If you’re a fan of broccoli, you probably have to deal with leftover scraps and stems on the regular.
But what’s really cool is that those odd pieces don’t have to end up in the compost or trash can. Instead, reuse them to grow your own endless supply of broccoli!
Today, you’ll learn how to grow broccoli from stem pieces, and some growing tips for a bountiful broccoli harvest.
Let’s get started!
Let’s start with the stalks. The best results come from stems that are at least 5 inches long.
Here we have two heads of broccoli, only one of which is a good candidate for re-growing:
The one on the left is much larger and has a longer central stem. This gives us plenty of area to work with and get good, strong roots from.
Here’s a better look at how small the one on the right is compared to my hand:
Still delicious, but not ideal for our re-growing purposes. It’s pretty small overall, and there are just too many florets branching off low on the main stalk.
(But make sure to peel and chop those tender, small stems; they’re yummy!)
Once you’ve got a good stem to work with, begin by rinsing your broccoli in water to remove any dirt or debris. When you prep your broccoli for cooking, use a clean, sharp knife to cut off the head (top part) but leave behind some of the branches.
There should be no traces of the head on the lower branches, so cut all of those off.
That’s it: No other preparation of the stalk is required!
Here’s what my stem looked like after cutting the top off. You can see that the remaining stalk is just about 6 inches long, so it’s good to go!
2. Place Your Cut Stem in Water
Next, find a container tall enough to hold your stem and some water.
A clean, wide-mouth (this is important later!) mason jar is what I used, but a regular drinking glass that’s at least 6 inches tall should do just fine, too.
After you’ve got your growing vessel, add just enough clean water to submerge the lower half of the stem. Leave the other half above the water line, like this:
Now, place your jar on a sunny windowsill.
After about a week, you should start to see new roots growing and multiplying from the base of the stem.
You may even see some beginnings of new branches and leaves at the top!
Check the top of the stem every couple of days to make sure it is not drying out. If it is, use a spray bottle to spritz the top, just enough to moisten it.
If the water in the jar becomes cloudy or dirty, pour it out and add back fresh, clean water. This will encourage more root growth and even speed up the process a little bit.
Keep an eye on your new root growth. Watch for these signs:
- The roots are at least a couple of inches long
- They become thick
- The color starts to become darker
When you see these signs, your broccoli stems are ready to move into soil!
Caution: Don’t wait too long to transplant outdoors. If the root tips get too long or dark, your stem won’t transplant or grow well.
3. Prepare Your Planting Area
The first order of business when planting your broccoli stem outdoors: Make sure there’s no risk of frost.
Broccoli may be a cool-weather veggie, but only as a direct-sown seed crop. When you’re planting a rooted stem cutting, broccoli is not a fan of frost or freezing temperatures!
If you’re not sure, you can find more information about frost dates in your area from the National Weather Service.
Once your region is clear of frost danger, prepare your planting site. Since broccoli is quite a large plant when mature, its most common home is in the ground.
But you can also successfully grow broccoli in a container, as long as it’s a large one. For instance, a 5-gallon bucket provides plenty of space for one plant.
Be it in the actual ground or in a large pot, broccoli likes these growing conditions:
- Full sun
- Mildly acidic soil (ideally between 6.1 and 6.8 pH)
- Good drainage
- Excellent nutrient levels
Here’s what you need to meet each of these needs:
Full sun. This means your broccoli will get at least 6 hours of direct sunlight each day. If you have a spot that gets more sun than that, even better!
Mildly acidic soil. To strike the appropriate soil pH on the first try, use a multi-function tester like this one on Amazon. If you need to make your soil a little more acidic, this organic soil acidifier may be a good choice.
Drainage and nutrition. Broccoli likes to stay moist but not waterlogged. And like most vegetables, broccoli needs a lot of nutrients to produce a good crop.
Soil that has a lot of clay or is overly dry/crumbly needs some help to get to healthy condition.
Fortunately, the solution for both improving drainage and enriching your soil is the same: Add plenty of organic matter to your soil.
These are some good options:
- Well-rotted manure
- Last autumn’s chopped leaves
Work this good stuff into the top several inches of your in-ground planting site.
For container growing, thoroughly mix your organic matter into your potting mix.
