Before you throw away or compost that finished end of romaine lettuce, let’s try growing it again! Whether you are looking for ways to stretch your food budget, you want to know exactly where your food is coming from, or you just want to try out a cool experiment, you can regrow lettuce from the spent remains.
If you have young children in your house, this is a great, fun, and exciting experiment they can do. It could help jumpstart their own desire to grow a garden or at least help out more when they grow something of their own.
Regrowing romaine lettuce from your leftover scraps doesn’t take any special equipment. This won’t cost you anything either, aside from a little bit of time setting them up. Now, without further ado, let’s find out how you can grow romaine lettuce from scraps.
Table of Contents
Grow Romaine Lettuce From Scraps
1. Growing Lettuce In Water
Believe it or not but lettuce, especially romaine, is incredibly easy to grow if it’s given the right conditions. All you need to do is have a few supplies you most likely already have in your kitchen and an end piece of romaine lettuce.
- Romaine lettuce
- Coffee cup or shallow bowl
- Light source (window sill or grow lights)
How To Get Started
A fresh head of lettuce is better, and if you want to make sure your food is completely organic, reach for the organic lettuce at the store.
Now that you have your romaine lettuce, use your knife and cut the leaves off the bottom end of the head. Be sure to leave about 2 to 3 inches of the end for best results. If you have a plastic lettuce knife, or ceramic knife use that to cut your lettuce.
Metal knives work just as well, but they tend to make the ends of the leaves turn brown quicker. Either way, you don’t need to go out and purchase either of these knives because a regular, steel knife will still suffice.
Now, place your lettuce end into your shallow bowl, coffee mug, or other vessel. It needs to be large enough to hold the entire end, but not so large that it has a hard time standing straight up.
Place some water into the dish. Be sure the water only just covers the bottom of the cut stem section. You don’t want the leaves to be soaking in the water. When the lettuce leaves soak in water they get mushy and moldy fairly quickly, so be mindful about how much water you place in the dish.
Now, just place the cut lettuce end on a sunny windowsill, or if you have grow lights, place them directly above it. You will have to replace the water in the dish every day or two to keep it fresh. Stagnant water will slow the growth of your lettuce and increase mold, mildew, and a bad smell, so keep the water fresh.
Grow lights such as these LED Plant Grow Light Strips Full Spectrum Grow Lights for Indoor Plants work very well to get your lettuce growing endeavors. If you’re a constant gardener, these will help for many other applications as well. Starting your seedlings indoors, providing supplemental light for long winters, or to help tropical plants grow just a little better.
You should start to see small leaves starting to sprout out of the middle of the cut end. And as long as the lettuce doesn’t bolt (we’ll talk about that soon) you could start harvesting new, fresh lettuce leaves in about 10 to 12 days.
2. Growing Lettuce In Soil
You can also try growing your lettuce in a small container and soil if you so choose, but there are a lot of reports that this method isn’t as effective as the strictly water method.
- Romaine lettuce
- Small planting pot
- Loose potting soil
- Light source (window sill or grow lights)
Start by cutting the end the same way we mentioned before with 2 to 3 inches of space left. Then you want to dampen the soil before you place the lettuce end inside. Some potting mixes, especially seed starting mixes, are quite hydrophobic.
When you water some of these potting mixes from above, the water will run down the inside, or through the pot and drain directly out the bottom. Soaking, and mixing the soil with the water before planting your lettuce end helps the dirt retain the water.
You want the soil to be damp enough to clump together but is not dripping wet. Once you have the right consistency, place the bottom part of the stem in the soil. You’ll probably have to mist the soil every day or every other day so that the end of the lettuce gets enough water to start growing.
Things To Keep In Mind
Since you are regrowing an already fully grown head of lettuce, you probably won’t get another entire head of lettuce. The leaves will grow again, and you could end up getting enough for a small, personal salad or a big sandwich.
The leaves will be small, but delicious. You also know exactly what went into this little batch of lettuce. If you have kids, they will likely be quite excited to see it growing and be able to eat something they were able to grow themselves.
