Garden cress

Lepidium sativum

Garden cress (Lepidium sativum) is a cool season annual, also known as pepper grass because of the leaves peppery flavor. It grows well in containers, and is excellent on a sunny windowsill in the kitchen for easy access. The baby leaves can be harvested as soon as the true leaves appear as Garden cress is frequently grown for sprouts.

Growing the Herb Garden cress

Cress grows well in loose soil and a sunny location. Start outdoors between one and two weeks before the average last frost. Sow seeds ½-inch deep, spaced 1 inch apart. Rows should be 6 inches apart.  You can also place a line of seeds along prepared rows and cover lightly.  Keep consistently moist. Seedlings should emerge in 5 to 15 days.  Thin seedlings when ½ inch tall, to 2 inches apart.

For a continuous crop, repeat the planting every 10 to 14 days starting in spring. Cress can be started indoors 2 – 4 weeks before average last frost and then transplanted in garden after danger of frost. It can also be planted in containers for inside or outside.  Fill container with well-draining soil. Scatter seeds across top of container and cover with ½-inch layer of soil. Keep moist.

Growing Cultures

Garden cress is suitable for growing outdoors, indoors, in containers, and hydroponics.

Plant Height

Garden cress grows to a height of 12 to 20 inches (30 – 50cm).

Plant Spacing

Plant Garden cress seeds 1 inch (2.5cm) apart. Thin to one plant every 2 inches (5cm) when seedlings are 1/2-inch (1.25cm) tall. Rows should be spaced 6 inches (15cm) apart.

Preferred pH Range

Garden cress prefers a relatively narrow pH range between 6.0 (mildly acidic) and 7.0 (neutral).


Cress is propagated from seeds in spring and fall. Seeds can be started inside or outside, directly in the garden or in containers.

Seed Germination Period

Garden cress seeds will germinate in soil in approximately 5 to 15 days, but can germinate in as few as 24 hours to 4 days in dedicated propagation media such as Oasis Rootcubes, Rapid Rooters, or Grodan Stonewool.

Number of Seeds per Gram

There are approximately 350 garden cress seeds per gram.

Soil Requirements

The soil should be loose, well-draining and amended with compost and a well-balanced fertilizer. Keep consistently moist.

Alternative Growing Media

Soilless potting mixes (Pro-Mix, Sunshine Mix, etc.), perlite, vermiculite, rockwool, coco peat, Oasis Rootcubes.

Sun & Lighting Requirements

Garden cress grown outdoors prefers full sun but tolerates some shade.

Cress will grow indoors satisfactorily under standard fluorescent lamps, and exceptionally well under high output T5 fluorescent plant lights, compact fluorescent, or high intensity discharge (metal halide or high pressure sodium) plant growing lights. Keep standard fluorescent lamps between 2 and 4 inches from the tops of the plants, high output and compact fluorescents approximately one foot above the plants, and HID lights between 2 and 4 feet above the plants, depending on wattage.

Have an oscillating fan gently stir seedlings for at least 2 hours per day to stimulate shorter, sturdier, and more natural plant habit.

USDA Hardiness

Annual. Not applicable.

Water Requirements

Above average water needs. Cress prefers a consistently moist soil. Thrives in hydroponics.

Potential Plant Pests and Diseases

Garden cress has no serious pest or disease issues.

Special Notes

Fast growing, can sprout in as little as 24 hours. Use entire baby plants for micro greens, or repeatedly cut back when thickly sown. Garden cress is an entirely different variety than Watercress and should not be confused.

Buy Garden cress Seeds by Organic Wrinkled Crinkled Crumpled Garden Cress Seeds
Also known as pepper grass, this is a cross between a broad leaf Persian and a curly cress with upright leaves for easy cutting.