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How to Grow Ornamental Cabbage & Kale

By Julie Christensen ; Updated September 21, 2017
Luxurious, colorful kale and cabbage brighten fall and winter gardens.
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Ornamental cabbage and kale are edible, although their leaves have a bitter taste. They are more often used in landscaping to fill in spaces left by frostbitten annuals or perennials because they tolerate cold temperatures to 5 degrees Fahrenheit. Ornamental cabbages form heads, and have flat, smooth leaves characteristic of cabbages. Kale produce lovely fringed leaves or flower heads. Both develop vivid pink, purple or white foliage as temperatures cool in the fall. They don't tolerate heat, so wait to buy them until early autumn.

Fill a seeding tray with a lightweight, sterile potting mix suitable for starting seeds. Spread ornamental kale or cabbage seeds over the soil and moisten lightly with a spray bottle. Store the seeds in the refrigerator for one week. Ornamental kale and cabbage germinate best under cool conditions, such as those found in a refrigerator, but also need light. Don't cover them with soil. Start the seeds six to 10 weeks before the first expected frost. In northern climates, plant seeds in June. In the South, plant seeds mid-July. Once the seeds have germinated, move them to a cool, but light location in the house. Keep them moist and transplant them when they stand 4 inches high.

Buy transplants from a local nursery in early fall, if you prefer. Choose plants that are large in size because they won't grow much in your garden. These plants may cost more, but they'll fill up your garden and look better than smaller varieties.

Plant the seedlings in a flower bed or in a pot filled with a high-quality potting mix. Place the transplants so their bottom leaves touch the soil. Water the soil so it is evenly moist, but not soggy. Thereafter, water the plants to maintain even moisture.

Fertilize the plants every four weeks with a water-soluble fertilizer, according to package directions. Too much fertilizer may inhibit color development, so use the recommended amounts only.


Things You Will Need

  • Seeding tray
  • Sterile potting mix
  • Spray bottle
  • Water-soluble fertilizer


  • Plant flowering kale and cabbage at the front of a flower bed or tucked among cool-weather perennials, such as sedum or asters. Flowering kale look stunning planted in a pot and surrounded by pansies.
  • Ornamental cabbage and kale have many insect pests, but most of these pests die off in cool weather. If the weather is unseasonably warm and you notice signs of insect infestation, spray the plants with an insecticidal soap or a stream of running water. Pick cabbage worms off by hand and drop them in a bucket of hot, soapy water.

About the Author


Julie Christensen is a food writer, caterer, and mom-chef. She's the creator of MarmaladeMom.org, dedicated to family fun and delicious food, and released a book titled "More Than Pot Roast: Fast, Fresh Slow Cooker Recipes."