How to Grow Buttercrunch Lettuce (Beginner’s Guide)

Bored of regular lettuce? Go buttercrunch!

Butterhead lettuce is a whole ‘nother ball game for salad lovers compared to “regular” boring lettuce.

If you’re looking to spice up your spring mix, get sturdier veggie wraps, or even mix up your salads with more textures, buttercrunch is a good choice.

It’s also good for beginners because you can easily grow it at home in your garden.

Once you get it set up, it basically takes care of itself.

Let’s dive in and learn about growing these butterheads.

Last updated: 8/5/21.

Quick care guide: Buttercrunch lettuce

Plant type Annual
Origin USA
Scientific name Lactuca sativa
Other names Butter lettuce, Boston, Bibb, Mignonette
Soil type Loamy, rich, well-draining
Soil pH 6.0-7.0 (slightly acidic)
Sunlight requirement Full sun
Bloom season Spring, summer
Colors White, green, yellow
Max height 6-8 inches
Max width 2 feet
Low temperature 40F
High temperature 85F
Ideal temperature range 50-70F
Humidity Moderate
Watering requirements Often during first year of growth, spring, and summer
Fertilizer requirements Low
Fertilizer NPK 5-5-5
Days until germination 1-2 weeks
Days until bloom 60-80 days
Speed of growth Moderate
Hardiness zones 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11
Plant depth 0.25 inches
Plant spacing 10-12 inches
Propagation Seeds
Common pests Flea beetles, fungus gnats, and aphids
Common diseases Downy mildew, damping-off, and root rot
Indoor plant No
Outdoor plant Yes
Grown in container Yes
Flowering plant Yes
Beginner friendly Yes
Care level Low (very easy)
Uses Decoration, edible, indoor plant, recipes, seasoning, soups, salads

What’s buttercrunch lettuce?

Buttercrunch lettuce is its lettuce. It’s not the same as romaine, naipini kale, or iceberg lettuce.

When you’re sick of eating the same greens, buttercrunch lettuce makes for a nice change in the daily grind.

Buttercrunch is quite different from the traditional lettuce varieties you come across. It actually DOES have a unique texture and flavor to it, so get excited.

Buttercrunch is small, loose-leaf greens with a smooth flavor. It germinates quickly, plants are sweet and mild. And it’s easy to grow.

Butterhead lettuce is good for beginners looking to grow their first lettuce. Or pros looking to grow their line of microgreens. Let’s roll.

It’s a good gap closer in your garden and can provide early harvest while you wait for your later greens to become ripe.

Grow it with tomatoes or peppers for a whole season combo. It’s low care and doesn’t take much to grow.

Once you harvest it, you can dig it up and save the seeds for the next season and use the space for something else.

What does buttercrunch taste like? How’s the texture?

Buttercrunch is the perfect green to use in food crafts. Chicken wraps, rolls, sandwiches, or even green tortillas.

The texture of it is thin, soft, yet sturdy enough to hold your double protein wrap. The leaves are dark green with a satisfying “crunch” when you bite into it, as the name implies.

Buttercrunch tastes a bit more mild compared to other loose-leaf lettuces, so it’s good for foods where you don’t want the greens to be overpowering. The flavor is mild, the texture is soft, and it gives some variety to the traditional boring flavorless lettuces.

Butterhead is in a category called “butterhead” which also includes Bibb and Boston.

You also get the option of trying new dishes that you wouldn’t have tried before. Who else is up for some chicken wraps?

How does it compare to regular lettuce?

Compared to “regular” lettuce varieties, buttercrunch lettuce is mild, soft, and crunchy.

Flavor-wise, it’s on par with romaine.

Crunch-wise, it’s similar to kale. It also depends on the type of butterhead you grow. Yes, there are different species.

Some of the most popular ones you can easily grow at home in your garden are Boston and Bibb. Butterhead lettuces have a loose head with a rosette patterning. Regular leaf lettuce has no head!

Buttered also has a stronger flavor compared to regular leaf lettuce. You can eat both in the same salad recipe.

Types of buttercrunch

Dozens of varieties have been created by gardeners.

Here are a few of the most popular butterhead strains you may be interested in growing:

  • Buttercrunch (the original butterhead lettuce)
  • Bibb (small heads with dark green leaves and red edges)
  • Boston (larger leaves)
  • Four seasons (red leaves and pink/white colors on the inner leaves)
  • Oakleaf
  • Black seeded Simpson
  • Cos
  • Crisphead

Is it easy to grow?

Yup. Butterhead lettuce in general is very easy to grow.

