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Lactuca sativa is often confused with:
Brassica oleracea Brassica oleracea
Plants that fill a similar niche:
Eruca vesicaria Eruca vesicaria
Spinacia oleracea Spinacia oleracea
Daucus carota subsp. sativus ends of carrots
Lactuca sativa has some common insect problems:
Pests of Lettuce
Lactuca sativa has some common disease problems:
Damping-off in Flower and Vegetable Seedlings

Romaines Lactuca sativa

Phonetic Spelling
lak-TOO-kah sa-TEE-vah
Description

Lettuce, the well-known salad green, is an annual plant in the daisy family Asteraceae.  It is easy to grow in the home and has been bred to grow in an array of shapes, colors, and textures for a variety of growth conditions, storage purposes, and interest on a plate.  The general categories of lettuce types include head lettuce, romaine/cos, leaf lettuce, and butterhead (loose head).

Lettuce grows best in full sun to part shade and rich, moist, well-drained soils.  Optimal pH ranges from 6.0-6.7.  Lettuces grow best in the cool weather of spring and fall; in NC's hot summers, the plants appreciate having some shade so long as they can get 3-4 hrs of sun a day.  They have high water requirements along with shallow root systems and need consistently moist soil for proper growth and flavor.  Both high temperatures (70-80 F) and dry soil can trigger plants to bolt and flower, turning the leaves bitter and stopping leaf production.  Consider planting heat-tolerant varieties if growing lettuce in warm climates– leaf and butterhead types tolerate heat better than romaine, which itself does better in heat than head lettuce.

For a spring crop, seeds can either be started indoors 6-8 weeks before last frost for later transplanting or direct seeded 2 weeks before the last frost.  For fall, sow seeds three months before first frost, mid August to late September in NC.  Plant seeds to a depth of 1⁄4 to 3⁄8 in; different lettuce types need different spacing, head lettuce generally needing 10 in in-between plants and leaf lettuce 4-6 in.  Alternatively, leaf lettuce seeds can be sprinkled on top of the soil or mixed into the top 1 in layer.  Lettuce can also be grown in containers at a minimum of 2 quarts in size and 6-8 in deep.  Plant additional seed at 2 week intervals to extend the harvest.

Leaves can be harvested either by removing individual baby leaves (2-3 in) for a continuous harvest or by cutting the whole plant at or above the soil surface.  If removing leaf by leaf, take the outer leaves first to allow the central leaves to continue to grow.  Head lettuce is ready to harvest 70 to 80 days after seeding or 60 to 70 days after transplanting while leaf lettuce is ready 50 to 60 days after seeding and 30 to 45 days after transplanting.

Insects, Diseases and Other Plant Problems:  Lettuce is attacked by aphids, armyworms, imported cabbage worm, and loopers.  The pest pressure on summer and fall crops is much greater than on spring crops.  Damping-off is a serious disease of young seedlings, whereas mildews and sclerotinia are serious on the more mature plants.

More information on growing, purchasing and cooking lettuce

 

VIDEO Created by Elisabeth Meyer for "Edibles, Bulbs, and Houseplants" a plant identification course offered in partnership with Longwood Gardens.   

More information on Lactuca.

