Cabbage is one of the most popular and versatile vegetables that is enjoyed the world over. No matter the country and no matter the cuisine, chances are you’ll find cabbage Incorporated in there somewhere.
Generally regarded as quick and easy to grow, cabbage is a great addition to a home garden. But how much sun does cabbage need to grow?
Most varieties of cabbage will need between 6 and 8 hours of sunlight each day. Cabbage can still grow with less sunlight, but it will grow far more slowly. Ample sunlight ensures that cabbage will grow to maturity quickly.
Assuming you can meet the light requirements of cabbage and take care of all of its other needs you might be able to harvest your cabbage in as little as two months after planting.
Sunlight plays a big part in that speedy development, so keep reading to learn everything you need to know.
Does Cabbage Need Full Sun?
Yes. Cabbage grows best with plenty of direct, full sun. It can grow well enough with a little shade and is tolerant of overcast days, but if you want the best return on your efforts it will need lots of sunshine.
How Many Hours of Sun Does Cabbage Need?
Cabbage needs at least six hours of full sun each day, but it will thrive with eight or more. If you live in an area with lots of clear days, your cabbage will probably do great.
Can Cabbage Grow in Shade?
Yes, but only well in partial or dappled shade. If you have an area of your garden that only gets a few hours of sun each day, it might be a good spot to try growing cabbage. Full shade won’t work for cabbage, most times.
Deliberately growing cabbage in the shade can be a good move if you are planting it a bit behind schedule in the spring, or when temperatures are uncharacteristically high; in either case, a little shade can help keep the cabbage from bolting as it prefers cooler temps.
Keep in mind that cabbage grown in shade will usually develop more slowly than cabbage grown in full sun.
I made that mistake myself when I was counting on a quick harvest one year, but the necessity of shading the cabbage to help offset high temperatures slowed its growth enough I had to give them an extra month!
Can Cabbage Get Too Much Sun?
Yes. Cabbage that gets a bit too much sun will become dry and tough. The leaves of over-exposed cabbage will often turn yellow as well.
If you live in an exceptionally hot climate, or the cabbage is experiencing other stressors it might fail to produce at all, or it could bolt.
Bolting is what happens when a cabbage sends up a stalk and flowers instead of growing leaves.
This is a desperate “last ditch” attempt on the plant’s part to reproduce since its own existence is in jeopardy.
When this process completes, the cabbage is no longer edible as it will have lost its flavor and texture.
Bolting may be arrested by snipping off stems and flowers, but you cannot stop it. Believe me; I have tried, as have most other gardeners.
If you think your cabbage is getting too much sun, try shading it with some light-colored fabric or netting to diffuse the light a bit without blocking it altogether. Cabbage can tolerate indirect light fairly well!
Do Different Varieties of Cabbage Need More or Less Sun?
While all cabbage varieties share some common characteristics, they can differ significantly in terms of their appearance and flavor, and most importantly to us their preferred exposure to sunlight.
Different varieties of cabbage require different amounts of sun in order to flourish. For example, savoy cabbage needs abundant sun, while red cabbage can tolerate partial shade better than most other types. Napa cabbage will also do well in partial shade, especially in hot weather.
But remember this: In general, the more sun any cabbage gets the quicker it will mature.
If you want to harvest your crop quickly and reliably, choose a variety that prefers full sun and plant it in an area of your garden that gets at least six hours of direct sunlight each day.
Knowing how much sun your particular type of cabbage needs is essential for ensuring a bumper crop.
So, the next time you’re planning your garden, be sure to plan your plot according to the needs of your specific variety to ensure the best results.
What Happens if Cabbage Doesn’t Get Enough Sun?
Cabbage that does not get enough sun will grow very slowly. The leaves will be small and pale, and the overall head of the cabbage will be smaller than it would be if it had received adequate sunlight.
In severe instances, the cabbage may never form a head at all, but just remain in a loose leafy mass.
A little shade can be beneficial if temperatures are unseasonably high, but you must be sure that it receives adequate light (according to the variety) in all circumstances.
Can Cabbage Grow in Indirect Sun?
Yes, generally. So long as your cabbage is receiving adequate light one way or the other it can grow normally, though it will usually grow slowly when getting diffused or reflected sunlight.
If you want to maximize the growth of your cabbage, direct sunlight is best.
It is also possible to grow cabbage indoors if you want to totally control conditions or start them during the winter to get a jump on spring planting.
They are especially easy to start from seeds in small containers. You can place these plants near a sunny window, to get them the required 6+ hours of light a day, or under grow lights for more convenience.
Transitioning Cabbage from Indoors to Sunlight
If you start your cabbage indoors, you will need to “harden them off” before transplanting them in your garden. This simply means acclimating the plants to outdoor conditions gradually so they don’t experience shock.
To do this, start by placing them outdoors in a semi-shady spot for a couple of hours the first day, then increase the amount of time they spend outdoors each day, eventually leaving them out all day and bringing them in at night.
After a week or so of this procedure, they should be ready to plant in their final location in the garden.
Tom has built and remodeled homes, generated his own electricity, grown his own food and more, all in quest of remaining as independent of society as possible. Now he shares his experiences and hard-earned lessons with readers around the country.