Have you ever wondered about the growing stages of cauliflower? Knowing about them can be important for you to know when to transplant, fertilize and harvest the perfect crop every time you plant. Let’s find out more about them! 

What You'll Learn

Cauliflower Growing Stages Infographic

Here’s an overview of the complete cauliflower lifecycle, from seeds to mature plants. This infographic will show you what to expect as it grows and the key things to look out for.

cauliflower growing stages infographic
Cauliflower growth stages infographic

As you seen from the infographic above there are four main cauliflower growing stages that the plant goes through during its lifecycle, and these include:

  •  germination stage
  •  seedling stage
  •  vegetative and curd initiation stage
  •  flowering stage

Pre-Growth: Planting 

The first step for growing cauliflower is to plant the seed. The best way to do this is to plant it in well-drained soil rich in organic matter. That will prevent the seed from drying out and keep it moist and fed while it sprouts. Start seeding about a half-inch deep in a pot, container, or directly in the garden bed.

sowing cauliflower seeds

Stage 1: Germination

Germination is the first cauliflower growing stage and perhaps the most important. In order to germinate, cauliflower seeds need water, nutrients, light, and a good temperature. If any of these four things are missing, the seed cannot germinate, and your plant won’t grow.

Germination starts when the seed begins to split open to allow roots and a stem to start growing. It is usually considered complete when the primary roots have appeared and the first set of leaves is established. The plant in this process is very sensitive and can easily die if it doesn’t have all the perfect requirements.

cauliflower seed germination

Stage 2: The Seedling

The seedling stage comes next, and at this point, your cauliflower will still be very small but more durable. It will have young roots, a stem, seed leaves, and some embryonic shoots. These get the plant established and give it what it needs to grow.

The roots provide anchorage and access to water and nutrients, and the leaves allow them to start photosynthesizing. From here, your plant will begin to develop a second and third set of true leaves and get bigger and stronger.


Now it is time to transplant young seedlings into their final position. To do that, ensure the seedling has 3 or 4 leaves and is 3 or 4 inches tall. Try to transplant just before they reach 4 inches tall to avoid buttoning later in the curd initiation stage.

Plant your seedlings into a container or garden bed where they will receive enough sun and will be able to develop further. It’s also important that they are not crowded and that there is plenty of room for them to expand. 

transplanting cauliflower seedlings

Stage 3: Vegetative and Curd Initiation Stage

This phase begins when the seedlings are transplanted or thinned, and the plants are now growing in their permanent positions.

Foliage Growth

Next, your plant needs to start establishing its adult leaves and growing plenty of them to support itself. You will start to see more complex structures appearing, and the seed leaves may die off to make room for the plant’s adult leaves. 

The root system will become more developed and complex, and the plant will start developing internal structures for water and food transportation. You may want to start fertilizing your plant at this point.

cauliflower vegetative stage

Curd Initiation Phase

Once it has enough foliage, your cauliflower can begin to develop a head or curd. It will continue to gain size too, but you should see curd forming, and you will need to regularly water and weed around your vegetables. As cauliflower is a cool-weather vegetable, the strong sun and weather oscillations can damage the plant in all growth stages.

To keep the curd nice and white and to avoid color changing and splitting during the intense sun, you should cover the heads. You can tie the leaves over the head with twine or cut one outer or bottom leaf to protect the curd.

Nutrition Demand

In this vegetative and curd initiation cycle of cauliflower growth, you will want to regularly water and fertilize your plants.

That will help you to get the greatest yield possible. The cauliflower is a heavy feeder, and you should ensure you feed it with a fertilizer rich in nitrogen. If the plant doesn’t receive enough nutrients in this stage result will be poor and small head development. 

cauliflower curd initiation stage

Stage 4: Flowering and Reproductive stage

You can start harvesting when your cauliflower heads reach around 6 to 8 inches in diameter and are firm, well-formed, and compact.

Harvesting should be done just before the reproductive stage because at this phase plant is now mature, and it will try to reproduce, which means the creation of flowers. The plants will continue to grow, but not as fast, and will start to produce small yellow flowers familiar to all brassica family members. The plant now pushes all energy into the developing flowers and seedpods, which means the curds will start to change color and split, becoming less attractive for consumption.

The plant will now grow a long stalk with yellow flowers on end, easy for pollinators to reach. Once they have been pollinated, the flowers will die back, and the seedpods will remain.

cauliflower ready for harvesting

Seed Production

Once the seedpods are completely dried out, you can collect seeds from them. Remember that only heirloom cauliflower varieties will give you reusable seeds because hybrid plants mostly produce sterile seeds. To save seeds, cut the stalks with flowers off once they have turned brown, and store them somewhere cool and dark to dry for two weeks. Once dry, tap them to shake the seeds out and store them for the following year.

cauliflower flowering closeup

Frequently Asked Questions

How Many Heads Does a Cauliflower Plant Produce?

Unlike broccoli which develops multiple heads, cauliflower will produce a single head. However, if the plant gets stressed during its lifecycle, the curd can be “buttoned,” leaving the impression that cauliflower develops more heads. The buttoned curd will still be edible but loses its commercial value. Check the picture below to understand why people think cauliflower has more than one head.

buttoned cauliflower

How Many Times Does Cauliflower Produce?

Cauliflower can produce head or curd only once, unlike broccoli which you harvest multiple times during the growing season. After you cut the curd, the plant won’t die and will continue to produce leaves and stems but slowly. That is one of the reasons why this plant is moderately heavy to grow because you have only one chance to grow the perfect curd.

How Long Does Cauliflower Last In The Ground?

Cauliflower is a biennial plant, which means it can survive in the ground for two years. It is mostly grown annually because, in the second year, the plant will skip the curd initiation phase and focus on flowering and reproduction. The plant will then develop seedpods, and after that, it will die.


As you can see, cauliflower has several stages of growth, and understanding each will ensure you know how to look after this vegetable and make the most of your crop. If you enjoyed reading this article and found these cauliflower growing stages infographic useful, please share it with the links below.