Oak leaf lettuce

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Adding some gourmet greens to your garden? Don’t forget to plant Oak Leaf lettuce!

Oak Leaf lettuce is a type of lettuce with deeply lobed leaves like the leaves of an oak tree. The leaves are often harvested when young as baby lettuce leaves, but the plants can also be allowed to mature into full-sized open heads of lettuce. There are many different varieties of Oak Leaf lettuce, including green and red cultivars. The varieties ‘Salad Bowl’ and ‘Red Salad Bowl’ are particularly popular.

Read on to learn all about Oak Leaf lettuce!

Green oak leaf lettuce

Oak Leaf lettuce basics

Oak Leaf lettuce is a gourmet type of leaf lettuce with delicate soft leaves. The leaves have a unique undulating edge with thick lobes, giving the lettuce leaves an oak leaf-like appearance. Oak Leaf lettuces tend to be tender, sweet, and well-suited to salads.

Oak Leaf lettuce is a cool-weather crop and is best planted in the early spring or fall. The plants can tolerate some frost, so you can often get a few extra weeks of growth by planting in the fall and covering the plants with a frost blanket if cold weather is expected. Oak Leaf lettuce may not grow well in the heat of midsummer.

Oak Leaf lettuce grows best in full sun, but will also do ok in partial shade. The plants need moist, well-drained soil to thrive. Baby leaves can be harvested at about 30 days. The plants will mature in about 50 to 60 days.

Oak leaf lettuce seedlings
‘salad bowl red’ is a popular variety of oakleaf-type lettuce

Oak Leaf lettuce varieties

Many of the most popular varieties of loose-leaf lettuce are considered oak leaf lettuce. Here are some nice Oak Leaf lettuce varieties to grow:

Green Oak Leaf lettuce varieties

  • Salad Bowl Lettuce
  • Royal Green Oak Leaf Lettuce
  • Green Tiger Lettuce
  • Bauer Lettuce
  • Panisse Lettuce

Red Oak Leaf lettuce varieties

Planting oak leaf lettuce in the garden

Planting Oak Leaf lettuce

Oak Leaf lettuce seeds can be planted directly in the soil outdoors, or you can transplant seedlings into the outdoor garden. Direct seeding outdoors is most popular for lettuce that will be harvested as baby greens while transplanted lettuce seedlings are better for controlling spacing for full-sized plants. Seedlings can be raised at home indoors or purchased at garden centers.

Planting lettuce seeds indoors for later transplanting

Start seeds indoors about six to eight weeks before the last frost date in spring. Use a seed-starting mix and plant the seeds in small pots or trays. Keep the soil moist but not soggy, and provide plenty of light. Once the seedlings have several leaves (usually about 3 weeks after planting), they can be transplanted outdoors.

Transplanting lettuce seedlings outdoors

To transplant outdoors, choose a sunny spot with moist, well-drained soil. Space the plants about 8-12 inches apart. Rows can be more like 12-18 inches apart. Water well after transplanting.

Planting lettuce seeds outdoors

Wait until the soil has thawed in the early spring and can be worked before planting lettuce seeds outdoors. Lettuce can germinate in cold soil down to 40°F (4°C) but may take a few weeks to germinate.

For baby leaf lettuce, sow the seeds thickly in rows 2-4 inches apart. You can plant 2-6 seeds per inch, depending on how many seeds you have and how much space is available. Cover the seeds with a light dusting of soil to about 1/8″ deep. Water the soil gently and keep the soil moist until the seeds germinate and take root.

Growing Oak Leaf lettuce

Once the plants have germinated and are growing, thin out the seedlings so that only the strongest plants remain (for full-sized heads). For baby leaf lettuce, you can cut the greens with scissors when they are about 4 inches tall. This will encourage new growth and allow you to enjoy several harvests from each plant.

Red oak leaf lettuce leaves

How to harvest Oak Leaf lettuce

Oak Leaf lettuce can be harvested as baby greens or full-sized heads. Baby greens are ready to harvest in about 30 days while full-sized heads take 50 to 60 days.

To harvest baby greens, simply snip the leaves off with scissors. You can cut as much or as little as you need and the plants will continue to produce new leaves. For full-sized heads, wait until the lettuce is about 8-10 inches tall, and then cut the entire head from the base of the plant with a garden knife.

Oak Leaf lettuce is best eaten fresh, but you can store it in the fridge for a few days. Lettuce will last the longest if it is stored unwashed in a plastic bag or container.

Recipes for Oak Leaf lettuce

Here are some recipe ideas for Oak Leaf lettuce:

Oak Leaf lettuce salad with feta, cranberries, and pecans


  • 1/2 head of Oak Leaf lettuce, washed and dried
  • 1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup pecans, chopped
  • 1/4 cup vinaigrette of your choice


  1. Tear the lettuce into bite-sized pieces and place in a salad bowl.
  2. Add the feta cheese, cranberries, pecans, and vinaigrette.
  3. Toss to combine and serve.

Oak Leaf lettuce and goat cheese wrap


  • 1/2 head of Oak Leaf lettuce, washed and dried
  • 1/4 cup goat cheese, crumbled
  • 1/4 cup roasted red peppers, chopped
  • 1/4 cup hummus
  • 1 whole wheat tortilla


  1. Tear the lettuce into bite-sized pieces and place them in a bowl.
  2. Add the goat cheese, roasted red peppers, and hummus.
  3. Mix to combine.
  4. Spread the mixture onto a tortilla.
  5. Roll up the tortilla and cut it in half. Serve immediately.
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Mary Jane Duford
Mary Jane Duford

Mary Jane Duford is a Master Gardener and founder of the gardening website Home for the Harvest. She has been featured by Better Homes & Gardens, Real Simple, Good Housekeeping, Mother Earth News, and the National Garden Bureau. Mary Jane lives with her family in the Okanagan Valley.