Growing Lettuce In Containers: An Easy Guide

Lettuce grows in a terracotta pot in front of a red background.

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You don’t have to have a lot of space to grow your own lettuce. This easy guide will show you about growing lettuce in containers.

Thanks to its compact size and short growing time, lettuce is one of the best vegetables to grow in containers. In just a few weeks, you can be harvesting salads from your patio or balcony. Let’s get into it!

Does lettuce do well in containers?

Definitely! Lettuce doesn’t need a ton of space and has fairly shallow roots. You’ll also get multiple harvests out of your lettuce pots. It is the first vegetable we recommend to people just getting started with container gardening!

Does lettuce need full sun?

Not quite. Lettuce needs four to six hours of direct sunlight a day. However, the lettuce plants appreciate a bit of afternoon shade to keep cool and delay bolting. 

Various types of lettuce grow in a long low container

What container is best for lettuce?

The soil in garden pots tends to dry out way faster than the soil in larger beds, and lettuce prefers soil that is consistently moist (but never soggy). So unless you want to water your lettuce every day (or even multiple times a day when its really hot), consider using a self-watering pot for growing lettuce. Self-watering containers will give your plants a steady supply of water.

If you aren’t using a self-watering container, make sure that you choose a pot with plenty of drainage holes to avoid root rot.

How big of a container do you need to grow lettuce?

Generally, pot depth matters much more than pot width. Lettuce has relatively shallow roots, so as long as the container is at least 6″ deep, it should grow just fine. However, shallower containers will need to be watered more often, as there will be less soil to retain moisture.

Lettuce grows in a vertical container garden

Can I just use regular old garden soil to grow lettuce in containers?

Nope. Regular topsoil is too heavy for container gardening, and doesn’t let moisture and air circulate around the roots like they need to. Potting soil is lighter and airier, and intended to be used for container gardening.

How do I plant lettuce in pots?

Lettuce can be grown from seeds or starter plants beginning 4-6 weeks before the last frost date. You can also sow lettuce in the late summer, about 6-8 weeks before the first frost, for a fall harvest.

To direct sow lettuce seeds:

  1. Mix some compost into the potting soil to enrich the soil.
  2. Sow seeds on top of the soil mix and lightly tamp down with your hands. Just barely cover the seeds with the soil. Lettuce seeds require light for germination, so they really should be just barely covered.
  3. Water gently with the mister setting on your hose nozzle. Keep the soil damp until the seeds germinate.
  4. When the lettuce plants are at least 1″ tall, thin the plants to 6-8″ apart.

To transplant lettuce seedlings:

  1. Dig a hole that is slightly larger than the pot the seedling is in.
  2. Remove the lettuce from its nursery pot and place it in the hole. Backfill with soil, tamping down the soil with your hands.
  3. Water gently.

What types of lettuce is good for growing in containers?

All of them, honestly! Loose-leaf lettuce, head lettuce, crisphead lettuce—all will grow well in containers. Look for lettuce varieties that are well-suited to your growing conditions. If your summers get especially hot, select heat-resistant varieties. For early spring or later fall growing, look for lettuces that do well in cool weather.

After that, it’s up to your taste preferences. Love Caesar salads? Try a romaine lettuce like Valmaine or Flashy Trout’s Back. Want a crisp leaves? Plant some iceberg lettuce. Growing lettuce in containers is the perfect opportunity to experiment with flavor, texture, and color in your garden!

How often do you water lettuce in pots? 

One of the main downsides of growing in containers versus in-ground or in raised beds is that the soil dries out much more quickly in pots. On hot, sunny days, you may even need to water multiple times a day, especially for crops like lettuce that like moist soil.

Water when the soil feels dry when you stick your finger in it, or if the lettuce leaves look like they are starting to wilt. Water either in the early morning or in the evening, when sunlight won’t scorch any water droplets on the leaves.

Lettuce grows in a low yellow container among other container vegetables

How do I take care of my lettuce plants?

  • Make sure that the soil never dries out enough to crust over. This will stress the plants and leave your lettuce bitter.
  • Apply mulch around your lettuce plants to help with water retention. This will also help keep the soil cool on hot days and suppress weeds.
  • Use a balanced fertilizer every other week. We like a blend of fish emulsion and kelp. Do not use a nitrogen-heavy fertilizer, which could make your lettuce bitter.
  • Give the lettuce plants partial shade in the afternoon, when the weather is hottest. The great thing about containers is that it is much easier to move the plants if they need a bit more shade!

How do I harvest my lettuce?

To get the most bang for your container garden buck, we recommend harvesting lettuce leaves instead of entire heads. Using scissors or snips, remove the outer leaves until you have enough lettuce for your salad.

If you do choose to harvest heads of lettuce, clip the lettuce at the base of the plant with a sharp knife or scissors. Leave about an inch of the plant behind so that the lettuce can regrow.

Wrap harvested lettuce in a damp dish towel in an airtight container or plastic bag in the refrigerator. Or, use VejiBags to keep the lettuce fresh for close to two weeks!

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Cassie is a Certified Master Gardener and the founder of Growfully. She's been gardening organically for over two decades, and she's so excited to answer all the questions you have about gardening!

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Meet Cassie
Meet Your Guide

Hi! My name is Cassie.

I’m a Certified Master Gardener and founder of Growfully. I’ve been gardening organically for over two decades, and I’m so excited to answer all the questions you have about gardening!

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