The humble cauliflower is an often overlooked vegetable. Reliable and easy to grow these cool weather loving plants with their tightly packed white heads are a staple of the vegetable garden. However, did you know that the cauliflower comes in a range of eye-catching colors, shapes and flavors?
This guide to the different types of cauliflowers will take you through some of the most interesting varieties currently available. We will also share some basic growing tips and explain exactly why you should be growing cauliflowers in your garden.
The cauliflower is a staple of the vegetable garden.
What is a Cauliflower?
The cauliflower is typically grown as an annual vegetable. It is a member of the cruciferous or cabbage family. The cauliflower is closely related to other vegetable garden staples such as turnips, kale and broccoli.
Originating in Asia Minor the first cauliflower plants were cultivated in 600 B.C. in the country today known as Turkey. The cauliflower has since become a popular vegetable in many parts of the world.
As well as the common white types there are also green, purple, brown, yellow and orange types. They vary in shape, size, flavor and nutritional value. The cauliflower is low in calories and high in many minerals and vitamins including fiber, magnesium, potassium, folate and vitamins C and K.
In addition to the white there are some colorful types of cauliflowers
The cauliflower is one of the most colorful vegetables.
White is the most common cauliflower color. They also display a wide range of growth habits and preferences. While some are tolerant of frosts, others display a quick growth habit. Snowball is a particularly pleasing white type, producing 6 inch heads with tightly wound curds. Snowball cultivars typically take around 2 months to mature. Other popular cultivars include Snow King White Corona and Snow Crow.
Unlike colorful types of cauliflowers, white varieties require blanching. If you are looking for a low maintenance white variety, some cultivars, such as Andes, Snow Crown and Early Snowball are self-blanching.
The most common green cauliflower is the Romanesco. Usually lime green in color and with pointy pinnacles, the heads of the Romanesco are smaller than other types of cauliflowers. Romanescos also have a less vigorous growth habit than other varieties. The heads have a mild, nutty flavor, similar to broccoli.
Other commonly grown green types of cauliflowers include Vordam Alverda, Green Goddess.
Orange headed cauliflowers, such as the Cheddar are popular for their bright orange curds. The orange color comes from beta-carotene pigment, a precursor to Vitamin A. The colorful heads of many orange cauliflower cultivars often become more intense during cooking. Many types like Orange Bouquet are pleasingly durable, retaining both their color and texture during cooking.
Purple types of cauliflowers, such as Graffiti and Purple Head, have eye-catching purple heads or curds. These colorful vegetables are often tender with a pleasing, mild flavor. Some such as Graffiti retain their color after cooking. Others, such as Purple Head, turn green during cooking. Purple cauliflowers are rich in both vitamins and minerals.
Other popular purple types include Violet Queen, the vivid purple curds are particularly nice when eaten raw, and Purple Cape.
10 Types of Cauliflowers
The following are amongst the most reliable, colorful and easy to grow cauliflower cultivars currently available. Many are suitable for growing in a range of different situations.
1 Attribute Hybrid
Attribute Hybrid is one of the most reliable early types of cauliflowers, typically maturing in 60 to 70 days. Easily identified by their smooth, bright white heads that measure around 7 inches, mature Attribute Hybrid specimens have a savory flavor with nutty or buttery undertones.
Reaching 24 inches tall, attribute hybrid types of cauliflowers can tolerate a light frost and some heat. The leaves curve well, enabling easy self-blanching. This also helps to protect the developing flower heads. Attribute Hybrid is easy to grow from seed and is suitable for growing in either a pot or the ground.
Attribute Hybrid is a reliable, white headed cultivar.
2 Cheddar Hybrid
An early season specimen, Cheddar Hybrid is one of the orange types of cauliflower. Enjoying a short growing season, Cheddar Hybrid cauliflowers typically mature in 60 to 70 days. Like Attribute Hybrid, Cheddar Hybrid heads are smooth and uniform in shape, typically measuring 4 to 7 inches wide.
Cheddar Hybrid is rich in beta-carotene nutrients. It is this that gives the cauliflower its distinctive coloring. Further adding to the attraction, the color deepens when cooked. Popular for its sweet and mild flavor, Cheddar Hybrid typically tops out at around 24 inches. Like many colorful types of cauliflowers no blanching is required.
