Broccoli Not Forming Heads: Reasons Why My Broccoli Has No Head

Big Broccoli Leaves
broccoli head
(Image credit: y-studio)

Broccoli is a cool-weather vegetable usually eaten for its delicious head. Broccoli is a member of the cole crop or Brassicaceae family, and as such, has a number of insects that enjoy the tasty head as much as we do. It's also susceptible to a number of diseases, but one of its major issues is broccoli that won't "head." Why is broccoli not producing heads and is there a remedy for broccoli not forming heads?

Help, My Broccoli Has No Head!

This vegetable is referred to as “sprouting” broccoli because once the larger central head is harvested, the plant begins to send out smaller side shoots from that head. This is awesome for those of us who love broccoli. It means our broccoli harvest time is lengthened. However, sometimes you may get a big, gorgeous broccoli plant only to discover it won't head at all. You have planted the broccoli in a sunny area, in fertile, well-drained soil, and incorporated plenty of organic matter and a complete fertilizer, so why is the broccoli not producing heads?

Reasons for No Head on Broccoli

One reason for broccoli not forming heads or producing small heads is timing. As mentioned, broccoli likes to be kept cool. Plants should be set in the early spring for a summer harvest and/or in the early fall. Just as excessive heat may cause the broccoli to bolt, plants may button if they have been exposed to cold weather. Buttoning will cause the plant to produce tiny heads as will stress -- like lack of water or nutrients. Extreme temperatures will also bring the production of broccoli to a screeching halt. If your broccoli won't head at all, other potential culprits are overcrowding, damage to the root system, or transplanting seedlings too late with roots that are root-bound. So how can you prevent having to squawk, "Help, my broccoli has no head!”? Ensure that the plants are receiving adequate water and nutrients. Broccoli doesn't usually require additional fertilizer, but if the plants look sickly, hit them with some nitrogen such as fish emulsion. Time your plantings properly since extreme heat or cold has a bearing on whether or not the plant heads. Be sure to harden off seedlings in cooler regions, allowing the plants to acclimate to temperature changes. Finally, if your broccoli isn't heading, check and see what variety of broccoli you are growing. The issue may not be with the broccoli, it could be with your patience. Some broccoli matures anywhere from 55 to 70 days. You may just need to wait a little longer. If you still have no head on your broccoli, eat the leaves. High in nutrition as well, the leaves can be sautéed, stir-fried, or added to soups. So while you have no broccoli heads, at least growing the plant wasn't a waste either.

Amy Grant

Amy Grant has been gardening for 30 years and writing for 15. A professional chef and caterer, Amy's area of expertise is culinary gardening.