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This post was last updated on the 03 Jannuary 2024.
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How to Grow Brussel Sprouts in Pots

Brussel sprouts… are you a lover or a hater?

When cooked the right way, these little balls of green goodness are delish! But for some reason, we only have them on Christmas Day and I’m not quite sure why.

So as we head into autumn here in Cape Town, I have decided to grow some Brussel sprouts myself. When I did the research and found out how they actually grow, I was very surprised. Do you know?

Anyway, we’re jumping ahead now. Let’s get right into the details. Fingers crossed they’ll be ready in time for Christmas!

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Have you ever looked closely at a Brussel sprout? It looks just like a baby cabbage. It’s actually part of the brassica family which also includes broccoli, cauliflower, kale, kohlrabi, turnip, and a lot more.

And the part you are eating is actually the edible buds.

Yes – these veggies can be as small as marbles while other varieties can be as large as golf balls.  You also get a variety with a purple color which is the result of a hybrid developed from purple cabbage in the 1940’s.

The other great thing is that they are really, really good for you!

One 80g portion of Brussel sprouts provides four times more vitamin C than an orange. They contain fiber and protein as well as the antioxidant zeaxanthin which is great for eye health, and they contain sulphoraphane that helps lower cancer risks.


What’s in a Brussel Sprout?

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These plants are high in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and anti-oxidants, as well as vitamin C, vitamin K, and folate. It is believed that Brussel sprouts have the potential to reduce the risk of cancer, decrease inflammation, and improve blood sugar control.

Brussel Sprouts… in a nutshell

Whether you want to know how to grow Brussel sprouts in the ground, in raised beds, or learn how to grow Brussel sprouts in container, there are a few basics that will remain the same.

These are things like the soil type, fertilizer, seasons, and lighting requirements.

Here they are in a nutshell:

Planting season: 3 months before the first frost
Soil pH level: Between 6 – 6.8 (closer to 6.8 is better)
Sunshine: 6 hours per day, but the plants can’t get too hot
Can be grown in a container: Yes
Preferred weather: cooler weather
Best temperatures: 60° to 65°F (15-18°C)

Benefits of Growing Brussel Sprouts at Home

There are numerous benefits to growing Brussel sprouts in your own backyard.

1. You have full control over the growing conditions, ensuring that your sprouts are free from harmful pesticides and chemicals. By growing your own, you can enjoy fresh, organic Brussel sprouts that are packed with flavor and nutrients.

2. Growing Brussel sprouts at home can save you money in the long run. Brussel sprouts can be quite expensive to buy at the grocery store, especially during their peak season. By cultivating them yourself, you can enjoy a bountiful harvest without breaking the bank.

3. Growing your own Brussel sprouts is a rewarding experience. There’s a certain satisfaction that comes from nurturing a plant from seed to harvest. It allows you to connect with nature, reduce stress, and create a sense of accomplishment.

Choosing the Right Variety of Brussel Sprouts

When it comes to choosing the right variety of Brussel sprouts, there are a few factors to consider.

Firstly, you’ll want to select a variety that is well-suited to your climate and growing conditions. Some varieties are more cold-tolerant, while others thrive in warmer climates.

Another consideration is the size and maturity of the Brussel sprouts. Some varieties produce smaller sprouts that are ideal for roasting or sautéing, while others yield larger sprouts that are perfect for stuffing or grilling.

Lastly, consider the flavor profile of the different varieties. Some brussel sprouts have a milder, sweeter taste, while others have a stronger, more robust flavor. Choose a variety that aligns with your personal preferences and culinary needs.

Choosing the Right Container to Grow Brussel Sprouts

Even though I will be growing my Brussel Sprouts in containers, the soil still needs to be optimized for the best results.

Brussel sprouts are large plants and need a lot of space to grow so do not try and overcrowd your container. If you want to grow more than one plant, it is best to use a second container.

Single plant:
Container size: minimum 30cm / 12 inches wide and deep, or larger (50cm / 20 inches is better for depth)

Multiple plants:
Brussel sprout plants need to be spaced 60 – 75 cm / 24 – 30 inches apart. This is because they are large plants and will fight for nutrients. In addition, if they are too close together it is easier for pests and diseases to travel from plant to plant.

In container-growing, one plant should be grown in one container. If you do want to grow two plants together in the same pot, the pot needs to be at least a 55/60 liter pot (15 gallons) with an 18-inch diameter.

Keep the soil evenly moist and feed every three weeks with a compost tea or diluted fish emulsion solution.

Preparing the Soil for your Brussel Sprouts

Even though I will be growing my Brussel sprouts in containers, the soil still needs to be optimized for the best results.

The best soil for Brussel sprouts so that they can thrive, is soil that is well-draining and that is rich in organic matter. Start by removing any weeds or debris from the planting area.

pH levels: 6.0 – 6.3
If you need the pH levels to be more alkaline you can add lime to the soil. You can test the pH levels with a pH reader.

The soil needs to be:
– Compost-rich
– Well-drained
– Heavy soil is best

You can use a slow-release phosphorous- and potassium-rich fertilizer at planting time–such as 5-10-10.

Add compost or organic planting mix to the planting container and then turn the soil so it is well mixed through. This helps to improve its fertility and texture. You can test the soil pH using a soil testing kit and adjust it accordingly by adding lime or sulfur.

To ensure proper drainage, consider adding organic matter such as compost or peat moss to the soil. This will help loosen compacted soil and improve water infiltration.

Work the amendments into the soil to a depth of at least 12 inches to create a nutrient-rich and well-aerated growing environment for your brussel sprouts.

Planting Brussel Sprouts Seeds or Seedlings

Brussel sprouts can be grown from either seeds or seedlings.

