Garden of Eatin' / Vegetables

Lettuce… Even In Summer

Butterhead Speckles lettuce

Unless you tend a garden outside your igloo, chances are your lettuce started phasing out in June, maybe even before that. These cool-weather crops are usually the first in my garden to flower as air and soil temperatures rise with the start of summer.

But it’s almost August now, and the darndest thing happened: My lettuce is just starting to go off.

I have always felt that Mother Nature played a wicked joke on us gardeners — giving us bounties of juicy tomatoes in the summer, but none in the winter when salad greens are at their freshest and most abundant.

I grow a variety of greens for my summer salad fix (amaranth, radicchio, spinach chard, and several Asian mustards) and even tried to grow traditional spinach for a while under the shade of my grapefruit tree. While that spring-sown spinach hasn’t bolted yet, it also hasn’t grown beyond a few inches and a few leaves. Too much shade is just as problematic as too much sun.

Since there seem to be supernatural things happening in my soil (the tomatoes with a mind of their own, the overgrown broccoli, the mutant turnip…), I thought I would experiment with a new variety of lettuce, planted alongside my heat-loving red leaf amaranth.

Butterhead lettuce is usually known for being among the most heat-tolerant and bolt-resistant of all the lettuce types. Many lettuces can be successfully started from seed in early spring and harvested through summer, especially if you live in a mild summer region, but…

Sometimes the flavor is lacking. Sometimes a heat wave will spur a flower stalk. Sometimes you have to shade your lettuce crop, or water more frequently, or sow a succession of seeds every other week because your lettuce keeps bolting.

I simply wanted lettuce that I can treat like any other summer crop, that will taste like lettuce tastes the other three seasons. No fuss, no muss.

I started Butterhead Speckles lettuce seeds in small pots outside, under full sun, in late May. The seeds germinated within a week and I transplanted the strongest seedling into the garden in June. My summer salad bed gets at least eight hours of direct sun per day, with the last light fading in late afternoon. The lettuce grew slowly through our on-and-off June gloom, but going into July, it seemed to double in size overnight.

Butterhead Speckles lettuce

The loosely formed head has several layers of slightly ruffled, bright and light green, red-specked leaves that are as tender and sweet as my winter-grown lettuce. I like to pick off individual leaves as I need them, and new leaves continue to come up steadily.

Red-specked leaves on Butterhead Speckles lettuce

The lettuce is oblivious to the fact that summer is in full swing; in fact, it seems to thrive on these longer, warmer days. I water only once a week and mulch with straw. It has incredible heat tolerance with no signs of bolting any time soon. The leaves don’t even droop in the middle of the day, when the sun is harshest.

Our season has been temperate so far, averaging 75°F to 80°F during the day. In the fall, highs of 90°F or more are common when the Santa Ana winds sweep through. Our Indian summers tend to be the hottest and the driest weeks all year, and that will be the true test of the lettuce.

For now, my beloved Butterhead Speckles has earned a permanent place in my summer garden.

(Update: The lettuce lasted all the way through the end of September. Not a bad run!)

Here are some other varieties to try if your summer-shy lettuces have bitten the dust. If you grow another successful summer lettuce, please tell us about it in the comments!


  • Bronze Mignonette – Excellent in hot climates, semi drought-tolerant, heat-tolerant, slow to bolt
  • Buttercrunch – Semi drought-tolerant, heat-tolerant, slow to bolt
  • Ermosa – Heat-tolerant, slow to bolt, resistant to tipburn
  • Adriana – Improved version of Ermosa
  • Fireball – Heat-tolerant, slow to bolt, resistant to bitterness
  • Capitan – Heat-tolerant
  • White Boston – Heat-tolerant
  • Red Riding Hood – Heat-tolerant
  • Summer Bibb – Slow to bolt
  • Butterhead Speckles – See story above

Green Leaf

  • Gentilina – Excellent in hot climates, slow to bolt
  • Black-Seeded Simpson – Earliest to harvest, drought-tolerant, heat-tolerant, slow to bolt
  • Tropicana – Heat-tolerant, slow to bolt, resistant to tipburn
  • Green Star – Heat-tolerant, slow to bolt, resistant to tipburn
  • Salad Bowl – Heat-tolerant, slow to bolt, resistant to bitterness
  • Oak Leaf – Slow to bolt, resistant to tipburn, resistant to bitterness
  • Amish Deer Tongue – Heat-tolerant, slow to bolt
  • Green Ice – Heat-tolerant, slow to bolt
  • Grand Rapids – Heat-tolerant, resistant to tipburn
  • Lollo Biondo – Heat-tolerant

