A raised bed full of arugula, which as a plant is rather unremarkable

Arugula (aka roquette or rocket) is a leafy green vegetable native to the Mediterranean. The edible leaves have a distinctive sharp, spicy flavor similar to mustard greens. The leaves can be steamed, pureed, or used raw in salads and sandwiches.


Arugula (Eruca sativa) is characterized by lobed leaves. It belongs to the Brassica family, which means it is a relative of vegetables such as broccoli, kale, radishes, and cabbage. Like many of its relatives, arugula is typically a cool season vegetable.

Planting and Care

Choose a planting location in full sun with well-drained and rich soil. A couple varieties that we recommend are ‘Speedy’ and ‘Astro’. As the name suggests, ‘Speedy’ is ready to harvest in only 30 days. ‘Astro’ is fully mature after only five weeks with the added benefit of being more heat tolerant.

The small weedy white flower of arugula

Arugula is typically planted in the fall when the weather is ideal. Plant seeds about a quarter of an inch deep and an inch or two apart. Keep a foot between rows. Once you have young plants, thin them to be four to five inches apart. The plants you pull make great additions to salads! Arugula also transplants well if you’d rather purchase starter plants.

A common practice is to sow seeds every two to three weeks from the fall through the spring to provide a continual supply of young greens. Although, keep in mind that arugula can be sensitive to heat and frost. Protect your plants if a hard freeze is on the horizon. You can also try growing arugula in the summer, but it will need to be planted in partial shade or under a shade cloth with 40 percent density to protect it.

While many Brassicas tend to attract pests, arugula is relatively pest and disease free. Once your plants are mature, you can start harvesting the younger leaves. Only take a few at a time so your plant will continue to produce. Warmer weather will cause arugula to bolt (start flowering) much quicker — or “shoot up like a rocket” as one of its other common names implies. The leaves become extremely bitter to the point of being unpalatable after flowering. All is not lost if your plant flowers sooner than you would like; the flowers make excellent additions to salads.

For more advice on growing arugula, contact the experts at your county Extension office.

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