Once you get it going, it grows like weeds. It requires minimal care and basic maintenance. The hardest part is actually harvesting it, which is only necessary when you’re ready to eat it.

How to grow buttercrunch lettuce

Buttercrunch lettuce grown in the garden.
Look at those crisp greens.

Here we’ll cover the basics of buttercrunch propagation. You’ll find that it’s very straightforward.

Follow these general guidelines for tips on maximizing yield from your harvest! Note that deepening on your cultivar, your plant’s needs may vary. But they can be generalized regardless.

There are two main ways to propagate buttercrunch. You can start from seed or transplant. We’ll cover both of them so you can pick whichever one suits you best.

Starting from seed

Growing it from seed is the way most people will get started. It doesn’t make sense to buy a seedling for many times more than a packet of seeds.

While it does take more work and waiting time, once you get a small batch of them going, you’ll find that your yield is exponential compared to starting with seedlings.

Besides, if you have a limited budget, going for seeds is a lot more cost-effective. You get a ton of seeds which can potentially produce a ton more yield.

The cost is startup time because you’ll have to wait for them to germinate, transplant them, and then harvest them all.

First, the timing. The best time to start growing buttercrunch is indoors 2-3 weeks before the last frost.

If you don’t know when this is, look it up here.

Generally, it’ll be within the first few months of the year so your lettuce will be ready to harvest in the summertime. Then you can enjoy those cool salads.

Propagating indoors

Start off by getting a packet of buttercrunch seeds. Find a variety that grows in your local hardiness zone for best results.

Use a seed starter kit and fill each compartment with a basic potting mix. It doesn’t need to be anything special at this point since it’s just a germination incubator.

Ensure that the soil is well-draining. If you want a strong head start, use organic soil with plenty of nutrients. You can amend with compost if you like.

Place 2-3 seeds in each compartment, then dust with a light layer of soil over it.

Water off until each compartment is moist, but not wet.

Cover with a humidity dome if one is provided. You can use food wrap as a DIY cover if you want.

Seeds will germinate within 1-2 weeks. Continue keeping them moist. Remove the humidity dome a week after they sprout.

When they grow two pairs of true leaves, they can be transplanted outside. We’ll cover this section later. Thin to one plant per compartment.

Be sure all signs of winter have passed before you move them outdoors. While lettuce is tolerant of cold temperatures, it can’t handle extreme cold.

Note that you should read the package. The seed packet will have instructions that should cover the specific needs your strain of buttercrunch needs for proper care.

Moving outdoors

When your buttercrunch is ready to be moved outdoors, minimize shock by setting up an environment that’s as close as possible to the original indoor one.

Using the same soil, amendments, compost, etc. helps.

Find a plot of soil for its permanent home. It should be rich, well-draining, and fertile soil. Plant in full sun if you’re in zones 2-11.

Otherwise, consider planting in the partial sun if you’re in a hot region so you don’t burn your greens.

Sunlight will burn lettuce and dry them out. You can also use artificial shades, plant near tall foliage, or use row covers. These can all help provide shade to them from scalding.

Sow each seed 0.25” deep with a spacing of 10” apart. You can space them further if you want to minimize the completion for soil nutrients.

Water generally the first time. Then reduce watering to keep it moist, but not wet.

Continue to water regularly. Don’t let the soil go dry. Keep tabs on the upcoming weather for drought or hot sun.

Hardening off

Some people like to take their seedlings outdoors for a few hours a day over a week or two to harden them off.

This helps increase the chance of success. You just expose them to the outdoor sunlight and environment until they get used to it. Then you transplant when they’re acclimated.

Sowing directly in the soil

If you want to sow directly into the soil, it can save you a step later down the line and avoid plant shock.

Think about it: when you move plants from the indoors to the outdoors, the plant needs to adjust to a new environment.

Starting from transplant

For those that want to get their harvest ASAP without waiting for germination, using a store-bought plant from your local nursery works.

You can buy as many or as little as you need. Sometimes you can buy them in bulk for savings.

As a rule of thumb, you’ll need 5 plants per season for a light salad eater. For those that love lettuce (full vegan?), you’ll want to get even more. The more the merrier, right?

Start by examining your plants for any signs of infestation. Return or dispose of those immediately. You should always quarantine your plants before you move them into your garden or else they may infest your neighboring plants.

Transplants should be acclimated to your garden slowly over time. Don’t just plop them into your garden. Leave them in partial shade and introduce them to the full sun over a week or so.

