A Delightful Foliage Plant for Autumn
Common Name: Ornamental Kale and Cabbage
Botanical Name: Brassica oleracea
Growth Rate: fast
Form: round, bold
Plant Type: biennial, cool season
Mature Size: 1 foot wide x 15 inches tall
Hardiness Zone: USDA zone 2 to 9
Foliage: Grown for their broad, colourful ornamental foliage in shades of red, pink, purple, cream and greens. Ornamental cabbage forms heads and have smooth-edged leaves whilst kale doesn’t form a round head and bears frilly, ruffled leaves.
Flowers: Flowers the second year then dies (biennial), clusters (racemes) of individual flowers bearing 4 yellow petals.
Fruit: A silique with many small black seeds
Exposure: Full sun, little shade is fine.
Soil: Well-drained soil kept moist, but not wet.
Propagation: Plant seeds in July, August in pots and place in the fridge several days to stimulate germination. Don’t cover the seeds with soil as they need light to germinate.
Uses: Massing, containers, edging, front of a border.
Problems: Caterpillars, cabbage loopers, slugs, snails and blackleg disease if kept too wet.
Comments: There are many plants that take centre stage in the fall garden, but nothing stimulates more conversation than the flowering kale or cabbage. Plants will last well into the winter as they survive temperatures as low as -15°C (5°F). They grow poorly when daytime temperatures consistently exceed 27°C (80°F).
Purchase compact plants and avoid ones that are leggy or flowering as they are at the end of their life. When planting, bury stems so their lowest leaves are flush with the soil surface. Slightly loosen their roots gently, especially if the roots are tightly wound and potbound. Keep plants well-watered. If grown from seed, plants will not produce their colour until cool weather arrives.
Ornamental kale and cabbage are edible, but bitter. Boil twice and discard the water each time then sauté in olive oil and serve. They also make great organic ornamental ‘plates’ and look lovely when used as a garnish.