Beta vulgaris subsp. vulgaris

Common Name: sugar beet 
Type: Annual
Family: Amaranthaceae
Native Range: Europe
Zone: 2 to 11
Height: 1.00 to 1.50 feet
Spread: 1.00 to 1.50 feet
Bloom Time: Non-flowering
Sun: Full sun
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Annual, Vegetable
Flower: Insignificant
Attracts: Birds


Sugar Beet Group consists of certain cultivars of Beta vulgaris that are grown primarily for commercial production of sugar. They are typically grown as annuals in moist, coarsely-textured, organically-rich, fertile, well-drained soils in full sun to light shade. Plants dislike rocky-stony soils. Plants thrive in cool summer temperatures (daytime temperatures between 55-80 degrees F.). Add nitrogen fertilizers to the soils as needed. Plants are grown from seed clusters (each with 3 or 4 seeds) which are sown in the ground in early spring for harvest in northern climates from early summer to fall, but in summer for harvest over winter in southern Zone 8-10 climates such as California. Several seedlings will emerge from each seed cluster. Young plants should be thinned. Plants typically need regular and consistent moisture. Soils should not be allowed to dry out.

Noteworthy Characteristics

A cultivar group is an assemblage of named cultivars within a species which have similar characteristics based primarily on description and usage. Sugar Beet Group consists of a number of Beta vulgaris cultivars which have high concentrations of sucrose in their roots. In the agricultural industry, they are commercially grown for harvest of sugar which is a significant commercial cash crop. Sugar is formed by photosynthesis in the leaves, but is stored in the tuberous root. Roots are harvested at the end of the first growing season.

Roots of Sugar Beet Group plants were first found to have concentrations of sucrose in 1747. The process for extracting the sucrose from the roots was subsequently developed in Germany during the late 1700s. Growth of sugar beet plants in the U.S. on a major scale first became successful around 1870. Depending upon cultivar, a sugar beet contains anywhere from 13 to 22% sucrose. At present, about 20-25% of the sugar produced in the world today comes from sugar beet (temperate climate crop) with the remainder coming from sugar cane (tropical to sub-tropical crop).

Sugar beets are commercially grown today in large-scale farms. Sugar Beet Group plants are not grown in gardens for harvest of leaves or roots for eating purposes. However, plants are sometimes grown as a forage crop for livestock. Leaves plus root residue and molasses from the extraction process are sometimes used as livestock feed additives.

Leaf color and shape will vary from cultivar to cultivar. Roots are creamy white. Roots are similar to those of Garden Beet Group plants except larger. Roots reach maturity in 90-95 days. Non-showy, greenish flowers of this biennial bloom in the second year, but are not seen when plants are grown as annuals.

Genus name comes from the Latin name for beet.

Specific epithet comes from Latin meaning common.


No serious insect or disease problems. Beets may suffer from seedling blight, fungal leaf spots, downy mildew, powdery mildew and root rots. Watch for leaf miners, flea beetles, aphids and caterpillars.


Sugar Beet Group plants are grown commercially for production of sugar.