One of my favorite things about growing lettuce is the seemingly endless variation. There’s dense and crunchy romaine, delicate bibb, and beautiful red leaf lettuce.
Therefore, it’s often hard to just pick one or two varieties to grow. If you find yourself looking to grow a dozen different types of lettuce or plant enough romaine for your daily salads, you’ll need to know far apart to plant individual lettuce plants.
If you plant lettuce too close or too far apart you may end up with disease issues, weeds, or small harvests. But proper spacing will maximize your garden space as well as your harvests.
We’re going to cover how far apart to plant lettuce for healthy plants and healthy harvests.
Why Is Proper Lettuce Spacing Important?
If you plant lettuce too close together, the plants won’t have the room they need to properly mature. Instead of ending up with a nice big head of romaine or buttercrunch lettuce that can serve four, you may end up with a minuscule amount of lettuce.
And remember that plants don’t just need room to expand above ground! Proper spacing also ensures each plant has enough root space.
Planting lettuce too tightly can also limit airflow. This can allow moisture to build up which can then lead to fungal diseases.
Some common fungal diseases that can impact lettuce plants include downy mildew, fusarium wilt, and powdery mildew. All of these diseases can cause crops to decline in quality or even fail.
On the other end, planting lettuce too far apart can lead to lots of bare soil.
This can increase the number of weeds that grow. It also increases the rate at which water evaporates from the soil, increasing the amount you’ll need to water.
Additionally, planting lettuce farther apart than necessary means you’re not making the most of your garden space.
Lettuce Spacing Based on Variety
One of the biggest factors in determining how far apart you should plant lettuce is the variety. Different types of lettuce have different sizes at maturity, which impacts spacing.
Some lettuce seed packets will let you know the optimum spacing for the variety you are planting. However, you can also use the lettuce type as a guide.
Full lettuce heads including romaine, bibb, buttercrunch, iceberg, and red leaf can be planted 12 to 14 inches apart. This will allow them to grow into large heads.
Smaller varieties like little gem and Salanova® can be spaced 8 to 10 inches apart.
With this said, you can plant any lettuce varieties closer than the distances mentioned above. However, this will result in smaller heads.
Lettuce Spacing Based on Growing Method
The growing method you’re using can also impact how far apart you plant lettuce.
Row Spacing for Lettuce
If you’re planting more than a handful of lettuce plants, you may want to plant your lettuce in rows. This allows you to easily fit in lots of plants in an organized manner.
When you’re planting any crop in a row, there are two types of spacing you’ll want to refer to: in row and between row.
In row spacing refers to the amount of space between each plant in a row. For this spacing, you’ll plant larger lettuce heads 12 to 14 inches apart and smaller lettuce heads 8 to 10 inches apart.
Between row spacing is the amount of space between each row of lettuce plants. You’ll want to keep this space a bit larger, about 12 to 18 inches.
A wider spacing between rows will allow for easier weeding and walking, but it will also provide more space for weeds to grow. Additionally, large amounts of bare ground may lead to erosion and muddy ground.
Raised Bed Lettuce Spacing
If you’re growing lettuce in a raised bed, you’ll use the spacing as you would as if you were growing lettuce directly in the ground. However, you will have multiple options.
One popular raised bed method of growing is square-foot gardening. This method bases plant spacing on the number of plants per square foot of space.
In this method, the number of lettuce plants per square foot depends on the type of lettuce you are growing.
For large lettuce heads like romaine and bibb, plant two transplants per square foot. For smaller heads, plant three to four seedlings per square.
You can also plant lettuce in rows in raised beds. If you use this method, you can follow the spacing outlined above.
Loose Leaf Lettuce Spacing
If you’re growing baby lettuce for a loose-leaf lettuce mix, the plant spacing will be different. This lettuce can be planted closer together since it will be harvested as baby greens.
Loose leaf lettuce is generally grown from seed rather than seedlings, due to its close spacing. This means you’ll be looking at the seed spacing rather than the spacing of transplants.
When you’re growing baby lettuce, you have some flexibility in the seed spacing. That means you don’t have to spend lots of time getting your spacing just right.
With this said, you’ll want to aim for between four to six seeds per inch in row.
If you plant seeds closer together, you risk poor airflow and disease. And if you plant seeds further apart, you’ll be left with a small harvest.
Oftentimes, you’ll plant multiple rows of baby lettuce close to each other. If this is the case, space rows four to six inches apart.
Hydroponic Lettuce Spacing
If you’re growing hydroponically, you can use similar spacing as you would with lettuce planted in soil.
This means providing 12 to 14 inches between larger lettuce types and 8 to 10 inches for smaller varieties.
Spacing Lettuce Seeds for Transplants
If you’re growing your own lettuce transplants, proper seed spacing is also important.
Planting seeds too close together can lead to weak and leggy plants. Additionally, a lack of space between plants can create disease issues.
However, planting seeds too far apart means you won’t be maximizing your space.
If you’re planting seeds in an open tray of potting soil, space seeds two inches apart. This will give them room to grow until they are large enough to transplant.
Alternatively, you can plant lettuce seeds closer together and then thin them out once they germinate. This is an especially good option if you’re not sure about the quality of your seed.
If you are growing lettuce seeds in cell trays or individual cups, you can plant one or two seeds per cell. If multiple seeds germinate, cut out a seedling so only one remains.
Plant Your Lettuce with Confidence
Now that you know how far apart to plant lettuce, it’s time to plan your garden! Remember that different varieties require different spacings, and mature lettuce heads will require more space than baby lettuce.