Plant at soil as deep and wide as the original container. If they’re biodegradable, you can plant them directly into the soil.

Space each seedling 10” apart. You can utilize row planting for space-saving planting if you have a tiny garden.

Use well-draining soil and water generously, then pull back and reduce it. Otherwise, care is similar to starting from seed.

How to care for buttercrunch lettuce

This section covers how to take care of buttercrunch lettuce.

While guidelines may vary depending on your specific cultivar, they should be pretty much similar across all species.

Follow these as general suggestions for proper care and maximizing yield, but adjust as necessary.

Soil

Use fertile, rich, well-draining soil. You can use one made for vegetables, but any high-quality garden soil will do.

You can always amend it later if you need to, so don’t worry about it. If you don’t know your soil’s metrics, use a soil tester.

Watering

The soil should be always moist but never soaked.

Don’t let it go dry between watering sessions because it needs it to sustain itself. If you let it dry out, it can wilt within hours. Lettuce is water in edible form.

Aim for 2-3 inches of water per week, but adjust as needed depending on local rain, drought, etc. Also never water the leaves.

Only water the base. If you water the leaves and it doesn’t evaporate, it can rot. Note that buttercrunch leaves are more drought-resistant than other lettuce varieties.

So you don’t need to water it as much as something like kale or boy choy or artichoke.

Use a moisture meter to ensure that your plants are getting enough water.

Mulching

A light layer (1-2 inches) of mulch can help retain the moisture in the soil. This can help reduce water waste and temperature swings.

Don’t let the mulch or soil touch the leaves as it can introduce plant rot. it’s also good for regions that have cold falls or winters.

pH

Plant in slightly acidic to neutral soil between 6.0 and 7.0 pH. If you don’t know your soil’s metrics, use a soil test kit to find out.

Your soil doesn’t have to be EXACTLY the right amount. Buttercrunch will tolerate a slight variance and may even grow in alkaline soil.

However, if you want the best yield possible, aim for slightly acidic soil. You can amend your soil to help bring down the pH naturally without the use of synthetic compounds.

Spacing

Space each seed or plant 10-12 inches apart. This gives each plant plenty of room to grow plus not have to compete for nutrients with neighboring plants.

Don’t cramp them together because this will lead to dense foliage and may cause them to develop fungal issues or rot.

Depth

If starting from seed, plant each seed 0.25 inches deep. If you’re growing from transplants, plant each one as deep as the original depth it was in the container you purchased it in. There’s no secret to it.

Plant food

Buttercrunch doesn’t need any special plant food. If the soil you provide is fertile, it should be fine on its own without any supplements.

But if you’re noticing smaller leaves or leggy ones, you can use a liquid slow-release fertilizer with good nitrogen content. Look at the NPK and get something that’s balanced (5-5-5). Fish emulsion is also a good choice.

Do NOT over-fertilize. Buttercrunch will become damaged from excess nutrients in the soil column.

Some other choices are blood meal, compost, manure, or a single ingredient basic fertilizer.

Pruning

Buttercrunch doesn’t need any pruning, other than harvesting. But if you don’t harvest on time, you may want to cut it back to remove some leaves and use them as compost because it can trap water.

Sunlight

Buttercrunch lettuce is a full sun plant.

If you’re growing in the right hardiness zone, full sun is recommended for optimal yield. If you’re growing in a higher zone, consider using row covers, an umbrella, or growing near taller veggies to provide shade.

The partial sun can also work if it’s bright enough during peak hours. Avoid excess sunlight that shines all day.

Powerful sunlight will scorch butter crunch and reduce it to a crisp. No pun intended. Excess sunlight will make it bolt early and extremely bitter. Afternoon shade is appreciated!

Temperature

Keep temperatures between 50-80F for best yield. It prefers cool temperatures rather than hot. Higher temps will make it bolt which results in a bitter flavor.

Humidity

As with most lettuce plants, it likes moderate to high humidities to grow.

Watch out for poorly draining soil as this can rot your plants. Cut the plant leaves when they get too big or you notice the water takes a long time to evaporate.

Don’t let them go wild because mildew is bound to grow in a high humidity environment. Plus, it brings the bugs to your yard.

Overwintering

When the cold season rolls around, buttercrunch is susceptible to temperature dips. Use cold frames, row covers, or polytunnels to help insulate it.

A thick layer of mulch can also help insulate it and keep it warm. If you’re growing in containers, move them indoors into your garage, greenhouse, or kitchen. You can plant them near a window or grow light.

Cold temperature is good for buttercrunch to prevent bolting, but it should be controlled rather than letting the temps swing wildly.

