The fancy-leaved cousins of our familiar vegetables make a bold statement in the cool season garden. In fact, the ornamental forms are edible, too, but the cabbage is bitter, and when the white, pink, red, and purple leaves are cooked, they turn an unappetizing gray. Tolerant of mild frosts, they're colorful all winter in mild climates.
Description of ornamental cabbage, ornamental kale: Bold, round plants whose center leaves (not flowers) color up in cool or cold weather, ornamental cabbage and kale grow 18 to 24 inches in diameter and can grow 18 to 24 inches tall.
Growing ornamental cabbage, ornamental kale: Their primary use is in the fall because the period of cool weather in spring after hard freezes cease is too short. Grow in large pots in a soil mix and feed weekly with a water-soluble fertilizer as recommended on the package. Transplant to the garden or display container in September. Before transplanting, remove tatty bottom leaves. Plant into the ground so that the crown of leaves is flush with the soil surface (roots will grow along the buried stem).
Propagating ornamental cabbage, ornamental kale: Start new plants from seeds. Sow 6 weeks in advance of outdoor planting at 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Do not cover the cabbage seeds since light aids germination, conversely, cover kale seeds with 1/4 inch of soil.
Uses for ornamental cabbage, ornamental kale: Kale or cabbage are best planted in areas where you can peer into the center-on slopes, doorsteps, decks, and patios. They're also successful in ground beds and in large plantings.
Ornamental cabbage, ornamental kale related varieties: Dynasty Series cabbage in link, red, or white have semi-waved leaves. Ornamental kale in red or white include: Chidori Series, Osaka Series, and Nagoya Series, which are all heavily fringed and especially uniform, and the Peacock Series, which is more compact than others.
Scientific name of ornamental cabbage, ornamental kale: Brassica oleracea