. They will tolerate temperatures as low as 20° F but it’s best not to expose them to such extremes very often. Depending on your growing zone, you may be able to plant in the early spring, fall or even over the winter. They usually take usually 3 to 4 months to mature after planting. Check your mature dates to make sure that your Brussels sprouts will not be maturing in warm weather or they will taste bitter.
WHERE TO PUT THE CONTAINERS
The “fog belt” of the northwest United States is considered the ideal region in which to grow Brussels sprouts. However, they can be grown just about anywhere provided they receive at least 6 hours of direct sunlight each day and are not exposed to hot temperatures for very long. Container grown Brussels sprouts do well just about anywhere, even in partial shade in hot climates. Learn the shade patterns of your garden and place them accordingly.
Use loose, well-drained soil that has been enriched with mature compost. Container grown Brussels sprouts will not be able to reach out for the nutrients they need and the best way to ensure a healthy crop is to get them started in rich, fertile soil. The soil pH should be about 6.8.
You may choose to sow your seeds indoors to get a head start, particularly if you have a short growing season. They can also be direct sown into their larger containers and thinned to the healthiest plant(s). Be sure to follow the instructions on the seed packet for your specific variety, but most will need to be sown ½ inch deep and 2 inches apart. Sow about 3 seeds per 5 gallon container at the center of your pot and thin to the healthiest one once they reach about 5-7 inches tall. Need some seeds? Check out this selection of awesome Brussels sprouts seeds.
If you need to transplant your seedlings into larger containers, do so when they have about 5 true leaves or after about 6 weeks. Be sure to transplant only one per container or with 24-30 inches of space between them in larger containers. Transplant just after watering into moist soil. Plant them deep, up to the first set of leaves. Water and feed just after transplanting.
Brussels sprouts grown in containers need to be watered regularly. Never let the soil dry out – it should be kept moist but never soggy. Water at the base of each plant and in the morning to help avoid mildew and other disease. Lay off the watering just a bit as the heads begin to mature.
Container grown Brussels sprouts need a light feeding every other week or so. At the very least, they should be fed after transplanting and again at mid season. Side dress them with a compost tea or organic liquid fertilizer that contains boron.
Remove any yellow leaves as the plants develop and as you begin to harvest.
Brussels sprout heads are ready when they reach 1-2 inches in diameter. They will be firm and green. Twist them off carefully by hand. For fall harvest, keep picking right up until the first hard frost. Heads matured and harvested in hot weather will taste bitter but those harvested after a nip of frost are often the best. Harvest on sunny days once frosts begin to occur overnight.
Do you have tips on how to grow Brussels sprouts in containers? Let us know in the comments below! Also check out the Health Benefits of Brussels Sprouts on our sister site, Eat This!