Succession planting

Plant a batch every two weeks to ensure a continuous supply all season. This can reduce the chance of stress or pests destroying your crop. You can also grow them vertically with lattices or trellises to save space.

Container planting

Buttercrunch can be grown in pots or containers to make it easier to manage. You can move it around when it’s hot, bring it indoors during the winter, or even when there are too many pests eating it up.

The care is pretty much the same as growing it in the soil. The only difference is that you’ll want to use well-draining soil that’s high-quality.

This will help keep the water flowing. The buildup of water can lead to root rot, fungus, or mildew on your leaves.

It’s attractive when you plant it in a pot. You can combine it with other cool-season plants as a decorative piece.

Exchange the garden soil for some potting mix or topsoil for drainage. Use a layer of rock a the bottom to prevent clumping of the substate. Repot as it grows.

Note that some people crowd their pot with butterheads and other plants like pansies or calendula. This is OK if you don’t care for the best yield.

You can even grow lots of butterheads in one container and reduce the spacing between them. Just watch out for pests, water blockage, and weeds. Remove all weeds at first sight because they compete for nutrients.

Additionally, don’t use any soil amendments or excess plant food. You can use any container that has a depth of at least 8 inches and a width of 10 inches.

This should be enough for a single buttercrunch plant. Care is the same otherwise as soil planting.

Indoor planting

For those that are in warmer or colder zones, consider planting your buttercrunch inside your house.

It can grow, albeit not as quickly, under a grow light or sunny window.

It’s even possible to grow buttercrunch in water, as shown in this video:

Buttercrunch is grown as a microgreen. This veggie is very dense in nutrients without requiring you to eat a lot.

People cultivate it in their houses using drip irrigation and hydroponic systems.

You can do the same on a basic level if you’re inexperienced because it’s super easy. Just a pot, grow light, and some soil does the trick.

Use organic soil for a real nice treat. Container and indoor planting can stop pests and weeds.

Companion plants

Some of the best companion plants to grow with buttercrunch are asparagus, chives, garlic, peppers, cucumbers, carrots, broccoli, fruits, cabbage, and onion.

Plants that like high nitrogen content in the soil work well because it benefits the growth of the foliage, which means bigger salads for you. Anything that loves nitrogen will do for the most part. Lettuce is easy. Keep it that way.

But if you want the MOST yield you can get, you’ll need to focus on planting only buttercrunch with nothing else or non-competing veggies.

The root system is shallow, so it’s good to be planted in a container with other similar plants.

Harvesting

You can harvest buttercrunch by cutting the individual leaves for a small portion of the entire sprout by the root if you need more.

Don’t worry about deadheading it or pulling it out because you can regrow it again.

Besides, you should do this before wintertime rolls around because leaving them out will just bring pests to your garden.

Cut the outer leaves when you harvest because those leave are ready to go. The innermost ones are still growing. Lettuce grows outwards. Plus, the leaves cut on the inside of the buttercrunch head won’t come back.

If you want your buttercrunch to continue to produce yield, don’t cut the entire plant. Cut as little as possible from each stalk. Additionally, you can collect their seeds if you let them grow until wintertime.

Never remove more than 1/3 of the total leaves of the plant (not including the head leaves) if you want to keep it growing.

If you want to harvest a full head of buttercrunch, you can cut the head from the stalk or just uproot it like a carrot.

Storage

Use immediately after you harvest because it’ll dry out quickly.

If you have a surplus, you can store them in an airtight container that’s slightly damp for about a week. Leaves should be wrapped in a wet towel.

Heads should be misted heavily then stored just like leaves. Be sure to wash all the greens before you store them in your fridge because they can rot.

Buttercrunch must be stored with moisture or else it’ll dry out and become unusable the next time you need it. If you have a vacuum sealer, that works perfectly.

Note that it’s hard to screw up on the harvest. When it’s growing, the small leaves are on the outside and only they can be harvested.

The inner leaves will continue to grow. If you remove the head, then you remove the head. There’s nothing to say about it.

But if you just one a few leaves, it’s “dummy-proof” where you can only get the outer ones. It’s a cut-and-come-again type of thing.

Pests

Like most other veggies, buttercrunch is susceptible to the same handful of pests.

Some of the most annoying ones you’ll have to deal with are flea beetles, fungus gnats, and aphids.

Gastropods (snails, slugs, etc.) and caterpillars are also culprits that’ll gladly munch on your tender young greens. These can all be controlled with regular pruning, insecticidal soaps, and manual removal.