Red Leaf

  • Red Sails – Heat-tolerant, slowest-bolting red leaf variety, resistant to bitterness
  • Ruby – Deepest red variety, slow to bolt, resistant to tipburn
  • Lollo Rossa – Heat-tolerant
  • Red Fire – Slow to bolt

Batavia/French Crisp/Summer Crisp

  • Nevada – Heat-tolerant, slow to bolt, resistant to tipburn (a name like Nevada is fitting — I’m a native Nevadan and the summer heat there is not for the faint of heart!)
  • Teide – Heat-tolerant
  • Concept – Heat-tolerant
  • Sierra – Heat-tolerant


  • Anuenue – Originally bred in Hawaii, heat-tolerant, slow to bolt, germinates at higher soil temps
  • Minetto – Excellent in hot climates, slow to bolt, resistant to tipburn
  • Ithaca – Heat-tolerant, slow to bolt
  • Reine Des Glaces – Heat-tolerant, slow to bolt
  • Summertime – Heat-tolerant, slow to bolt
  • Great Lakes – Heat-tolerant, resistant to tipburn
  • New York – Heat-tolerant
  • Calmar – Heat-tolerant


  • Jericho – Originally bred in the hot desert of Israel and known to stand up to some serious heat and drought, resistant to bitterness
  • Manoa – Originally bred in Hawaii, excellent for hot climates
  • Parris Island – Excellent in hot climates, slow to bolt, resistant to tipburn
  • Green Towers – Heat-tolerant, slow to bolt, resistant to tipburn
  • Sweet Valentine – Heat-tolerant, slow to bolt
  • Forellenschuss – Heat-tolerant, slow to bolt
  • Plato II – Heat-tolerant, resistant to tipburn
  • Green Towers – Heat-tolerant, semi drought-tolerant
  • Little Gem – Heat-tolerant
  • Coastal Star- Heat-tolerant
  • Rosalita – Heat-tolerant
  • Craquerelle du Midi – Heat-tolerant
  • Cimmaron – Slow to bolt
About Author

I'm a plant lover, passionate road-tripper, and cookbook author whose expert advice and bestselling books have been featured in TIME, Outside, HGTV, and Food & Wine. The No-Waste Vegetable Cookbook is my latest book. Garden Betty is where I write about modern homesteading, farm-to-table cooking, and outdoor adventuring—all that encompass a life well-lived outdoors. After all, the secret to a good life is... Read more »


  • Veronica Solomon
    October 22, 2021 at 11:15 am

    I am just starting trying with the summer lettuce. I planted seeds of the heat tolerant in June of 2021. Nothing germinate. I think if I had planted plants they may have made it. Do you have any update because I will try again next year for sure. My spring lettuces did great but next year I will plant lettuces that are summer tolerant hopping they will last trough the summer. Then I want to plant more plants in late summer for a fall harvest. I planted lettuce seeds(summer tolerant) all summer this year but again none of them germinate. Thanks

  • Julia Trice
    June 30, 2021 at 5:59 am

    I started buttercrunch, green star, and salad bowl in April, and they are holding strong at the very end of June, despite a string of days in the upper 90’s. My Asian greens bolted a month ago (sob).

  • Evangeline Richardson
    May 29, 2019 at 11:13 pm

    Thank you for posting all of these heat tolerant and slow to turn bitter lettuces! I just had to pull mine out because even though they didn’t bolt, they were bitter. 🙁 Now I can go looking and try some of these varieties. I live in the USA in North Carolina Piedmont area and it heats up here very quickly. We’ve had a string of high to mid 90’s and I’m sure that’s what caused it. Then your article was sent to me by one of my gardening friends. 🙂

    • Linda from Garden Betty
      June 9, 2019 at 11:26 pm

      You’re welcome! You might also try growing some of these heat-tolerant lettuces under shade during the hottest part of the day, just to keep them producing longer. I’ve planted mine next to taller plants like tomatoes, or under a trellis where they get dappled light. A shade cloth also helps; plant the lettuce in a spot that gets nice morning sun, but stays covered in the afternoon.

  • bonnie max fuentevilla
    March 12, 2013 at 9:31 am

    I live in the San Gabriel Valley so I have the same problem. I too have tried to trick mother nature in hopes of having lots of lettuce to go with our tomatoes. Loving the Buttercrunch. Let’s see what happens in full on summer. Hoping they will still stay happy hanging out under the kale and swiss chard.

  • Anonymous
    July 27, 2011 at 7:05 pm

    Thanks for the lettuce run down. Our red leaf just bolted last week, but we have no plans of doing anything with ’em.

    • Linda Ly
      July 28, 2011 at 1:58 pm

      At least you can start again soon!


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