Growing Leaf Lettuce in Pots (Seeds & Starts) Plus Container Ideas

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One of the most rewarding and easiest plants we grow in our backyard garden continues to be loose leaf lettuce. Growing leaf lettuce in pots works well because you can basically plant it anywhere you have space for a flower pot or planter!

We put our lettuce planters right on our deck. For the most part, the critters leave it alone, too!

Growing leaf lettuce in containers - green lettuce and a hand spade in a pot of soil
Growing leaf lettuce in containers – green lettuce and a hand spade in a pot of soil in our 2023 container garden.

Don’t delay – the sooner you plant some lettuce seeds, the sooner you can enjoy fresh salad for lunch! It only takes about 3 weeks for loose leaf lettuce to mature enough for you to steal a few bites. (:

Lettuce tends to be a cool crop, growing best before temps get too hot. That being said, growing lettuce in pots helps your lettuce plants thrive throughout the season.

Loose leaf green lettuce growing in a rectangular window box style planter on the deck
Loose leaf green lettuce growing in our container garden in 2020

Growing Lettuce in Containers

Time to learn how to plant lettuce seeds in pots!

Lettuce is one of the easiest vegetables to grow in a container! You can simply toss some seeds on top of the soil and let it grow.

My raised beds constantly get reseeded with leaf lettuce every year, and sometimes multiple times in a season!

The University of Missouri Extension highly recommends proper watering and drainage for successful lettuce container gardening.

Rectangular planter full of lettuce seedlings with a hand-drawn plant tag
Hand-drawn lettuce plant tag with planter of seedlings

How to Grow Lettuce in Pots

Lettuce seedlings tend to thrive best when direct sown. In fact, many types of lettuce will self-seed for the following season. Even if you’ve never done it before, planting lettuce in pots is simple and takes only a few minutes (if not seconds!).

Planting Lettuce Seeds in Pots

Follow these easy steps to plant lettuce seeds:

  1. Scatter lettuce seeds on top of soil or potting mix in the desired container.
  2. Lightly scratch seeds into the soil as they need light to germinate.
  3. Water and wait!

Your lettuce seedlings should germinate within about a week. Water them after planting and regularly throughout the week. Check for new growth each time you check to see if the seeds need watering.

We scattered some gourmet loose leaf lettuce seeds in their own planters and in pots with other plants as well!

Rectangular Planters for Lettuce Seeds - Three Orange terra cotta colored planters

Planting Lettuce Starts in Pots

Sometimes you may find awesome lettuce starts for sale at your favorite garden centers. If this is the case, be sure to gently transplant the lettuce to its new home without disturbing the roots.

Red leaf lettuce for sale at Ken's Gardens in PA
Red leaf lettuce for sale at Ken’s Gardens in PA

Try these steps to grow lettuce seedlings and starts in pots:

  1. Dig a little hole in the flower pot or planter where your lettuce will live.
  2. Gently squeeze the bottom of the tray or container to loosen the lettuce root ball.
  3. Pop the plant, roots, soil, and all, out of the pot.
  4. Place the baby lettuce plant into the hole so that the soil surface is level with the soil in the pot.
  5. Lightly pat the soil around the plant to create a cozy fit.
  6. Water adequately and check back regularly for growth and water needs.
Overhead view of lettuce starts transplanted into a container
Overhead view of lettuce volunteers that popped up in our garden. I transplanted them to this pot in mid-April.

Choosing a Lettuce Planter

Consider different types of lettuce planters to suit your needs! Will you grow lettuce inside, too, or just outside?

Here are a few styles to consider:

  • Lettuce Bowl Planter – A Corinthian Bowl Planter can be a stunning and sophisticated choice for indoor and outdoor lettuce plants.
  • Stackable Tier Planter – Tier planters were all the rage this summer, and our Dollar Tree’s gardening aisle sold out way before we got there to look for a set. Luckily, you can find lots of fine quality tier planting sets for sale online.
  • Rectangular Window Box Planter – Classic and easy to find, a traditional window box planter works very well for growing multiple kinds of lettuce.

