If you’re looking for pretty foliage for your fall garden, try growing ornamental cabbage or flowering kale. These exotic-looking beauties are quite easy to grow, and they are one of the few colorful vegetables you can grow in the fall.
My Flowering Kale Story
This year I bought a few small flowering kale for some humdrum borders I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with. After pretty much ignoring them immediately after putting them in the ground, I’m shocked to find that those small seedlings have grown into huge, flowering blooms with pretty much no help from me whatsoever.
Needless to say, these members of the Brassica family have shown themselves to be tenacious growers well worth my small investment. If you’re looking for bold, easy-to-care for additions for your fall garden, consider these hardy, cold-weather vegetables.
Basic Rules for Growing Ornamental Cabbages and Flowering Kale
If you’re not familiar with planting ornamental cabbages or flowering kale, here’s a quick overview:
Decorative and often edible but rarely eaten, both have thick, almost rubbery leaves with frilly, ruffled and scalloped edges.
Ornamental kale and cabbages have frost-resistant foliage that grows in large, versicolored rosettes of muted creams, purples, pinks and greens that actually become more intense and saturated with color as the weather gets colder.
So, while the rest of the garden is losing its color, ornamental cabbage plants and flowering kale will actually become more vibrant and showy. And, while they’re technically annuals, they’ve been known to survive through mild winters and sprout fresh leaves come spring (which is why I’ve got my fingers crossed for mine)!
Tips for Growing Ornamental Cabbages and Ornamental Kale
While both ornamental cabbage and kale are usually quite easy to grow, here are a few tips to help you get the most from these hardy fall vegetables:
- Plant cabbage in full sun to part shade (as inadequate light can result in tall, spindly plants).
- Sow seeds (or plant seedlings) in late summer with adequate space to grow (18 to 36 inches apart, depending on cultivar size).
- To prevent cabbage worms and root maggots, collar the base of young transplants with gardening felt or fabric collars. (This prevents flies from laying eggs.)
- For full, huge blooms, fertilize cabbages at planting time and mulch to retain moisture (and lessen the need for watering).
For more information on growing other tasty yet beautiful vegetables like cabbage and kale, visit the Gardening Guides page.