Skip to main content

Your easy-care guide to planting leeks, a delicious addition to any meal

Leeks are versatile vegetables when it comes to turning up the flavor in your autumn and winter recipes. With their sweet, oniony flavor, you can spruce up a wide range of savory dishes with them. Despite their long growing season, they aren’t particularly hard to grow. Here’s when and how to plant leeks for a delicious garden harvest.

Leeks on a cutting board

What are leeks good for? 

Leeks strongly resemble green onions, except they’re bigger. Like many edible plants in the allium genus, leeks are handy kitchen staples. Whether you use them as garnishes, fillings, or centerpieces of your recipe, they’re great for soups, roasts, stir-fries, and much more. Often, people eat the white parts only. But the green part, especially the lighter middle area, is perfectly edible, and you can also use the tough tops for compost. If you find yourself with more leeks than you need at the moment, you can always cut and freeze them for future use. 

Leeks in the garden

When to plant leeks

Leeks are relatively easy to grow. Within 10 to 12 weeks before the last frost, you can grow leek seeds in peat pots indoors, planting one seed per cell. When night temperatures stabilize to above 45 degrees Fahrenheit, consider planting your leek seedlings outside — they should ideally be 6 or 8 inches tall at this point. It helps to harden off your seedlings for at least a week before placing them in the ground to acclimate them outdoors.

When bringing your leeks outside, use a dibber or pencil to make 1-inch holes in your vegetable bed. While you can initially grow your leeks close together and then thin them out later, it’s ideal to place them 6 inches apart for the healthiest growth. If you’re not planting your leeks in the ground, it’s certainly possible to grow them in pots. Your planter should be spacious; at least 12 inches wide, to accommodate your leeks. Depending on how much space you have, it may be wise to thin out your leek seedlings in your pot.

Starting your leeks indoors weeks before the last frost is one of your options, but it’s certainly not your only option. After the last frost, you can plant your leek seeds directly in the ground. (Side note: Remember, plants in the allium genus might not be the best companion plant in the garden, so watch where you grow them.) March is when many gardeners start their leeks, but timing is obviously contingent on your climate zone and leek type. Plus, you can save yourself the trouble of starting from seeds altogether, as it’s possible to find leek seedlings at your local nursery. 

How long do leeks take to grow?

Leeks have a long growing season, typically 120 to 150 days. That said, you can harvest some varieties as soon as 90 days. Gardeners usually harvest leeks in the autumn or winter, depending on when they plant their leeks.

Leeks in the ground

How to grow leeks

Leeks aren’t particularly difficult to grow, but they appreciate thoughtful maintenance throughout their extensive growing season. While tending to your leeks, here are a few helpful notes on their care needs.

  • Water: Leeks need ample moisture to nourish their shallow roots, and you should aim to water them 1 inch per week. Young leeks appreciate more watering. The key, in any case, is consistent watering, but you never want the soil to be soggy. 
  • Sunlight: Bright light is best for your leeks, which require 8 hours of partial sun a day. If you leave your leeks in full sun, plan on watering them more often. 
  • Temperature: Doing best in temperatures around 60 degrees Fahrenheit, leeks are cold-tolerant plants, and some varieties may be able to handle temperatures down to 20 degrees Fahrenheit. However, warm soil is ideal when you start them. As we’ve mentioned above, night temperatures should be at least 45 degrees Fahrenheit when you transplant seedlings. If it’s too chilly outside, consider installing cold frames or leaving your leeks in a greenhouse
  • Fertilizer: Leeks appreciate nutrient-dense soil, and they especially need nitrogen to thrive. When planting your leeks, mix compost into the soil. Throughout the growing season, feed your leeks monthly with a balanced fertilizer. 
Person harvesting leeks

How to harvest leeks

Leeks are ready for harvest when the stem width is at least 1 inch. The white shafts should also feel firm and be at least 3 inches long. To harvest leeks, twist them gently and pull them up or dig them out and carefully pick them from the ground. After harvest, you can keep your leeks in the refrigerator for a few weeks. 

Will leeks come back?

Leeks are typically biennials, meaning they die after the second year of growth. After that second year, you can actually let your leeks flower and harvest the seeds. You also have the chance to regrow your harvested leeks when you place the root ends in water (similar to lettuce propagation). To ensure your plants survive through that second year, give them winter protection with measures, such as greenhouses and cold frames.

For a mild, oniony flavor in your dishes, toss in leeks. Luckily, leek plants are some of the easiest garden vegetables to grow, and they’re relatively hardy, too. With careful attention to light, watering, and temperature, you should have a bountiful harvest in due time.