Since we already had one, I went ahead with a rectangular window box style planter for lettuce this summer. In the future, I hope to try something fancier like the Corinthian bowl planter!

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How to Water Lettuce in Pots

Water lettuce down by the roots, using caution to avoid wetting the lettuce leaves directly. A watering can with a narrow nozzle may work best.

Check the soil to see if it is becoming dry. You may also notice lettuce leaves begin to wilt when its watering needs aren’t being met.

Growing lettuce in pots may require more frequent watering than growing directly in the ground. Be sure to monitor the outside temperature and rainfall for effective watering.

You can use a rain gauge to keep tabs on precipitation!

Rectangular Lettuce Planter on our deck with several kinds of leaf lettuce
Rectangular Lettuce Planter on our deck with several kinds of leaf lettuce in 2021

Lettuce in Summer

When the temperatures get too hot, lettuce tends to bolt. This means the lettuce plant produces flower stems, which soon go to seed. If at all possible, keep your lettuce from bolting to extend your harvest season.

Planting lettuce in grow bags under tomatoes to shade them and help prevent bolting
Planting lettuce in grow bags under tomatoes to shade them and help prevent bolting

How to Keep Lettuce from Bolting

Lettuce is known to bolt – or go to seed – when the summers get hot. Keeping lettuce in the shade during the hottest months can help to keep the temperatures down, prolonging the lettuce growing season and delaying bolting.

Growing leaf lettuce in pots offers the flexibility to move plants out of direct heat in an effort to keep lettuce from bolting.

The Colorado University State Extension recommends keeping lettuce in the shade for the most extreme temperatures. In fact, lettuce only needs 5 – 6 hours of sun per day and often thrives with even less.

We thought it prudent to scatter some lettuce seeds under our Roma tomatoes in hopes the toms would shade the lettuce in the heat of the summer. (Check out some of our other lettuce companion planting ideas!)

Unfortunately, our lettuce still bolted in July, but it was worth a try. It gets pretty hot here in the mid to late summer.

If you find your area doesn’t accommodate growing lettuce in containers year-round, you might consider hydroponics and indoor setups such as Aerogarden.

Succession Planting Lettuce

Next time around, we’re going to focus on succession planting lettuce. The lettuce grows so quickly that we really should have done that the first time!

We’ll likely plant lettuce seeds in early to mid-August to give us a nice fall crop. Fingers crossed for a long lettuce season!

Ladybugs on lettuce in grow bag container garden
Ladybugs on lettuce in our 2020 grow bag container garden

Storing Green Leaf Lettuce and Other Fresh Lettuce

After harvesting leaf lettuce, give it a good rinse. Aphids and other pests may be lurking and blending into the green hues.

Place the lettuce in a salad spinner or gently shake the leaves and allow them to dry in a colander.

When lettuce is fully dry, wrap it in a paper towel and tuck it into a bag or container.

Store leaf lettuce in the refrigerator, preferably in the crisper.

TIP: One time our fridge was rather full and I had to stick our lettuce in the top section, above the milk. Do not do this! Our lettuce suffered from too cold a temperature and ended up partially freezing.

This also happened in a YETI cooler too close to the ice pack on a long trip to vacation. Keep lettuce from freezing!

If You Like Lettuce: You might also want to try growing Kale! Check out our post on Kale Germination Time & Tips!

Growing leaf lettuce in rectangular planter
Leaf lettuce seedlings in a planter on our deck


Lettuce roots grow relatively close to the soil surface. For this reason, growing leaf lettuce in pots that are shallow is just as effective as deeper pots, but saves you some space! Most important to note, as advised by PlantVillage.psu.edu, soil should be fertile with good moisture to accommodate the smaller root system.

Use shallow rectangular planters that are at least 4 inches deep to ensure your lettuce has enough space for its roots. You can try three different rectangular planters with a different variety of lettuce in each. That worked very well for us!

