During trips to your local garden shops you’ll begin seeing cool- and cold-weather annuals like ornamental kale, which is a popular option for color during the colder months. But what exactly is it and how do you care for it?
Both ornamental kale and cabbage fall under the Brassica oleracea botanical name. They look very similar to the kales and cabbages that grace our salad bars, but were cultivated for vanity instead of taste buds. You’ll also find them being called flowering kale and cabbage. The coloring of these plants usually falls within purple, pink and green palettes, but there are a few varieties that are yellow and white in the centers.
These plants love cool weather and actually do best when temperatures fall below 60 degrees Fahrenheit as a high. The cooler the temperature, the more vibrant the “flowers,” or leaves become. Ornamental kale will keep gorgeous color until the temperatures dip below 20 degrees Fahrenheit on a regular basis.
Ornamental kale is a great landscape plant as well as a container plant. Whether you’re using it in a garden bed or in container gardening, it’s a great complement to other fall plants like chrysanthemums, ornamental peppers, and violas. One of my favorite ways to utilize ornamental kale in designs is to plant it in clusters of threes. Another great way to use it in your garden is to plant it in your window boxes as a focal point alongside smaller seasonal plants like pansies and sedums. These plants typically do not grow quickly so they can be planted with tighter spacing.
Ornamental kale is one of the easiest cool-weather plants to care for. When you plant it, make sure the root ball is loosened and that you sink the plant into the soil until the bottoms of the leaves are flush with the ground or the container lip. Make sure you water the plant thoroughly afterwards.
For maintenance, let it dry out before watering again but do not prolong the drought period. They can maintain their beauty in full sun or part sun. They do not like hot weather, so be sure to plant them only when the temperatures are consistently cool, as stated above.
Vase Life tricks:
Harvest kale when the leaves are large and firm, remove the foliage from the lower third stem. Pick cabbage anytime after they take the shape of a rose blossom and remove any lower leaves. Both cabbage and kale last extremely well in vases up to 2 weeks, but they can make the water smell skunky after a few days. Using floral preservatives helps with the smell & I recommend changing the water every 3rd-4th day.