Diseases

Buttercrunch suffers from downy mildew, damping-off, and root rot.

These issues are common with lettuce because of its high moisture content and large leaves, which disrupt the evaporation of water.

Keep your plants pruned and harvest on time. Don’t overwater. And don’t overfertilize. If you see black spots, mold, or yellowing of the leaves, uproot that plant and destroy it.

Propagating

You can save the seeds after it bolts for next season so you don’t have to keep buying it over and over again.

The seeds can be harvested, then dried if wet. Store them safely somewhere out of sunlight and keep them dry until planting season.

Then start the process all over again. Rinse and repeat. Enjoy your unlimited butterhead lettuce season after season.

Best uses

Two words: LETTUCE WRAPS. I personally think that using buttercrunch salad for wrapping up your favorite fillings is no competition.

The crisp, sturdiness of buttercrunch makes it an excellent choice for chicken, beef, turkey, or tofurkey lettuce wraps. It’s a crisp, clean, and neutral flavor for all your favorites.

For a real plant-based wrap, use it to replace tortilla or bread wraps.

Plus, you can use it for your traditional salad as a spring mix. Or use it to replace other boring greens. There’s really no wrong way to do it.

Other common questions about butternut lettuce care

Here are some commonly asked questions that readers often ask. You may find them useful for your own plants.

Does buttercrunch need to be staked?

No. It doesn’t need staking. Even if it grows to it max height, it won’t topple over or need stakes of any kind because of the rosette heads.

How do you harvest butter lettuce so it keeps growing?

Cut only the outer leaves and don’t cut the heads of the lettuce. This will let it continue to grow without killing it. If you cut the heads, the lettuce will be severely stunted.

Cut the outer leaves only to prevent this. Never cut more than 1/3 of the total leaves on your plant.

Lastly, save some seeds after it flowers to replant again next season.

Does it need full sun?

Butter lettuce does well in full sun if you’re in the right hardiness zone. If you’re in a warmer zone, you need to provide some shade or else it’ll dry up.

Use row covers, polytunnels, or artificial shade through an umbrella. These can help block out harmful sun rays from drying it up.

But if your local weather isn’t scorching hot, then it should be fine in full sun.

Does it regrow?

Buttercrunch lettuce will continuously grow throughout the season.

You need to provide at least 2-3 inches of water per week, accounting for rain and drought. Otherwise, it should grow.

Be sure you only cut the outer leaves while leaving the rest intact so you can do the cut-and-come-again thing with your butter lettuce.

Can you direct sow?

Yes, you can direct sow butter lettuce. If you’re able to, then do it. It’s preferred because it prevents the plant shock later on when you move it to the outside. Direct sow after the last frost in your area.

When is the best time to grow it?

The best time to plant buttercrunch is 2-3 weeks before the last frost in your zone.

This will give it time to germinate, while allowing enough time for you to move it outside and let it acclimate to the outside environment.

Again, this depends on your local climate, hardiness zone, cultivar, and your experience.

Time to harvest

Generally, buttercrunch is ready to harvest 46-60 days after you plant it. It’s a quick growing vegetable that’s ready early in the season, so it makes a good early harvest plant. Plant with tomatoes, eggplant, radicchio for a full salad.

How often should you water it?

Water when the soil is near dry, but not completely dry. Don’t let it dry out between watering sessions. But don’t overwater. It hates wet feet.

Doing this can lead to rot or fungal issues. Keep it pruned to allow proper evaporation. Don’t water the leaves. Only water at the base with a soft hose or watering tank.

Can you substitute butter lettuce for regular lettuce?

This is personal preference, but butter lettuce has a bunch of different options depending on what you eat.

If you do a lot of wraps, use butter lettuce for it. Regular salads can be replaced completely with butterhead, but it’ll be something to get used to. Why not use both rather than one over the other?

You can use butterhead for wraps and other delicate recipes. Then for your salad, you can use whatever you like. If you want to use butterhead as a replacement, then do it. There’s no reason no to!

Further reading/references

Here are some good references on the subject:

Grow your own butterhead lettuce

Now that you know the basics for growing buttercrunch lettuce, you don’t have to worry about buying them from the store.

Grow your crunchy buttercrunch. Your way. DIY. In your garden. Organically. Yeah!

This versatile little veggie offers an excellent alternative to the same boring old greens. Mix it up a bit, eh?

With its variety of different usage scenarios, butterhead lettuce is an excellent addition to your garden of veggies.

Do you have any questions? Drop a comment and let me know.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *