Pruning Brussels Sprouts: When To Prune Leaves Of Brussels Sprouts

brussels sprout pruning
brussels sprout pruning
(Image credit: Kritchanut)

Brussels sprouts, it seems you either love them or hate them. If you reside in the latter category, you probably haven’t tried them fresh from the garden at their peak. These rather oddly shaped plants bear miniature cabbages (enlarged auxiliary buds) that are trimmed from the stalk. If this is your first time growing your own, you might be wondering how to trim Brussels sprout plants or do you even have to trim Brussels sprouts? Read on to learn more.

Pruning Brussels Sprouts

Brussels sprouts were first cultivated in, you guessed it, Brussels, where they are a cool weather crop thriving in temps between 60 and 65 degrees F. (15-18 C.). In some regions, they may even survive throughout the winter if temperatures are mild enough. They grow much akin to broccoli and cauliflower, in well-draining soil with plenty of irrigation. One of the most common questions in reference to this plant is about pruning. Do you need to prune Brussels sprouts and, if so, when and how?

When to Prune Leaves of Brussels Sprouts?

Sprouts begin to appear at the end of the plant closest to the soil and work their way up for several weeks. Harvesting Brussels sprouts begins around mid October and can go through a mild winter if you just harvest individual sprouts rather than the whole plant. The sprouts are ready to harvest when the heads are 1 to 2 inches (2.5-5 cm.) across, firm, and green. This is also when to prune the leaves of Brussels sprouts, as you remove the lower sprouts. Just remove any yellowing leaves to allow the plant to expend all its energy into producing new sprouts as well as leaves. As to the question “do you have to trim Brussels sprouts?” Well, no, but you will be extending the harvest and production of the plant if you trim back any dying leaves. Continue reading to find out the best way to prune Brussels sprouts.

How to Trim Brussels Sprouts Plants

Light pruning of Brussels sprout plants will encourage vigorous growth and further sprout development, which will give you more sprouts to sauté, roast, etc. Begin pruning Brussels sprouts when you see at least one sprout develop. At this time, prune off the lowest six to eight leaves with hand pruners. The cut should be as close to the main vertical stem as possible. Continue to trim off two or three lower leaves each week throughout the growing season, making sure to keep several large, healthy, upper leaves to feed the plant. Three weeks prior to harvesting the sprouts, quit trimming any lower leaves. Cut 1 to 2 inches (2.5-5 cm.) off the uppermost vertical stalk with the pruners–straight across the stem just above a leaf. This is the best way to prune Brussels sprouts if you want to trick the plant into maturing all at once. Commercial growers practice this method of pruning so they can get their produce to market. Of course, you don’t have to prune or trim the plant at all, but doing so can engender a longer crop with more robust sprouts. You can always just remove sprouts as they get large enough by gently twisting them until they break from the plant.

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.