Why My Cabbage Is Not Forming Any Head? How to Ensure A Proper Head

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The Head is the edible part of a cabbage plant. Ideally, a good-quality cabbage head is firm, crisp, juicy, and sweet. Sometimes the taste can also be a little peppery.

So if your cabbage is not forming any head, it can be disastrous. Here in this post, we will discuss what are the main reason why a cabbage stops forming heads and what you can do to ensure proper head formation in your cabbage plant.

Although cabbage is not one of the easiest to grow veggies among gardeners, by planting them at the right time, full filling their needs, and taking proper care can you can ensure success.

How Much Time is Needed For Head Formation:

The time needed for head formation in a cabbage plant can vary according to cabbage varieties. A common green cabbages may take 70 -80 days to form a head, whereas a red cabbage or savoy cabbage will take more time.

How A Cabbage Head Is Formed:

In cabbage, the head formation starts towards the end of the growth phase. Once the plants grow enough leaves it starts forming the head by covering up tender inner leaves with their hard out leaves. Initially, you will barely recognize a cabbage head because it remains very small and if you look closely you will find small tender leaves packed closely.

Why Cabbage Is Not Forming Heads:

Followings are some of the main reasons why your cabbage is not forming head:

Hot Weather:

Cabbage is a cool-weather crop and they need the cool temperature to form heads. If the weather is getting warm the cabbage will stop growing and the head formation will also be disturbed. Anything below 80 deg F and your plant will continue to form the head.

Weather is Too Cold:

On the other hand too cold temperature can also hamper the head formation in cabbage plants. If very cold temperature remains for an extended period the plant will become dormant. Frost can also damage cabbage leaves.

Not Getting Enough Nitrogen:

Nitrogen is one of the 3 most important nutrients of a plant. It is essential for forming leaves and other parts. Just like any other members of the brassica family cabbages are heavy feeders. As a result, the soil needs to be well fertile. If your soil isn’t able to provide enough nitrogen to the plant, it will not form the head.

Add slow releasing fertilizers like manure, bone meal, blood meal, well-rotted compost etc to boost soil fertility.

Too Much Fertilizer:

On the flip side, too much fertilizer can also harm your plant. Too much nitrogen can result in extensive growth of the leaves but stops head formation. When you see the head is starting to form stop adding more fertilizer to the soil.

Problem with Watering Your Cabbage Plant:

To form heads, cabbage needs lots of water. Inconsistent watering can really damage the head formation process. Poor watering can make a cabbage head bitter, smaller, poorly textured, or can totally stop the head formation process.

Ideally, you should water your cabbages 2-3 times each week. Depending on the soil, and the weather you can adjust the watering frequency. We have a detailed article on how to water a plant, see that for more information.

Pest and Diseases:

Cabbage plants are prone to pests and diseases. Many insects like cabbage loopers, slugs, aphids, root maggots, etc., love to feast on them. If a young cabbage plant gets damaged by pests(especially the central growing points), the plant will not form any head.


The ideal space between two cabbage plants should be 12-18 inches, and the gap between two rows should be at least 24 inches. If the plants are placed too tightly it will create problems in head formation. This becomes more problematic if your cabbage is of large varieties.

How to Ensure Proper Head Formation In Cabbage:

Here are some the steps you can take to ensure proper head formation in a cabbage plant:

  • Choose the variety properly. Check the expected level of head formation for that particular variety. If any particular variety naturally forms a loose or small head you can do very little to modify that.
  • Water deeply and infrequently, rather than little and often.
  • Make sure the soil does not get waterlogged. Add some coir, perlite, well-rotted compost to ensure proper drainage.
  • Use crop rotation techniques. Avoid growing cabbages in the same place within a three-year period.
  • Pest control is very important for proper head formation. Use organic pest control strategies discussed here to protect your plants from pest attacks.
  • Pay attention to the recommended spacing on the seed packet. You never want overcrowded cabbages with tiny or no heads.
  • Fertilize the growing soil with organic fertilizers. Make sure the plants do not starve.
  • Head formation takes time. So have patience. Sometimes, patience can only ensure a healthy head in your cabbage plant.

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prasenjit saha author Gardening ABC

Hi there! My name is Prasenjit and I’m an avid gardener and someone who has grown a passion for growing plants. From my hands-on experience, I have learned what works and what doesn’t. Here I share everything I have learned.