If you prefer to start with seedlings, you can purchase them from a local nursery or garden center. When planting the seedlings, be sure to handle them carefully to avoid damaging the delicate roots. Plant them at the same depth they were growing in their containers and gently firm the soil around the base of each plant.

How to Sow the Seeds

Start off with a good selection of healthy Brussel sprout seeds.

It’s best to start them indoors about 6 to 8 weeks before the last frost date in your area. 

Step 1: Sowing the Brussel Sprouts Seeds

To begin, prepare your pot with care. Fill seed trays or small pots with a seed-starting mix, moisten the soil, and sow the seeds according to the packet instructions.

Sow 2-3 Brussel sprouts seeds into a single hole. Within a span of 7-12 days, you’ll notice the seedlings sprouting from the soil.

Remember, it’s essential to thin out the seedlings to ensure optimal growth. Remove the weaker seedling while leaving only one behind. The best way to do this without damaging the stronger seedling, is to gently nip the weaker seedling with your fingers or carefully cut it with scissors.

Once the seedlings have developed their second set of true leaves, they are ready to be transplanted into larger containers where they can grow to maturity.

Harden off the seedlings by gradually exposing them to outdoor conditions over the course of a week. Then, transplant them into the prepared soil, planting only one per container, with a minimum size of 5 gallons.

Step 2: Ideal Soil Conditions

Creating the perfect environment for your Brussel sprouts is crucial for their overall development. Make sure the soil in your pot meets the following criteria:

  • Compost-rich: Enrich the soil with organic compost to provide essential nutrients for the plants’ growth.
  • Well-drained: Adequate drainage is essential to prevent waterlogging, which can harm the roots and lead to disease.
  • Opt for Heavy Soil: Brussel sprouts thrive in heavy soil that retains moisture well. Ensure proper moisture levels by incorporating heavy soil into your potting mix.
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Staking your Brussel Sprouts

Your Brussel plants will grow to approximately 1 – 1.2 metres (3 or 4 feet) when fully grown. Because you are going to be snipping off the bottom leaves to maximise airflow and allow the Brussels to get some of that warm sunlight, these plants are going to be top-heavy.

And because they are winter growers, you don’t want the wind catching them and blowing them back and forth because the root system will get damaged.

You NEED to stake them!

You can use anything really, such as simple bamboo sticks, and when your plants are approximately 30cm tall (1 foot), carefully insert four of the stakes around the plant ensuring it is secure.

Watering Brussel Sprouts

Water at the base of the plants and not over the leaves. Make sure that you keep the soil moist.

If the weather is still warm, mulch around the base of the plants to retain moisture and keep the soil cool.

If the temperatures do go above 70°F (21°C) then move them into the shade. This is easy to do with containers, although when filled with soil the pot will be heavy.

Rather water deeply and infrequently, than often and shallow. The deep watering will encourage the roots to grow. Remember to keep the soil moist.

Feeding Brussel Sprouts

how to grow brussel sprouts

In terms of fertilization, Brussel sprouts are heavy feeders and require regular nutrient supplementation. Before planting, incorporate a balanced organic fertilizer into the soil.

Once the plants are established, side-dress them with a nitrogen-rich fertilizer every 4 to 6 weeks.

Use either an organic fertilizer or a well-aged compost. You can do this by side-feeding. Keep checking the pH levels of the soil as well. (Remember, you’re going for around 6.3 pH level).

If your area does have heavy rains, supplement the soil with a nitrogen-rich fertilizer.

** If the plant develops a hollow stem or small buds, the soil will need a boron nutrient added. 

Dissolve 1 tablespoon of borax with 4.7 liters (5 quarts) of water and sprinkle it evenly over the planting bed. This amount will cover 4.6 square meters / 50 square feet.

Harvesting Brussel Sprouts at the Right Time


Knowing when to harvest your Brussel sprouts is essential for achieving optimal flavor and texture. The sprouts should be firm, compact, and about 1 to 1.5 inches in diameter.

Do not wait for the sprouts to turn yellow or open up, as this indicates over-maturity and can result in a bitter taste. If the leaves surrounding the sprouts turn yellow, it’s a sign that they are ready to be harvested.

To remove them, start at the bottom of the plant (as this is how they mature) and simply twist them off the stalk. This is also why fresh Brussels tastes better than those from the store, because those Brussels are harvested all at once. Remove any loose outer leaves and rinse the sprouts thoroughly before using them in your favorite recipes.

Remove any yellowing leaves from the bottom so the plant doesn’t waste energy on them, and you can also remove the leaves from below the sprouts you’ve picked – the plant will continue to grow upwards and produce more leaves and sprouts.

Leave the top leaves on the plant as they will continue to feed the plant.

Troubleshooting Brussel Sprouts

While Brussel sprouts are relatively easy to grow, they can still encounter some common issues. One of the most common problems is aphid infestation. Make sure to check UNDER the leaves, and do this daily. If you notice clusters of small, soft-bodied insects on the leaves, hose them off with a strong stream of water or use insecticidal soap to control the infestation. Neem oil is a really good organic option too.

Cabbage worms can also be a nuisance, as they can chew holes in the leaves and damage the sprouts. Handpicking the worms or applying a biological control such as Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) can help keep their population in check. You can feed them to your chickens if you have, or put them out for garden birds.

Yellowing leaves can be a sign of nutrient deficiencies, particularly nitrogen. If the leaves appear pale or yellow, apply a nitrogen-rich fertilizer to boost their growth and color.

And so…

On average, your plant will produce approximately 100 sprouts over a 2 – 3 month period, during the winter period.

If you are looking to grow your own to feed your family, plant 2 – 5 plants per person in your household, but don’t sow them all at the same time. If you end up with too many you can always preserve some, or give them away to neighbours, friends, and family.

Happy gardening!

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