Brassica napus (Napobrassica Group)

Common Name: rutabaga 
Type: Annual
Family: Brassicaceae
Zone: 2 to 11
Height: 1.00 to 2.00 feet
Spread: 0.75 to 1.00 feet
Bloom Time: Rarely flowers
Sun: Full sun
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Vegetable


Easily grown in organically rich, consistently moist, well-composted, well-drained loams in full sun. Tolerates light shade. Soil pH should be between 6 and 6.5. In St. Louis, rutabagas can be attempted as a spring crop (plant seeds in March), but are typically grown for fall harvest in large part because the tuberous roots need cool temperatures for harvest of the best crop and the roots are slow to mature (rutabagas take 4 weeks longer than turnips to reach harvest size). For fall harvest, sow seed in June (100 days before first fall frost) in rows 18-24" apart. Thin seedlings in each row to about 6" apart. Leaves from the plants thinned out can be eaten as greens. Rutabagas may be harvested in fall after light frost (mulch to protect roots from low temperatures of late fall). Begin harvest when roots are about 3-5" in diameter. Frost typically sweetens maturing rutabagas. Rutabagas may be left in the ground until needed, but if left too long they become somewhat woody with significant loss of quality taste. Dig up rutabagas, remove tops and side roots, and store in a root cellar prior to the onset of significant hard freezes. In the southern U. S. (south of USDA Zone 6), rutabagas may be planted in fall and grown over winter.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Brassica napus (Napobrassica Group) is commonly called rutabaga. Additional common names include Swede and Swedish turnip. It is believed to be native to Scandanavia and Russia, probably being a cross between a cabbage and a turnip. It grows well in the temperate climates of eastern and midwestern U. S., particularly in areas north of USDA Zone 7. Tuberous edible roots are larger, firmer and rounder than those of turnips with longer necks and finer textured flesh. Flesh is yellowish. Shape is oval. Foliage is bluish green, smooth and edible (particularly when young). Rutabaga plants typically grow 12-24" tall and 12" wide. Within this same species, Brassica napus (Oleifera Group) is grown for vegetable oils (including canola) and Brassica napus (Pabularia Group) for its kale-like salad greens.

Genus name comes from the classical Latin name for cabbage.


Clubroot is a significant problem which not only destroys a crop but will also prevents planting future crops in the same location (spores remain in the soil for 20 years). Plantings are also susceptible to powdery mildew, anthracnose, alternaria, root knot and leaf spot. Aphids, cutworms, loopers, flea beetles, root maggots, and wireworms are potential insect problems.


Vegetable. Smaller leaves make excellent additions to salads.