By The Old House Web


There is a renewed interest in growing ornamental or flowering cabbage and kale. Beautiful in a garden, these plants are very showy in a variety of colors, from white through pink or red, with a leaved center and green outer leaves. Identified by a number of names, such as floral kale, decorative kale, ornamental-leaved kale, and flower kale, ornametal cabbage and kale belong to the Brassica oleracca Acephala Group.

The culture of flowering kale is similar to that of kale, as both are commonly grown as a fall crop in the north. The seeds can be planted outdoors in early summer, and can also be grown in containers. They are often planed singly or in beds or groups, and can be transported for ornamental purposes. Plants grow to about one foot in diameter and about 15 in. tall (depending on the time of planting).

As their root system is not too extensive, plants can sometimes be dug up and potted in 8 to 10 in. pots to be used for decoration. They will last much longer indoors if placed in cool, brightly lit locations. Individual plants can also be cut off and used in floral decorations if desired.

Most authorities indicate that the leaves can be eaten, cooked or raw, but there is occasional disagreement; some say they could cause vomiting and diarrhea if eaten raw and in quantity by small children. The roots of the plant are most dangerous and should not be eaten. Kale is attacked by the same pests that plague broccoli, cabbage and other related vegetables. If the leaves are to be eaten, proper pesticides should be used, with close attention paid to the label.

Most North American seed companies list only 2 to 4, while Japanese list numerous cultivars. In most varieties, the center leaves vary in color from white, pink, coral and red and the outer green leaves vary in shape from rounded, feathered and fringed. Most experts indicate that round-leaved types transplant better than fringed-leaved.


"Flowering or Ornamental Cabbage and Kale" by Lee Taylor Horticulture Dept., Michigan State University

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