In ideal conditions a brussel sprout will come back after its first year, living a total of two years. Brussel sprouts are bountiful plants that can be harvested continuously once they start to produce if they’re growing in the right environment.
In this grow trial in Santa Clara County, California, brussel sprout plants that were planted in April were harvested a total of 6 times over a 10 month period with the last harvest coming in February of the next year.
Brussel sprouts can survive cool weather and even a light frost. If you experience mild winters, you may be able to harvest from your Brussel sprout plant throughout the winter.
If you live in the north, you’ll be able to continue harvesting from them through the fall but eventually when temperatures reach cold enough the plants will stop producing and go dormant. Where I live in Michigan brussel sprouts will usually survive the winter but they not produce well their second year.
If you’re growing season is coming to an end soon consider topping the plant to send all of the plants energy towards finishing up the sprouts that are present on the plant.
If you live in an in between zone and don’t know if you should grow brussel sprouts as an annual or not you can help the plants survive through the winter just give it a shot. You can help the plants by spreading a thick layer of mulch on the ground around the base of the brussel sprout plants to insulate them from the cold.
Are Brussel Sprouts Annuals or Perennials?
Brussel sprouts are not annuals or perennials, they are biennials! That means that brussel sprouts will come back for one additional season just like a perennial would, but only that season.
Out of one planting, you will be able to harvest your sprouts during their entire life, in the year planted and in the year after planting, in the right growing regions.
Because you are harvesting a sprout and not a complete growth vegetable, you can continue to pinch off sprouts for as long as you see them. Many growers and gardeners say that sprouts take on a sweeter flavor after a hard frost.
Because of that, second-year plants that have been producing through colder temperatures are thought to make the best meals. However, no matter what you do, your brussel sprout plants will not live the third year.
Brussel sprout plants are very hardy veggies that can keep growing throughout the year in some zones and can survive winters in most zones. If your plants become too cold to grow, they will not die but rather go dormant until warmer weather returns.
Why Are My Brussel Sprouts Flowering?
Have you noticed flowers on your sprouts? In the second year, your brussel sprouts will begin to flower and produce seed. Once the flowers have appeared, sprouts left on the plant will lose their tender, sweet flavor.
Flowering and seed production is the final stage of their life, and once they go to seed, they will die shortly after. You can opt to uproot them when they begin to flower or allow them to go to seed and collect those seeds for next year.
Unfortunately, your brussel sprouts may begin to flower early, called bolting. If your sprout plants begin to flower in their first year, you should take action as soon as possible to keep your sprouts coming.
Bolting can be induced by any kind of stress to the plant, caused by the weather, erratic watering, lack of nutrients, etc.
Brussel sprouts, like other leafy green crops in the family of Brassica and require a relatively high amount of nitrogen in the soil to ensure proper growth. Check out “Best Soil & Fertilizers for Brussel Sprouts” for more on that.
If your Brussel sprout plants are flowering before their second year, all is not lost. Cut back the stems and de-head the flowers as soon as you see them. At the same time, remove any yellow leaves you see on your Brussel sprout stalk.
Flowers and large leaves don’t need to go straight to the compost pile. You can eat the greens, flowers, and stalk if you like.
Of course, the best tasting and most nutritional part of the plant is the sprout. If a sprout is left on the stalk too long and continues to grow, you can still eat it, but the flavor may change as the sprout grows.
Should I Cut the Flowers Off of My Brussel Sprouts?
If your sprout plant is bolting before its second year, you want to put a stop to that by cutting off the flowering heads. Brussel sprouts often react to warm weather and long days by attempting to flower and reproduce.
Long stalks with flowers on their ends are more than an aesthetic change. If the plant begins to bolt and focus its energy on flowering, its lower sections, where you harvest from, may languish.
These flower heads require a lot of energy for the plant to produce; energy better spent producing tasty sprouts!
When you see your brussel sprouts begin to flower, cut the heads off the flowers as soon as possible. If you don’t, your sprouts may take on a bitter flavor or stop growing altogether.
Of course, if this is your second year, the plant is nearing the end of its life cycle. You can attempt to delay the flowering process to continue harvesting sprouts, but by the end of the second season, your brussel sprout plants will die, with the flower present or not.
Should you wish to save the seeds to plant in future seasons, allow the plant to flower fully. Soon after flowering, your brussel sprout plants will form large seed pods, which can be harvested and stored for later planting.
To harvest brussel sprout seeds, wait until the seed pods have turned brown and begun to dry out. The dry pods can be stored as they are until you are ready to plant or broken open to reveal the seeds within. Store your seeds in a cool, dry place until they are ready for planting.
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