Red Sails Lettuce Variety Guide

If you’re looking for a new leafy green to add to your garden, consider Red Sails Lettuce. This lettuce is a beautiful addition to any garden, with its bright leaves and frilly red edges.

Red Sails Lettuce is a gourmet lettuce variety known for its bright green leaves with burgundy red frilly edges. This leaf lettuce is popular in salad mixes due to its sweet flavor and fine texture. This open-pollinated favorite is also easy to grow due to its natural resistance to bolting in the summer heat. Baby leaves are ready to harvest about a month after planting, while full-size leaves take about 55 days to reach maturity. Red Sails Lettuce is an All-America Selections (AAS) winner due to its excellent taste and ease of growing in the garden.

Read on to learn all about Red Sails Lettuce and how to grow it.

Red Sails Lettuce in the Vegetable Garden

Red Sails Lettuce: The Basics

Let’s talk about Red Sails Lettuce! The average grocery shopper hasn’t likely heard of this specific popular variety of lettuce—but they’ve likely seen it. Red Sails Lettuce is distinguishable from the other popular lettuce varieties because of its red, ruffled leaves. It’s gorgeous loose-leaf lettuce that easily stands out amongst its counterparts. At first glance, it may just look like a beautiful, colorful plant (and it is)—but it’s also, much to our delight, edible!

So, what does this beautiful lettuce taste like, you might be wondering? It’s known to have a more mild lettuce taste, nothing too prominent about it, possibly a very subtle sweet flavor at best. It’s more so a simple and gentle leaf, closer in texture to butterhead lettuce which is known to be smooth as butter. 

This luscious and lovely red leaf lettuce is an open-pollinated variety that attracts beneficial insects such as bees, butterflies, and other friendly neighborhood insects if left to flower. Not only will your lettuce garden be visually appealing because of the plant itself, but seeing its little visitors will also be a nice treat, as well.

red sails lettuce seeds

Buying Seeds For Red Sails Lettuce

If you’re looking to purchase Red Sails Lettuce seeds, one seed packet (which usually has about 500-600 seeds) can cost anywhere from $2.50 to $5.50. Here are some seed companies that offer Red Sails Lettuce:

Planting Red Sails Lettuce

So, you’re ready to plant seeds? Red Sails Lettuce seeds can be planted both indoors and outdoors but the fan-favorite option is to start the seeds inside. This is likely because it’s much cheaper than buying seedlings, but the catch is that this route will make it just a little more labor-intensive. The alternative is to buy seedling plants, so someone has already started growing these young plants, but this is the more expensive route. So if you’re in the business of spending a little more to make things a little easier, then buying seedlings could be a good route for you.

Direct seeding outdoors is both cheap and easy—but it’s then harder to control the plant spacing and the tiny plants are then competing with weeds. So no matter which route you take, you’ll be making a sacrifice in one area while gaining in another.

red sails lettuce - seed starting

Planting Lettuce Seeds Indoors For Later Transplanting

Many experienced gardeners get a head start by planting their seeds indoors and transplanting them outside once they’re about two to three inches grown. If that’s your plan too, first you need to sow seeds about 8” from each other in fertile soil. Make sure you space them out about 10 to 12” from one another. This particular lettuce type can thrive throughout all seasons so it likely can survive wherever you choose to put it in your home—but partial light is ideal.

Transplanting Lettuce Seedlings Outdoors

In general, transplanting is best for gardeners wishing to harvest proper lettuce leaves (3″-6″ long), while direct seeding into the outdoor garden is best for baby lettuce greens. Whenever and whatever you choose, it’s best to just remember cool weather is an ideal climate for this variety of lettuce.

You’re going to want to dig a hole into your outdoor garden for your new plant seedling. Then carefully take your indoor seedling from your indoor pot and carefully make sure the roots are facing more outward. This may take a little gentle tugging to ensure they don’t end up wrapping around themselves like they were starting to do in the smaller pot. Once you’ve sorted that out, you can then place it into your cleared space to flourish.

Planting Lettuce Seeds Outdoors

Lettuce seeds can germinate in outdoor soil with soil temperatures in the range of 40°-75°F (4°-24°C). You’re going to want to space your lettuce seeds for baby greens quite closely, with 4–6 seeds/inch in rows that are 2″-4″ apart. For full-grown plant heads, space seeds 8″ apart. Plant the seeds quite shallow at a depth of 1/8″-1/4″ deep (barely covered with soil) for optimal results. Keep the soil moist while the seeds germinate.

Red Sails Lettuce

Growing Red Sails Lettuce

Either after transplanting or planting in your garden from the very beginning, the soil should then be kept moist and cool at all times for good lettuce seed germination. You might be wondering, when is the perfect growing season for this looseleaf lettuce? Well, lettuce seeds can germinate in outdoor soil with soil temperatures in the range of 40°-75°F (4°-24°C). A soil temperature thermometer will be your new best friend to ensure your soil conditions are just right. It’s suggested to plant red sails leaf lettuce in the fall or winter to reap the benefits of a cool-season harvest. 

This type of lettuce will thrive in cool temperatures, but that being said, one of the unique features of red sails lettuce is that it can actually manage in warmer climates in partial shade and high temperatures with a shade cloth. Unlike most lettuce plants, it won’t bolt as easily or quickly if managed just right, nor get the unpleasant bitter taste that other plants might.

How To Harvest Red Sails Lettuce

If you want to harvest full heads of Red Sails Lettuce then it will take up to six weeks to grow. Once your loose head of lettuce is ready for harvest, you’re going to want to use sharp scissors or a garden harvest knife. Then slice off the plant at the base. 

For individual leaves, cut them off the outside of the plant with your cutting shears at a height of about 1″ above the soil. However, if you’re wanting just the small baby leaf lettuce for salad, you can harvest them at about 3” to 4” inches.

Recipes For Red Sails Lettuce

Check out Martha Stewart’s Red Lettuce Salad if you’re wanting to incorporate these colorful lettuce leaves into an exciting side dish. It calls for blood oranges (although navel oranges work too), roasted shallot vinegarette, and crumbled ricotta salata cheese. Between the sweet flavor of the homemade vinaigrette and the rich colors of the red and green leaves, you’ll have a five-star delicacy on your hands!

Resources

Mary Jane Duford
Mary Jane Duford

Mary Jane Duford is a gardening expert and founder of Home for the Harvest. She's also an engineer and certified permaculture garden designer. Mary Jane has been featured by publications such as Real Simple, Mother Earth News, Homes & Gardens, Heirloom Gardener, and Family Handyman.