4. Plant Your Rooted Stem
Now that your planting area is ready, grab your rooted stem. Be careful when taking it out of the jar (hence the wide mouth!) to not damage any of the tender roots.
Plant the stem deeply in the soil, being careful to cover all roots up to the new baby leaves at the top of the stem. Surround the stem with mulch to keep the soil cool and prevent it from drying out too quickly.
Water enough to keep the soil moist until new growth appears, then about once or twice a week.
Broccoli likes its roots to stay on the cool side, so protect your plants from high temperatures with plenty of water.
Then marvel at the beauty that is growing broccoli!
Growing Tips for the Best Broccoli Harvest
Broccoli can be a slightly finicky plant to grow, and there are a few things you need to know to get the best out of your broccoli harvest:
- Maintain soil moisture and temperature with regular waterings and mulch.
- Use fertilizer (like this organic one) or compost every two weeks.
- Prevent and remove any pests like cabbage caterpillars (more info from the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) here)
- Plant sprouted stems in spring based on your last frost date, and plant a second stem in late July to early August (yep- twice a year!).
- Stake broccoli plants for support with bamboo stakes and garden tape, both of which are available on Amazon.
Why Broccoli Deserves a Spot in Your Garden
Broccoli is tasty and flexible in recipes, it is also loaded with nutritional benefits that- let’s face it- we could all use a bit more of.
According to Healthline, broccoli deserves a garden spot because:
- It’s got 11% of your daily requirement of vitamin A, which is important for healthy vision.
- It boasts 135% of vitamin C requirements, necessary for the immune system.
- There’s 116% of the daily requirement for vitamin K for healthy bones and blood clotting.
- And B9 (folate)? It’s got 14% which works to help produce DNA, RNA, and a healthy pregnancy.
- Antioxidants are highly present in broccoli and can prevent cancer and several chronic diseases.
- There’s calcium and phosphorus, which are crucial the healthy bones.
- There’s a good deal of fiber, which keeps you full and regular.
- AND it’s low in calories and carbohydrates!
Another great thing about broccoli is you can eat the crowns as well as the stems (and greens!) and reap the same benefits.
Broccoli is tasty cooked or raw, alone or paired with cheese or other vegetables.
You can even eat the greens (leaves) just as you would kale, spinach, or lettuce!
Yes, especially when you can grow broccoli from stem pieces, it has more than earned its spot as a garden staple!
Frequently Asked Questions about Growing Broccoli
Did you know that broccoli heads are immature flowers? It’s true- and this is where you can get seeds.
Allow one head to flower or “bolt” and you’ll see the seed pods form. Just let the seed pods mature (be patient-it takes a couple of months!). Then remove the entire plant from your garden and the pods will dry while still attached to the stalk.
Once dried, you should be able to twist each pod to release the tiny seeds and save in a paper envelope for next year’s planting!
Most gardeners treat broccoli as an annual, meaning that it completes its entire life cycle in one year.
But broccoli is actually a biennial, meaning it will grow and produce a crop in one year, and then sending up flowers and seed the next spring.
Most often biennials will die off after the second year, but in some climates they can actually behave like perennials and come back every year.
Yes! If you have at least a 12-inch pot or container, you can grow a broccoli plant in it.
The same rules from in-ground broccoli plants apply for soil, water, and temperature. You can start broccoli in a pot from a cutting or even from seeds.
Broccoli plants take up a great deal of room to grow a single head- they need at least 18 inches between plants for the best outcome.
If your broccoli plants are too close together, this will produce smaller heads as well as lower yields.
So be sure to give your broccoli plants the space they need!
Broccoli is a heavy feeder, so first make sure you have rich enough soil.
This can be done by mixing in compost when you plant it. Then use an organic fertilizer that is high in nitrogen, such as composted manure or a balanced fertilizer like this one from The Old Farmer’s Almanac.
You can harvest broccoli twice per season. The first harvest is the largest, and each plant will produce a single large head.
Once you’ve harvested the first head, the plant will produce smaller side shoots that can also be harvested.
In closing, broccoli can be a great addition to your vegetable garden.
With a little TLC and attention, you too can reap the benefits of this tasty cruciferous vegetable.
And if you’ve got broccoli on hand, re-grow some from the stem today!
What’s your favorite way to enjoy broccoli? Let us know in the comments!