Editors' Recommendations

Stacey Nguyen
Stacey's work has appeared on sites such as POPSUGAR, HelloGiggles, Buzzfeed, The Balance, TripSavvy, and more. When she's…
Grow your indoor or outdoor garden and support these Black-owned plant shops for Black History Month
Get your next leafy friend from one of these Black-owned companies
Various plants on different stands

If you're a plant parent, you buy your supplies and new baby plants from somewhere. So, instead of the chain stores, consider supporting Black-owned plant shops to get your leafy friends everything they need to thrive. Check out any of these Black-owned companies to find your next plant addition no matter where you are, because every one of these businesses ships all over the U.S.

Mignon Hemsley and Danuelle Doswell started this beautiful plant company in 2020 to help create a calmer space in homes through the addition of greenery. If you have no idea where to start, Grounded offers complimentary 15-minute consultations to get you going. It has a subscription option for the more adventurous plant parent, and if you have fur babies at home, look at their pet-safe options so you won't have to worry about a curious nose.
Crazy Plant Bae
From plants to planters to a subscription box, Crazy Plant Bae has a little of everything. No matter how green your thumb is, you'll find something to fit your budget and space. Get the kids involved in gardening and sign them up for one of the workshops, or have them visit your child in their classroom. But the best part about this company is that it's a Black women-run business with its third generation of family members, and it has over 40 years of service at your disposal.
deVINE Plantery
If you want easy-to-care-for plants without a lot of fuss, or more unique plants, check out deVINE Plantery. This Black woman-owned company has adorable plants, fun accessories, stunning art pieces, and a few other gift ideas. Need help styling the plants in your home, want a consultation about what plants to get, or want to take a gardening class? This business offers all of that and more.
De La Fleur Designs
If you want only flowers for your space with a lot of color and beauty, then De La Fleur Designs is where you should look. It doesn't just put together any ordinary bouquet. Owner Daphne oozes the sophistication and elegance you'll see in whichever arrangement you choose. Whether you need a sympathy arrangement, wedding flowers, or want to sign yourself up for a monthly bouquet delivery subscription, De La Fleur will take care of it all.
The Plant Project
The first Black woman-owned plant company in Texas, The Plant Project opened its doors in 2020 to bring the joy of all things leafy to the area. Plants with a pop of color, herbs, plant accessories, and even a plant self-care set are all on the menu. Or visit one of its four locations to get the full in-person experience of a plant shop and see how amazingly beautiful the inside of its stores are.

Read more
Do you live in climate zone 10? Here’s our guide to choosing the perfect climate zone 10 plants
What you need to know about caring for climate zone 10 plants
Tomatillo plant

One part of the country that many gardeners envy is climate zone 10, a warm sanctuary for a variety of plants, thanks to its very long growing seasons and mild winters. Made up of the southernmost parts of the country, this region has a climate that's ideal for multiple rounds of harvests. While it has specific challenges with blisteringly hot summers, it’s an overall welcoming environment for plant life. Below, we’ve rounded up everything you need to know about zone 10 and all the plants that you can grow in it.

Where is climate zone 10?
Before we get into the specifics of climate zone 10, let’s talk about the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map. When shopping for plants, you may see labels indicating a zone range — that basically tells you where the plant will be hardy for more than just one growing season. Essentially, the United States Department of Agriculture has divided the country into 13 regions, or climate zones, based on annual minimum temperature ranges. Zone 1 faces the coldest winters, while zone 13 usually has the warmest ones. Bearing this in mind, inhabitants of zone 10 will often experience warmer winters.

Read more
Trying to beat the cold? Here are our favorite frost-resistant plants for any climate
Here's how to protect your plants from the cold this winter
Three types of heuchera growing outdoors

You spent all spring and summer tending to your garden. Now the weather is turning colder and the first heavy frosts are here. How can you help your flowers survive the winter? Keep reading to find out what plants can resist the cold and if and how to protect your plants from the freezing weather.

Which plants can survive a frost?
Evergreens are known for their ability to survive winter, but they aren’t the only cold-tolerant, frost-resistant plants out there! Leafy vegetables like cabbage, lettuce, kale, collards, and chard can tolerate some frost. Early spring blooming flowers like crocus, snowdrop, and primrose can all survive the winter, and pansies are especially resilient. Violas, hostas, heuchera, irises, lily of the valley, cyclamen, and phlox also tolerate frost and provide some visual interest, as do catmint, baptista, sedum, and peonies.

Read more