In proper conditions, lettuce grows quickly. You may find loose leaf lettuce plants can grow from seed to harvest in about 4 weeks. Other lettuce varieties such as romaine and iceberg may take between 55 and 80 days until maturity.

However, you can still harvest individual lettuce leaves from these varieties if desired!

Yes, lettuce grows very well in a pot or planter! Create a salad container garden if you like, planting different types of lettuce in pots and growing other salad favorites like cucumbers and carrots as lettuce companion plants.

As you plan your container garden, you may wonder what size pot for lettuce compared to other plants. A 10-inch to 12-inch flower pot is more than sufficient for planting several lettuce plants. (Try 4 plants.) You might prefer a rectangular “window box” style planter, which would accommodate even more lettuce plants.

Pretty much all lettuce can grow in pots, as long as the pots are deep enough to accommodate the shallow roots. Loose leaf lettuce of any kind is quick and easy to grow and harvest. You can also grow head lettuce in pots, such as iceberg or romaine.

You can pick those as loose leaves or wait for them to form a head.

Small lettuce seedling in a big container of soil
Small lettuce seedling in a big container of soil

Final Thoughts: Growing Leaf Lettuce in Pots

For us, lettuce ended up being one of the easiest vegetables to grow in containers on our deck. We had a great harvest for salad and burgers throughout much of the summer!

Even if you don’t have a lot of space, even if you don’t have a lot of time, lettuce is an easy veggie to grow and enjoy!

Seriously, scatter those seeds and wait just a little while!

I highly recommend growing leaf lettuce in pots for beginner gardeners through seasoned pros. It’s such a rewarding and delicious crop to grow.

Leaf lettuce planter with bright green lettuce and a hand shovel
Leaf lettuce growing in a container in our 2023 garden

Benefits of Growing Leaf Lettuce in Pots

Some gardens are certainly bigger than others! We’re always wanting more growing space over here – at least I am! Thankfully, growing leaf lettuce in containers offers quite a few benefits no matter what your garden allotment looks like!

Growing loose leaf lettuce in containers offers quite a few advantages:

  • Any Size Will Do – Garden size doesn’t matter so much, even with an apartment or deck garden. Grow as much lettuce as you can, but even a small pot will do.
  • Quick Harvest – Some lettuce varieties take only 4 weeks to reach maturity. Look for three-inch lettuce leaves, but you can enjoy them even while small for a tiny taste.
  • Easy Eating – Lettuce can go right from the plant to your tummy! No cooking involved – simply enjoy.
  • Prolific Seeds – One lettuce plant produced more seeds than we’d ever use in the following season.
  • Shallow Roots – Lettuce plant roots don’t grow too deep. This makes lettuce seeds ideal for your shorter, shallower pots and planters.
  • On-Demand Harvest – Cut or pinch and come again to enjoy lettuce all throughout the week!
Big container growing loose leaf lettuce with a hand shovel
Hoping this lettuce container garden will be productive this year!

What kind of lettuce are you planning to grow in your garden? Let’s grow together in the comments below.

And if you know anyone else who would like this post, please be sure to share the link or spread the love on social media!

09.28.2021 – Edited to add photo of mixed leaf lettuce in planter and section on lettuce planters.

04.25.23 – Updated with current information and new photos. Fixed spacing. Added FAQ and linked to lettuce companion plants as well as some .edu sources. Removed content on harvesting lettuce and moved it to the more targeted post for that. Added new photos and new featured photo, replaced smaller images with proper size. Updated date from Jan 25, 2021.

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    1. Hi Karen! So sorry for the delay – we were out of town. Lettuce “bolts” and produces a flower stalk. Let it flower! After the flowers are done blooming, they will become dry and the lettuce seeds will be found within the dried flowers. Once it gets hot in the summer, lettuce will usually flower and go to seed pretty quickly. Best of luck!

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