How to Grow Arugula: The Complete Guide

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Botanical Name
Eruca sativa
Plant Type
Sun Exposure
Bloom Time
Flower Color

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Planting, Growing, and Harvesting Arugula Lettuce

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Also known as “rocket” or “roquette,” arugula is a fast-growing, cool-season leafy green that adds a tangy, mustard-like flavor to salads. Though popular on gourmet menus, it’s quite easy to plant and grow arugula greens in your home garden.

About Arugula

Arugula stems from the warmer parts of Europe—namely Italy and along the Mediterranean, through Turkey, and into western Asia. A member of the mustard family (Brassicaceae), it’s a relative of other common garden plants such as cabbage, broccoli, and kale

Arugula is often found in mesclun seed mixes, as it grows quickly and has a bolder flavor than most greens. Many people love the spicy, peppery taste in salads or as an accompaniment to sandwiches. Plant in early spring or early fall, and you can harvest young leaves 6 to 8 weeks after sowing. The seeds will germinate quickly in cool soil, and seedlings can tolerate a light frost, but consider protecting plants with cloches or row covers nonetheless! 


Where to Plant Arugula

Arugula does best in nutrient-rich, well-drained soil but will tolerate a wide variety of conditions, making it a great choice for containers, raised beds, or traditional garden beds. It prefers slightly acidic soil with a pH between 6 and 7.

Plant in a spot with full sun (6 or more hours of sunlight) for the best results. Arugula will grow in partial sun, but not as well.

Avoid planting arugula in areas where its relatives (other Brassicas) have recently been planted, as pests and disease may persist. 

When to Plant Arugula

  • Arugula seeds will germinate in soil temperatures as low as 40°F (4°C), so sow them outdoors as soon as the soil can be worked in spring. See local frost dates.
  • Sow in late summer or early fall for a fall or winter harvest.

How to Plant Arugula

  • Sow seeds ¼-inch deep and about 1 inch apart in rows 10 inches apart. Alternatively, broadcast arugula seeds alone or mix them with other salad greens.
  • Seeds germinate in about a week (or slightly longer in cold soil). Speed up germination by soaking seeds in water for a few hours prior to planting.
  • According to Susan Mahr from the University of Wisconsin–Madison, “Seedlings have two rounded cotyledons, each with an indentation on the end, while the first young leaves are entire and elongated. Older leaves have lobes of varying degrees, so these leaves look like dark green oak leaf lettuce – often deeply pinnate with 4-10 lobes.”
  • Sow new seeds every 2 to 3 weeks for a continuous harvest later on!


How to Grow Arugula

  • Keep soil evenly moist, especially in warmer weather when bolting may occur. (Bolting is when the plant skips right to producing flowers and seeds without developing much foliage first.)
  • Thin seedlings to about 6 inches apart, using the thinnings for salads.
  • To reduce heat stress and prevent bolting, provide some shade for warm-season plantings.

Arugula salad greens


Arugula leaves taste best when young. Older leaves can be tougher and will have more of a bite!

  • Harvest leaves when they are about 2 to 3 inches long.
  • Pull up the whole plants or cut individual leaves as needed.
  • The white flowers are also edible, try them in salads or to making your plating more interesting.
  • Once the plant bolts, the leaves will taste bitter.
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Arugula Pests and Diseases

Cabbage wormsInsectLeaves have large, ragged holes or are skeletonized; dark green excrement; yellowish eggs laid singly on leaf undersides by white butterflies with two or three black spots on each wingHandpick; use row covers; add native plants to invite beneficial insects; grow companion plants (especially thyme); spray Bacillus thuringiensis (a beneficial bacterium)
Downy mildewFungusYellow, angular spots on upper leaf surfaces that turn brown; white/purple/gray cottony growth on leaf undersides only; distorted leaves; defoliationRemove plant debris; choose resistant varieties; ensure good air circulation; avoid overhead watering
Flea beetlesInsectNumerous tiny holes in leaves, as if leaves have been hit by birdshotUse row covers; mulch heavily; add native plants to invite beneficial insect predators
White rustFungusChalk-white blisters mainly on leaf undersides; small, yellow-green spots or blisters, sometimes in circular arrangement, on upper leaf surfaces; possible distortion or galls; stems may also be infectedDestroy infected plants; choose resistant varieties; weed; destroy crop residue; rotate crops

Cooking Notes

Packed with vitamins and minerals, arugula is often used fresh or in cooked dishes. Toss arugula into…

  • Salads
  • Soups
  • Omelettes and eggs
  • Sandwiches
  • Grains
  • Pizza toppings (Dress arugula lightly in a lemony vinaigrette.)

pizza with arugula and tomatoes

About The Author

Catherine Boeckmann

Catherine Boeckmann loves nature, stargazing, and gardening so it’s not surprising that she and The Old Farmer’s Almanac found each other. She leads digital content for the Almanac website, and is also a certified master gardener in the state of Indiana. Read More from Catherine Boeckmann

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