Broccoli is one of the healthiest vegetables out there. It’s rich in vitamins and minerals and even has antioxidants to boost your immune system. It’s also high in fiber, so there’s no doubt that this vegetable is quite a superfood.
Interestingly, broccoli is also easy to grow, so you can plant this nutritious vegetable in your home garden. And if you’re lucky enough to grow them, you know that broccoli flowering is frowned upon. What it is and how it happens will be discussed in this article.
Otherwise known as bolting, broccoli flowering is part of its normal life cycle. The broccoli heads you consume as vegetables are the buds, and when left to grow longer than usual, these buds will flower eventually.
However, some factors tend to speed up the flowering process in broccoli. But what do you do once the broccoli has bolted? Are there warning signs so you would know when it’s about to bolt? Is the broccoli still edible after it has bolted? These questions, and more, are answered in this article.
What Does It Mean When Broccoli “Bolts”?
When broccoli bolts, it simply means that its flowers have already started to bloom. That’s why broccoli bolting is also known as broccoli flowering.
While broccoli bolting seems like a cause for concern, this is not the case at all. Developing flowers is simply part of the plant’s growing process. Particularly, it aids in its reproduction to produce the seeds that will be used to plant more broccoli.
But interestingly, bolting also signifies the end of the broccoli as a vegetable. While still edible, bolted broccoli will have a tough texture and a bitter flavor, making it unappealing. That’s why bolting has a negative connotation, especially if you’re growing broccoli to be harvested as a vegetable.
Will Broccoli Grow After Flowering?
Broccoli plants will continue to develop after flowering – but not as a vegetable. Instead, it has become a flowering plant, and its purpose is mainly decorative now.
As long as the broccoli plant is given proper care after flowering, it will continue to grow and produce seeds that may be used for planting more broccoli.
Why Is My Broccoli Flowering (Bolting)?
Aside from being a natural process for the plant, broccoli flowering or bolting may be sped up by several other factors. These include excessive nitrogen in the soil, soil temperatures not ideal, it is not getting water regularly, late harvesting, and stress.
Excessive Nitrogen in the Soil
Nitrogen is one of the essential nutrients needed by plants to survive. Specifically, it is responsible for healthy stem growth, thick foliage, and bloom development. With that said, if there’s excessive nitrogen in the soil, then it will trigger the development of flowers faster than usual.
So if you notice that your broccoli plants start bolting sooner than usual, then there’s a chance that the soil is exceedingly rich in nitrogen. Before planting new broccoli plants, you may want to mix the soil with organic mulch to tone down the nitrogen.
High/Low Soil Temperatures
Another culprit for the speedy bolting of broccoli heads is if the soil temperatures are not ideal. This is especially true when the temperature is hot.
Broccoli prefers cold weather more than warmth, but it can tolerate temperatures of up to 86°F. If the temperature exceeds the ideal range, it will speed up its flower production process because of too much stress.
In contrast, broccoli thrives in cooler temperatures. And exactly because it is in a very comfortable state, it will bloom faster as well. This is especially true if the low soil temperature exceeds ten consecutive days.
All plants need water to survive, and the same is true for broccoli. It needs to be watered every four to five days to prevent premature bolting.
If your broccoli plant is not consistently getting water, the plant will become stressed. And when it’s stressed, this triggers the flowers to bloom. That’s why it’s important to make sure your broccoli plants are regularly receiving water.
As earlier discussed, broccoli flowering occurs as a normal part of its life cycle. So, if the broccoli heads are not harvested on time, then there’s a chance for it to bolt soon enough.
As a rule, the best time to harvest broccoli is if the buds are still compact. If you notice them swelling, that’s usually the first sign that it will bolt within a few days and should be consumed as soon as possible.
From the enumeration above, it can be discerned that stress is the biggest factor that causes broccoli to bolt. Thus, aside from those previously discussed, you should also keep your broccoli from experiencing stress from diseases, pests, root issues, and other similar stressors. As long as you keep a close eye on your broccoli plants, they will surely be healthy enough in time for harvesting.
Signs to Watch for That Your Broccoli Is Starting to Bolt
After the broccoli head is developed, it usually takes weeks before it starts to bolt. However, the factors enumerated above may speed up its flowering, so you have to be able to tell its early stages so you can still save your plant. Here are the signs to watch out for:
- The broccoli head becomes loose. Broccoli heads always have a sturdy, compact appearance. But once it’s preparing to bolt, it will become loose to allow for the growth of the flowers. So if you notice the heads looking less compact than usual, know that it’s already starting to bolt.
- The small green buds will look swollen. Aside from becoming loose, you will notice that the tiny green buds will also look swollen. This is because the flower is already developing inside each bud.
- The broccoli head will appear to have a long stalk. In some instances, the broccoli head will also start to grow a longer stalk – instead of a larger, thicker head of bulbs. This is to allow the plant to give more space for the flowers once they bloom.
- In its advanced stages, some small buds will turn yellow. And finally, the best tell-tale sign that the broccoli is already starting to bolt is if the small green buds turn yellow. Broccoli flowers have yellow petals, so if the usually green buds turn yellow, it’s an undeniable sign of bolting.
Can You Save A Bolted Broccoli?
You can no longer save bolted broccoli. That is, in the sense that it is no longer a vegetable plant. It will no longer produce a head of buds because it has already passed that stage. However, it will continue to grow as a flowering plant, which you can display in your garden.
Also, if it is still in the early stages of bolting, you may still harvest the heads since it is still edible. But it must be noted that at this point, the broccoli heads will now have a bitter, woody taste. It will also be harder to chew. Nevertheless, it is still quite nutritious.
What Do I Do With Broccoli That Has Flowers?
While you can no longer save the broccoli that has already grown flowers, it can still be useful. Some of its uses are the following:
- Keep the flowering broccoli plant as an ornament. Broccoli flowers have beautiful bright yellow petals that can surely breathe life into any dull location. Their upright carry also means that they don’t take up too much space, so you can place them wherever you want – as long as the environmental conditions are ideal.
- Collect the seeds from the flowering plant. Also, bear in mind that this mature plant is now capable of producing seeds. Below the broccoli flowers are plump pods that contain seeds once the plant has become pollinated. You can simply collect the seeds from the pod and use them to plant new broccoli plants to be harvested as vegetables.
How to Prevent Broccoli From Flowering?
The key to preventing broccoli from flowering is to harvest it as soon as you notice that the head has already stopped growing. Within a few weeks from this, it will start to bolt. So you have to act fast before the flowers start to bloom.
But to make sure that it does not bolt prematurely, always make sure that it is given proper care. Here are some broccoli care tips to prevent premature flowering:
- Keep it in a place where the temperature is cool. Take note that the ideal temperature for the healthy growth of broccoli is between 40 to 70°F.
- Water it regularly. Make sure the broccoli is given one to two inches of water per week to prevent bolting and dehydration.
- Broccoli loves humidity. As much as possible, the air moisture content should be between 95 to 100% to make sure it grows a thick head.
- Broccoli needs direct sunlight. Bear in mind that broccoli needs six to eight hours of direct sunlight exposure to keep healthy. If it doesn’t get that much light, it will become stressed – and that can trigger bolting.
List of Sources
Bolting in spring vegetables – https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/bolting-in-spring-vegetables
Broccoli – https://hgic.clemson.edu/factsheet/broccoli/
Broccoli – https://gardeningsolutions.ifas.ufl.edu/plants/edibles/vegetables/broccoli.html