3 Deep Purple Hybrid
Producing attractive purple florets on white stems, Deep Purple Hybrid is amongst the more unusual types of cauliflowers. More suitable for growers who enjoy a long growing season, Deep Purple Hybrid typically takes 80 to 100 days to mature. When mature, Deep Purple Hybrid plants reach a height of around 20 inches. Again, this is a colorful variety meaning that no blanching is required.
Popular for its buttery or nutty flavor, Deep Purple Hybrid produces dense heads measuring 6 to 7 inches wide. These are rich in antioxidant anthocyanins. Some purple heads may turn green when cooking. To help the heads retain their rich, purple color try adding a dash of vinegar or lemon juice to the water.
Deep Purple is popular for its colorful, dense heads.
4 Early White Hybrid
Often described as one of the tastiest types of cauliflowers, Early White Hybrid is a fast growing cultivar. Typically maturing in 50 to 55 days, Early White Hybrid is ideal for both spring and fall planting. Popular for its classic, mild flavor and tight white heads. The heads typically measure 9 inches in diameter while a mature plant can grow to 30 inches in height.
Early White Hybrid is more cold tolerant than other types of cauliflowers. It is also ideal for freezing for long term storage.
5 Fioretto 60
One of the more distinctive types of cauliflowers, Fioretto 60 produces small, succulent white florets that sprout on top of thin stems. These have a pleasingly putty flavor with a crunchy texture. In addition to these loose florets, Fioretto 60 also produces edible side shoots. The plants are often said to resemble broccoli rabe.
Fioretto 60 typically matures in 50 to 60 days. An ideal choice for spring gardens, Fioretto 60 is pleasingly pest resistant. Mature plants reach a height of around 18 inches. Blanching is required.
The similarly named Fioretto 85, looks a lot like Fioretto 60. An ideal crop for a late summer and fall garden, Fioretto 85 takes between 45 and 85 days to mature, depending on the growing conditions.
Instead of one large head, Fioretto 60 produces lots of small florets.
6 Flame Star Hybrid
Paler than the Cheddar Hybrid, Flame Star Hybrid is another of the quick growing , orange types of cauliflowers. Flame Star Hybrid typically matures in 55 to 60 days. When mature, the dense heads typically measure 7 inches in diameter. Mature plants can grow to 12 to 14 inches in height.
Popular for its sweet heads, Flame Star Hybrid is more tolerant of heat than many other types of cauliflowers. Further adding to the attraction, this is a compact variety that is ideal for container gardens and small spaces. No blanching is needed.
7 White Corona Hybrid
White Corona Hybrid is one of the fast growing, traditional types of cauliflowers. Maturing in 25 to 25 days, White Corona Hybrid is also ideal for growing in small spaces and pots. When fully grown the bright white heads measure 3 to 5 inches in diameter. Mature plants typically grow to 12 to 14 inches in height.
Popular for its pleasant flavor, White Corona Hybrid can also tolerate a light frost. This makes it ideal for early spring and fall gardens. If the temperatures start to fall before your cauliflower plants are ready for harvest, they can be covered with a protective SUPRO Floating Row Cover. Not only do these covers help to keep plants warm and sheltered, they also prevent pests and bugs from targeting your crops.
White Corona Hybrid is a fast growing variety.
Like other white headed varieties, blanching may be needed to encourage the heads to remain brilliant white.
8 Self-Blanching Snowball
Self-Blanching Snowball is one of the heirloom types of cauliflowers. This traditional variety is popular for its mild flavor. Mature white heads measure 6 to 8 inches in diameter.
Snowball Y is an improved version of the Self-Blanching Heirloom which originated in France. Maturing in 70 to 80 days the compact smooth heads are pure white and 6 to 7 inches wide. They have a pleasing, mild flavor. Fully grown Snowball Y plants reach a height of 25 to 40 inches. The abundant leaves enable easy self-blanching.
Colorful cauliflower varieties do not require blanching.
9 Sicilian Violet
An Italian heirloom, Sicilian Violet produces attractive, violet purple heads. These are sweet in flavor and rich in nutrients and antioxidants such as anthocyanins. Sicilian Violet is also largely insect resistant and tolerates a light frost.
Sicilian Violet matures in 60 to 85 days. Reaching a height of 18 to 24 inches, the purple heads measure 6 to 7 inches in diameter. While blanching is not necessary, the purple heads may turn green when cooking.