Profile Video:
See this plant in the following landscape:
Vegetable Garden- Reynolda Gardens
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Allstar Mix'
    Leaf lettuce; mix of red and green varities; high performing
  • 'Bibb'
    Loose head lettuce; green leaves with mild flavor and tender texture
  • 'Black-seeded Simpson'
    Loose head lettuce; green leaves; good for early spring
  • 'Buttercrunch'
    Loose head lettuce; green leaves with mild flavor and tender texture; AAS winner, bolt resistant
  • 'Green Oakleaf'
    Loose head lettuce; green deeply lobed leaves like an oak leaf; good for baby lettuce
  • 'Ithaca'
    Head lettuce strain; grows well in NC
  • 'Jericho'
    Romaine lettuce; forms a green-leafed head; heat tolerant, good for spring planting
  • Lactuca sativa var. augustana ('Celtuce')
    Grown for its long, thick stem; popular in China and Taiwan
  • 'New Red Fire'
    Loose head lettuce; red and green ruffled leaves; heat and bolt resistant
  • 'Pennlake'
    Head lettuce strain; grows well in NC; AAS winner
  • 'Red Sails'
    Loose head lettuce; red, ruffled leaves; AAS winner, decorative and easy to grow
  • 'Salinas'
    Head lettuce strain; grows well in NC
'Allstar Mix', 'Bibb', 'Black-seeded Simpson', 'Buttercrunch', 'Green Oakleaf', 'Ithaca', 'Jericho', Lactuca sativa var. augustana ('Celtuce'), 'New Red Fire', 'Pennlake', 'Red Sails', 'Salinas'
Tags:
#sun#yellow#full sun#partial shade#small spaces#container plant#easy to grow#yellow flowers#moist soil#well-drained soil#vegetable garden#vegetable#edible garden#edible leaves#edible#cool season vegetable#container#container vegetable garden#shade tolerant vegetable#ebh-vh#ebh#containers#spring greens
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Allstar Mix'
    Leaf lettuce; mix of red and green varities; high performing
  • 'Bibb'
    Loose head lettuce; green leaves with mild flavor and tender texture
  • 'Black-seeded Simpson'
    Loose head lettuce; green leaves; good for early spring
  • 'Buttercrunch'
    Loose head lettuce; green leaves with mild flavor and tender texture; AAS winner, bolt resistant
  • 'Green Oakleaf'
    Loose head lettuce; green deeply lobed leaves like an oak leaf; good for baby lettuce
  • 'Ithaca'
    Head lettuce strain; grows well in NC
  • 'Jericho'
    Romaine lettuce; forms a green-leafed head; heat tolerant, good for spring planting
  • Lactuca sativa var. augustana ('Celtuce')
    Grown for its long, thick stem; popular in China and Taiwan
  • 'New Red Fire'
    Loose head lettuce; red and green ruffled leaves; heat and bolt resistant
  • 'Pennlake'
    Head lettuce strain; grows well in NC; AAS winner
  • 'Red Sails'
    Loose head lettuce; red, ruffled leaves; AAS winner, decorative and easy to grow
  • 'Salinas'
    Head lettuce strain; grows well in NC
'Allstar Mix', 'Bibb', 'Black-seeded Simpson', 'Buttercrunch', 'Green Oakleaf', 'Ithaca', 'Jericho', Lactuca sativa var. augustana ('Celtuce'), 'New Red Fire', 'Pennlake', 'Red Sails', 'Salinas'
Tags:
#sun#yellow#full sun#partial shade#small spaces#container plant#easy to grow#yellow flowers#moist soil#well-drained soil#vegetable garden#vegetable#edible garden#edible leaves#edible#cool season vegetable#container#container vegetable garden#shade tolerant vegetable#ebh-vh#ebh#containers#spring greens
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Lactuca
    Species:
    sativa
    Family:
    Asteraceae
    Life Cycle:
    Annual
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Seed
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Mediterranean to Siberia
    Edibility:
    Leaves can be used raw or cooked in salads, sandwiches, and other dishes. Head lettuce can be stored for 2-3 weeks while leaf and butterhead store for 1-2 weeks.
    Dimensions:
    Height: 0 ft. 6 in. - 1 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 0 ft. 6 in. - 1 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Annual
    Edible
    Vegetable
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Erect
    Growth Rate:
    Rapid
    Maintenance:
    Medium
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    High Organic Matter
    Soil pH:
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Available Space To Plant:
    Less than 12 inches
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    2a, 2b, 3a, 3b, 4a, 4b, 5a, 5b, 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9a, 9b, 10a, 10b, 11a, 11b
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Summer
    Fruit Type:
    Achene
    Fruit Length:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Width:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Description:
    Tiny seeds with a dandelion-like tuft (pappus) to aid in wind dispersal.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Head
    Panicle
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Summer
    Flower Shape:
    Radial
    Flower Petals:
    7 - 20 petals/rays
    Flower Size:
    < 1 inch
    Flower Description:
    Small, yellow flowers on tall stalks, each petal ended in fine teeth. Flowering is generally considered undesirable as it turns the leaves bitter and stops plant growth.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Green
    Purple/Lavender
    Red/Burgundy
    Variegated
    White
    Leaf Feel:
    Fleshy
    Leaf Value To Gardener:
    Edible
    Showy
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Rosulate
    Leaf Shape:
    Cuneate
    Obovate
    Spatulate
    Leaf Margin:
    Denticulate
    Entire
    Lobed
    Sinuate
    Undulate
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    3-6 inches
    Leaf Width:
    3-6 inches
    Leaf Description:
    Wide variety of shapes from round to ragged and wavy. Most often green, but whites, yellows, and red-purples are also common in solid, streaked, or speckled patterns.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Green
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Description:
    Very short, growing longer with bolting.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Container
    Small Space
    Landscape Theme:
    Children's Garden
    Edible Garden
    Design Feature:
    Small groups