Unfortunately, some types of lettuce, such as the lettuce and lettuce, tend to shoot in summer. That means: The visual appearance of the plant begins to change. A tall stalk grows out of the middle of the head of the lettuce, which only bears isolated, small leaves and forms flowers after a short time.

What does shooting mean?

Most lettuce plants belong to the annual group of plants that first have leaves and then flowers at the end of their vegetation phase in order to reproduce. Many salads – depending on the time of sowing – bloom between June and August. The plant then grows up to one meter tall and usually forms many small, yellowish flowers. Most salads are harvested long before they bloom. With the so-called “shooting” or “shooting” there is an early bloom formation. The lettuce loses its beautiful shape and grows in a pyramid shape. Basically, this is the mature, adult form of the salad. Under no circumstances should you use the seeds of prematurely shot lettuce for breeding. There is a risk that the seeds could inherit this early flowering from their parents.

Eat shot salads

A lettuce puts a lot of energy into flower formation, after all it is about the reproduction and continued existence of the plant. As soon as certain conditions arise (day length, temperature), the metabolism of the lettuce plant changes and too many bitter substances are formed for consumption. How many bitter substances there are depends on the degree of ripeness and the variety. These bitter substances serve to protect the plant and its seeds. However, flowering salads are generally not poisonous, so they can still be eaten. Not all salads have the same tendency to shoot. Lettuce, lettuce and spinach are particularly susceptible. The lower parts of the shoot begin to lignify, the leaves become

  • smaller
  • harder
  • bitter
  • may no longer be edible
Tip: If you are unsure whether the lettuce leaves are still edible, just give them a try! If the leaves are not too bitter for you, you can eat them without any problems.

Lettuce shoots – causes

In many types of lettuce, flower formation is triggered by the length of the day. With more than 12 hours of sunlight, the metabolism of these so-called long-day plants changes and the flowering and reproduction phase begins. When the exact point in time for the flowers to set depends on the type and variety of the salad. If a lettuce plant shoots prematurely, in most cases it is because the temperatures or the length of the day do not match normal growing conditions. If, for example, a short cold period occurs in the youth phase in spring or early summer, this signals the approaching winter to the plant. This is why the lettuce begins to sprout a set of flowers as soon as it gets warmer again.

If the lettuce shoots before the actual harvest time, stress is often to blame. For example, too much crowding in the bed, drought or illness can be decisive. In such situations the survival of the plants is threatened. And that triggers premature bloom. In all these cases, the plants hurry up with the rapid emergence to promote flower formation and thus their own reproduction in order to ensure the long-term survival of their species.

Causes of Stress:

  • sown too early or too late
  • too little space in the bed
  • cold, changeable weather conditions
  • too dry weather
  • too high temperatures
  • Soil consistency too firm
  • Root infestation by pests

Countermeasures / Prevention

The most important factor in avoiding premature shooting is the right time to sow. Therefore, the time window for sowing, which is indicated on the packaging for the respective variety, should be strictly adhered to. If you sow too early or too late, the environmental factors will not match the conditions that the lettuce needs for ideal development. With the optimal sowing time, you can protect the lettuce plants from cold stress in spring, heat and drought in summer and on long days. It is also important to harvest the lettuce in good time, because at some point, even under the best conditions, the ideal harvest time will be exceeded and flowers will begin to develop.

  • Note the sowing time window
  • Pre-cultivation in the house, cold frame or greenhouse
  • Varieties that are sown late: Direct sowing in the bed
  • possible in most regions from the end of March
  • in the event of cold spells, use polytunnels if necessary
  • for later sowing: choose a partially shaded location
  • Lettuce: summer varieties also available
  • Sugar loaf: sow only at the end of June
Note: There are also bolt-resistant varieties in some salads that are better suited for late summer growing.

Basically, when shooting lettuce, it is an early bloom formation. To protect against predators, the lettuce plant then produces bitter substances and the leaves become harder, smaller and possibly inedible. Therefore they are not poisonous. They can still be eaten. Early shooting is usually triggered by stress, i.e. unfavorable environmental conditions. It is important to avoid this.

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