Can I grow cauliflower indoors, from seed to harvest? Yes, you absolutely can. It may not grow quite as large as you might get outdoors, but it will still be decent size, and worth it!
Cauliflower scored a “B-“ on our “indoor-garden feasibility” scale, just like it’s cousin, broccoli. Cauliflower was actually fairly easy to grow in the indoor garden, despite warnings that it wouldn’t form heads at the warmer temperatures in my garden. However, like broccoli, it did take up a lot of space relative to the amount of food you get from one cauliflower plant. Plus, like broccoli, in an indoor environment, cauliflower took a long time from seed to harvest. Hence, the rather low score. Here is the Tub to Table guide to growing Cauliflower, from seed to harvest, indoors.
Cauliflower Basics. Old Farmer’s Almanac type of stuff.
- Botanical name – Brassica oleracea.
- Sun exposure – Full sun.
- Soil type and pH – loamy, slightly acidic to neutral
- Light period* – 12 – 14 hours of light
- Water – Keep soil moist but not wet.
- Weeks to maturity – About 9-10 weeks to harvest.
- Health benefits – Cauliflower is a rich source of Vitamin C, and has moderate levels of several B vitamins and Vitamin K.
- Favorite varieties for the indoor garden- Snow Crown Hybrid, Amazing (takes a bit longer, 10 -12 weeks)
Broccoli and cauliflower, from a growing perspective, are pretty similar. They are both part of the Brassicaceae family (which also includes cabbage, brussel sprouts, and kale). They both took up quite a bit of room but both were fairly easy to grow. Like broccoli, I would recommend spacing them out quite a bit because if they are planted too close, they will shade each other’s leaves. I would recommend no more than four plants in one 20 gallon bin, or at least 8-10″ apart. I usually try to pack my stuff in, but the cauliflower crop needs the room.
Special Problems with Growing Cauliflower Indoors
Cauliflower is typically a finicky crop. It needs rich soil and does best in cooler temperatures of 60 degrees consistently. So, I wasn’t sure this would grow in my warmer indoor garden where temperatures are consistently 70 degrees during the day and only goes down to about 55 degrees at night. I didn’t want to turn down the temperature for the whole room, and it is hard to make a microclimate within the grow room, so we just went for it. As you can see in the picture, the cauliflower grew fine, and to a nice size. But there is some slight purple discoloration on the underside of the cauliflower on the right which is a sign of stress, likely from the warmer temperatures. Ultimately, that didn’t affect the taste.
Staking/support. Cauliflower were so sturdy and strong, we found they didn’t need any staking or supports. One thing we did regularly was to cut the large broad leaves from the lower stem to make sure the cauliflower plant got plenty of air flow since the indoor garden, in general, has less airflow than an outdoor garden would.
Water. Do your best to water the cauliflower from below such as with self-watering bins. Or, only water the base of the plant as any water on the head of the broccoli can cause it to mold. This mold can appear as small brown spots and once it’s there, it’s tough to cure.
Pollination. Cauliflower do not require any pollination to get them to set fruit. How perfect for the indoor garden!
Cauliflower takes up a lot of room. For all the room the cauliflower takes up, you only get one little side dish out of it every 8 -10 weeks. And unlike broccoli, you don’t typically get offshoots where you can get a secondary harvest. So pretty much when your’e ready to harvest the cauliflower, you might as well dig up the whole plant and enjoy the new room to grow another crop.
Cauliflower also takes a long time in an indoor environment. Outdoors, you can expect a cauliflower to be ready at around 80 -90 days. Our indoor cauliflowers took at least 120 days each time. So that is a huge amount of space to dedicate for a long time. Harvest the cauliflower when the heads are compact white and firm, or when it’s about 6 inches across. It’s typically recommended that you then soak the cauliflower in salt water for about 20-30 minutes to get rid of any cabbage worms. But that is one of the major perks of the indoor garden, you won’t have any cabbage worms!
Varieties we trialed.
Speaking of colorful, cauliflower can be all sorts of different colors, from the traditional white varieties such as Snow Crown Hybrid and Amazing which both did well in our garden, to orange “Cheddar” or “Flame star” varieties that are said to be sweeter and creamier. There are also lime green romanesco varieties with heads that look like fractals and even dark purple varieties such as “Graffiti“. We never got the green heads to get very large in the indoor garden.
Even though cauliflower is not the biggest bang for your buck food-wise, it sure makes for an interesting crop to grow and we have grown all of these with varying levels of success in the indoor garden. And by success, I am measuring the ability of the head to “close” and the size of the mature head.
Verdict B-. Cauliflower is a good crop to grow indoors, but it does take a lot of room, and a lot of time, for a fairly small harvest.
We’ve discussed how to grow it indoors, now here’s how to get it to your table!
After all that time and all that work, we had to do something special with the cauliflowers we grew in the precious Tub Garden space. So each crop of cauliflowers got their own special recipes…
The first time we grew a cauliflower it was small but delicious so we went for a safe recipe we knew we loved. Indian cuisine does some amazing things with vegetables and with cauliflower in particular. One of my favorite vegetarian cooking sites is Veg Recipes of India. This recipe is adapted from her “Gobi Masala” (Gobi = cauliflower). Cauliflower Masala has been a particular favorite around this household!
The second time we got a better crop and we even grew the “cheesy” varietals. As cauliflower does well holding onto any flavors, we loved trying these Beer-battered cauliflower bites...
And finally, we ground up a not very pretty-looking cauliflower and used it as a “flour” to make Cauliflower gnocchi and to delve into the world of gluten free flours…
Overall, I’d say growing cauliflower indoors was one of those things that was fun to do , just to prove we could do it. But the amount of time and space these little guys need just isn’t worth it in the long run.