As we mentioned before, many people who have tried to grow new lettuce in soil report bolting much faster. Leafy greens such as lettuce and a lot of herbs will bolt when they are finished growing, or when they get too warm.
When plants bolt, they send out a thin stalk of flowers up and stop growing their leaves. During this process, the leaves get bitter and aren’t good to eat. They can also grow spines, or hairs that are very unpalatable.
Even when you grow the romaine in a dish of water, it will bolt after a time as well. Bolting isn’t a terrible thing as you can collect seeds from it. Simply let the flowers grow, allow the seed pods to produce, and then harvest the seeds when the pods dry out.
You don’t even need any pollinators because most lettuce are self pollinating. To get the seeds, let the pods grow and soon you’ll see white puffs on the tops. Next, gently tug on the puffs (they look similar to dandelion or thistle tufts), the seeds will be stuck at the end of these tufts and if they pull out easily, they’re ready.
Now you can save them in small envelopes. Be sure to keep them in an airtight container in a dark, cool place. You can either plant them directly (if it’s still spring or early fall) or store them until the next growing season.
Will All Lettuce Heads Regrow?
It’s possible to get all types of head lettuce to regrow to some degree, but the results may vary per lettuce, and per attempt even. You may get some lettuce ends that just wilt and rot, or they may go directly to seed (bolt).
Don’t give up if your first attempt doesn’t work as you expect. It doesn’t cost you anything, and when it does work it’s so exciting because you get free food, that you grew yourself. When they do grow, you can start harvesting in less than two weeks, so there’s not a lot of wait time.
Sometimes you may notice some brown spots or edges on the newly growing lettuce leaves. If you notice this, it won’t get better on its own, and you should go ahead and harvest these leaves. You can still eat them, just cut off the brown spots before doing so.
Will You Be Able To Keep Growing New Lettuce Leaves?
What happens if your stump of lettuce grows remarkably well before it bolts? Can you cut them all off at the bottom and start over with a new stump of romaine? Unfortunately, lettuce won’t grow indefinitely.
You may be able to grow lettuce leaves off your stump two times, but that’s pretty rare. Usually after a plant bolts, it’s at the end of its lifecycle. Now it’s time to compost it, but you’ll probably either grow more in your own garden or buy another head from the store.
How many times will lettuce regrow?
Under optimum growing conditions you can harvest leaves from a head of lettuce anywhere from 3 to 5 or even more times before it reaches the end of its growing season. Lettuce is a cool weather crop that grows best when the temps are below 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
Can you grow romaine lettuce in pots?
It’s very easy to grow lettuce in containers and indoors. They don’t take up much space and the environment inside your home is usually the optimum temperature for growing these cool weather crops.
You’ll need a pot that holds about 2 gallons of soil for a head of lettuce. This will provide enough space for the roots to expand without getting too bound and will have enough nutrients for your plant.
Can you grow lettuce indoors year round?
With grow lights, the right soil, and comfortable temperatures, you can grow lettuce inside all year long. Growing lettuce in a bright sunroom or in a large windowsill may give the plant enough light to grow during the spring and summer, but in the winter you’ll likely need to add a supplemental light source.
Also, leaving your lettuce plants—especially seedlings—on a smaller windowsill may cause them to grow long and weak. This is called getting leggy. The plants stretch toward the sunlight, and in doing so, they grow long and spindly, instead of stout. Here is where the grow lights come in handy. With the lights directly overhead, the plants grow straight up and won’t get leggy. But you can certainly grow salad green indoors all year long with this method.
When you’re looking to get everything you can out of your food budget, go ahead and grow some romaine or other lettuce from your scraps. It’s also a fun experiment to do with your kids, and an easy way to grow some of your own food.
Nearly everyone has the supplies needed at home, and even if you don’t they won’t cost much at all. Just use a small, shallow container, water, and your lettuce remains to grow some more food. It probably won’t be enough to feed your whole family, but it’s basically free, and incredibly easy to do.
Who knows, maybe there are other vegetables you purchase at the store that will continue to grow with the right steps. Have fun growing your food, and good luck!
More cultivation tips