9 Salad Greens You Should Be Growing

There's more to growing salad greens than just planting lettuce.

October 18, 2016
salad greens
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Creating a salad that’s bursting with flavor and color is an art, but since most salad greens and enhancements go well together, it’s hard to go wrong. And fortunately, most seed companies now carry a wide range of mixes and individual species and cultivars that take the guesswork out of growing salad greens.

(Whether you're starting your first garden or switching to organic, Rodale’s Basic Organic Gardening has all the answers and advice you need—get your copy today!)

If you want to go beyond lettuce, try these delicious greens in your salads. You can eat some of them—spinach, arugula, and bok choy, for example—on their own, or mix them with lettuces and other greens like radicchio and mustard greens to give your salads spice and depth. Mesclun can also be the base of a salad or be mixed in with other greens. And don’t forget red, green, and Savoy cabbage, which are excellent as accents in tossed salads or in starring roles in cole slaw.


Also called rocket and roquette, arugula has a rich and peppery flavor. Sow seeds in early spring or fall, thinning seedlings to space plants four to six inches apart with 10 inches between rows. Use thinnings in salads and start harvesting mature greens in six to eight weeks. Arugula tends to bolt quickly in hot, dry weather.

Related: Ever Heard Of A Salad Keyhole Garden?

bok choy
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Bok Choy

Also called bok choi and pak choi, it's the attractive cabbage relative with long, thick white stems and dark green leaves. Young bok choy is delicious in salads and makes a succulent cole slaw. Sow seeds in early spring or fall; grow like cabbage. Plants prefer cool growing conditions. Space plants 8 to 12 inches apart in the row and 12 inches between rows. Harvest entire small heads or larger individual leaves.

Related: The 20 Highest Calcium Vegan Foods

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A relative of endive and escarole, chicory (also called witloof chicory or Belgian endive) is delicious as a winter salad green when forced indoors. 

Related: Easy Greens To Grow Inside This Winter

Endive and Escarole

The lacy, cream green, frilly leaves of endive are often called frisee, while the broad-leaved forms are often sold as escarole. Start these bitter greens indoors for an early summer harvest or in the garden in summer for an autumn crop, thinning plants to stand a foot apart. Note: That touch of bitterness is prized in Europe, adding sophistication to a potentially bland salad. Blanch plants for a buttery color and milder flavor.

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Kale adds substance, color, and nutrition to a salad—the thick, blue-green, purple-green, green-black, or white-green leaves are packed with vitamins and minerals. Some cultivars are deeply frilled while others are deeply puckered; all add texture and variety to a mixed salad. Sow in early spring or late summer, thinning plants to two feet apart. Harvest the young leaves individually for salads.

Related: 5 Tasty Greens That Grow In Less Than A Month


This attractive, compact green plant matures in 35 days, tolerates heat, and is easy to grow. Serrated leaves add a cabbagy, mustardy flavor to salads. Sow seeds in early spring; grow like spinach.

mustard greens
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Mustard Greens

Attractive red or green loose-leaf or heading mustards—loose-leaf types mature in 45 days; heading mustards need 60 to 75 days to head up. Plants tolerate heat and light frost, and they’re easy to grow. Leaves of oriental mustard cultivars tend not to be as hot or biting as Southern mustard greens. Direct-seed in early spring or fall, barely covering with soil. Space plants six inches apart in the row, thinning to 10 inches; leave 10 to 12 inches between rows.

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This bitter Italian heading chicory has become a favorite of salad lovers everywhere. Its gorgeous deep garnet, white-based leaves add rich color and texture to salads, and the flavor adds sophistication. Start indoors as with endive and escarole for spring planting; space six inches apart when you transplant them outdoors. Plants form tight, four-inch heads.

Related: Microgreens: The Salad You Can Grow Inside

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This salad staple can be harvested when the leaves are small to use whole in salads or when they’re mature. Sow seeds in early spring and late summer for spring and fall crops, thinning to four to six inches apart—you can use thinnings in salads or stir-fries. Spinach is rich in vitamins and minerals, so it’s one of the healthiest salad choices.

Related: Why Your Spinach Isn't As Sweet As It Could Be