How to Grow Wild Lettuce

Wild Lettuce

Wild lettuce (Lactuca Virosa) commonly refers to the bitter cousin of common garden lettuce (L. Sativa). It is native to Europe and is called by various names, such as wild lettuce, bitter lettuce, or opium lettuce. The fresh leaves can be added to salads, though be forewarned that the leaves are more bitter than typical salad greens. Once established, wild lettuce is a hardy plant and easy to maintain.

This herb has a wide range of uses; it is used in everything from sleep tonics to soap and teas. Oils and extracts can also be produced from Lactuca Virosa, which are often added to tea to induce sleep. Wild lettuce provides many health benefits from its high content of flavonoids, vitamins, calcium, omega three fatty acids, proteins, alkaloids, lactucone, triterpenes and more.

How to Grow Wild Lettuce

Wild lettuce can be moderately difficult to germinate and will require some extra steps to ensure germination. It prefers full sun and will tolerate partial shade—plant in moist, fertile, well-draining soil with a pH of around 7. Use sterilized potting soil to start your seeds. Using compost or a mixture of black earth and peat moss is excellent for the garden bed. Water the soil thoroughly before sowing the seeds. Soaking the seeds for 30 minutes before sowing will help soften the outer shell and improve the germination rate.

Wild lettuce seeds should always be surface sown—press them slightly into the pre-watered potting soil. They require exposure to light to stimulate the germination process and have less success when covered over. Always keep the soil moist but never let it become soggy. Allowing the soil to dry out will most likely kill the seeds or seedlings.

Starting Indoors

If starting the seeds indoors during the colder or dry months, it’s best to cover the pots with plastic. This will help raise the temperature and moisture level of the seeds. The optimal temperature to germinate the seeds is around 70 F (21 C). Make sure the plastic is not touching the soil or seeds. When the seeds start to sprout, you can remove the plastic. The seeds can take anywhere from 1 to 4 weeks to germinate. After the lettuce seedlings have at least three sets of leaves, they can be transplanted outside after the risk of frost has passed.

Do you have any tips on growing wild lettuce? Please let us know in the comment section below!

Recommended Books:
Edible Wild Plants: Wild Foods From Dirt to Plate.
The Wild Medicine Solution: Healing with Aromatic, Bitter, and Tonic Plants.

5 thoughts on “How to Grow Wild Lettuce”

  1. I’m starting to grow as much produce and herbs as I can on my small piece of property, and have just learned about opium lettuce, I am going to try growing it as a substitute for ibuprofen and other analgesics. thank you for the information

  2. Thank you for the information but now I have to search for the best time to harvest; height, growing period, and I would imagine that growing during the summer in Florida is out of the question since that is our hot rainy season. Perhaps that would be to hot, especially in the direct sun and as you said, not soggy.

  3. Followed your indoor growth instructions and my seeds have sprouted. I don’t have a green thumb, so I’m very pleased. Thank you!

  4. Try cutting a plastic gallon milk almost all the way in half. Leave the part by the handle intact. Cut a few holes in the bottom of the jug. Throw the cap away. Put some potting soil in water it and drop a few seeds in the jug. Use packing tape and tape it back up we’re you cut it. Leave it out side in a sunny spot all winter. I did this in Oct/Nov in SW Ohio and wild lettuce was growing out the top of the jug in April of the next year. It started to grow the first fall, died back in winter and came back in spring. First attempt seeding success. Not hard this way. Peace to all!

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