10 Veronica Romanesco Hybrid
Veronica Romaesco Hybrid is a cross between a cauliflower and broccoli. Taking 80 to 85 days to mature, when fully grown the lime green heads measure 7 inches in diameter. One of the more unusual types of cauliflowers, Veronica Romanesco Hybrid is increasingly popular for its lime green, pointed heads. These often create a fractal pattern, further adding to the attraction.
Also known as Broccoflower, this is a unique vegetable with a mild, sweet savory or nutty flavor. Bred for a good resistance to fungal disease Veronica Romanesco Hybrid is heat tolerant and does not require blanching. When mature Veronica Romanesco Hybrid plants reach a height of 18 to 24 inches.
Romanescos are some of the most visually interesting types of cauliflowers.
Cauliflower Growing Tips
Many of the available cultivars are hybrid varieties. This means that they are the product of cross breeding two or more parent plants. This is done with the aim of producing a reliable plant with good disease resistance. Most types of hybrid cauliflower are also bred to have smooth, uniform heads.
Most types of cauliflowers happily grow in USDA Zones 2 to 11 as either annuals or half hardy biennials, as long as the weather is cool enough. The cauliflower thrives in a temperature range of 60 to 68 ℉. While they can tolerate slightly warmer conditions, if temperatures creep over 75 ℉ it may cause the plants to bolt or set seed. Regular watering and mulching the soil around the plants can help to keep them cool and prevent bolting.
Growers in warmer areas should plant quick growing varieties in the spring and late summer or early fall for a winter harvest. This enables you to grow cauliflowers whilst avoiding the damaging warm temperatures.
Growing from Seed
Cauliflower (Brassica oleracea var. botrytis) is easy to grow from seed. You can also purchase transplants. These are young plants that, after hardening off, are ready for planting in the garden.
Sow your cauliflower seeds a quarter of an inch deep in 3 inch ZOUTOG Peat Pots filled with well draining potting soil. Following germination, the seedlings can be transplanted, still in their pots, into the final growing position. As the cauliflower grows the pot breaks down, allowing the roots to spread. Using biodegradable pots negates the need to disturb or handle the roots, helping to reduce the risk of plants failing due to transplant shock.
Once seedlings emerge, move the pots to a light position. If you can’t find a windowsill that enjoys direct sunlight, grow lights can also be used. The temperature surrounding the seedlings should average around 60 ℉. During this period it is important that the soil is kept evenly moist.
When you are ready, transplant the seedlings into a prepared patch of soil. Transplant the seedlings 2 ft apart. Mini varieties need only be spaced 6 to 12 inches apart. Each row should be spaced 30 to 36 inches apart, depending on the size of the variety.
Seedlings are best transplanted on a cool or cloudy day. This helps to avoid transplant stress.
After transplanting continue to regularly water the soil. It should be moist but never soggy. Mulching around your plants helps the soil to retain moisture, reducing how often you need to water, whilst also suppressing weed growth.
As well as regularly watering, all types of cauliflowers appreciate a regular dose of fertilizer. A liquid fertilizer can be applied after transplanting and again when established. You can also then side dress with a nitrogen rich compost.
Many types of white cauliflowers require blanching. This is the process of covering the head as the plant matures to protect it from sunscald. It also stops the white florets from turning yellow. Colored varieties rarely require blanching.
Begin blanching when the cauliflower head, depending on the size of the variety, is the size of a golf or tennis ball. To blanch simply tie the outer leaves loosely over the developing head and cover with a soft cloth. If you struggle to tie the leaves in place, cover the plant with a LEAKTITE Plastic Bucket.
Most types of cauliflowers are ready for harvest 1 to 2 weeks after blanching. Check the heads every few days. Heads are ready for harvest when they are at least 6 inches in diameter. You should harvest the cauliflower heads before the flower parts start to separate. To harvest, simply use a large knife to remove the head and a set of protective leaves.
The cauliflower is a colorful, easy to grow vegetable.
Most types of cauliflowers are pleasingly easy to grow. As long as you provide cool temperatures, regular moisture, good drainage and space them out correctly to encourage air circulation you should enjoy some success with these vegetables. If you want to learn more about cultivating these flavorsome crops, our Ultimate Guide to Growing Cauliflower is a good place to start.
A staple of the vegetable garden, as you can see there are many different types of cauliflowers. The variety on offer makes them ideal for the majority of gardeners regardless of their growing conditions.