How to Grow Bok Choy (Chinese Cabbage)

Updated on February 18, 2020
OldRoses profile image

Caren White is a Master Gardener and instructor at Home Gardeners School. She has been associated with Rutgers Gardens for over a decade.

Source

It used to be that if you wanted to add bok choy to your stir fry, you could only find it in specialty Asian markets. Nowadays, more and more gardeners are adding this cool season vegetable to their spring and fall crops.

What is Bok Choy?

Bok choy (Brassica rapa subsp. Chinensis) is a member of the brassica family. It is related to cabbage, but it doesn’t form a head like cabbage. It grows upright like celery. The flavor is a cross between cabbage and chard.

It is also known as Chinese cabbage because it is originally from China. The name “bok choy” means “white vegetable” because the base of the plants is white.

Bok choy is a biennial which is hardy in zones 4 – 7 but is grown as an annual. It is grown during the cool weather of spring and fall. The plants bolt in summer heat. They do best in partial shade, only requiring 3 to 5 hours of sunlight each day.

The leaves are bright green and grow upright. At maturity they reach a height of 1 – 2 feet with a spread of 1 – 1 ½ feet wide. The flowers, which are yellow, grow on stalks. The plants will bolt (develop flowers and seeds) when temperatures are consistently hot, but also if the temperatures are below freezing for a few days or if they plants are not watered and start to dry out.

Bok choy grows 1 to 1.5 feet wide.
Bok choy grows 1 to 1.5 feet wide. | Source

Is Bok Choy Poisonous?

Bok choy contains glucosinolates which prevent the absorption of iodine in the body. Iodine is needed by the thyroid which produces hormones which regulate many critical functions of the body. Eating bok choy in small amounts will not harm you but if eaten in large quantities, it can be toxic.

How to Grow Bok Choy

In general, bok choy needs soil that is rich in organic matter with an ideal pH of 6.5 to 7.0. When preparing your garden, work in a good amount of compost and organic fertilizer. The plants are heavy feeders which means that they need a lot of nutrients. They need large amounts of nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus. Keep your garden well weeded so that weeds aren’t competing for the same nutrients as your plants.

If you are growing more than one row of bok choy, your rows should be 18 to 30 inches apart. Use row covers to keep pests such cabbage worms, flea beetles, aphids and other pests common to brassicas away from your plants.

Be sure to water your plants regularly. They will bolt if they start to dry out.

Space your rows 18 to 30 inches apart.
Space your rows 18 to 30 inches apart. | Source

How to Start Bok Choy Seeds Outdoors

Spring Planting

Direct sow your seeds in your garden one to two weeks after your last frost. Plant them ½ inch deep and 1 inch apart. The seeds will germinate within 7 to 10 days. Thin them to 6 to 10 inches apart when they are 4 inches tall. You can eat the thinnings in a salad.

Fall Planting

Direct sow your seeds in your garden in late summer. For me in zone 6, that is August. Plant them ½ inch deep and 1 inch apart. The seeds will germinate in 7 to 10 days. Thin them to 6 to 10 inches apart when they are 4 inches tall. You can eat the thinnings in a salad. Apply a thick layer of mulch around your plants to help keep the soil cool and moist to prevent bolting in the heat of late summer/early fall.

The flowers are yellow and appear when temperatures heat up or the plants are not getting enough water.
The flowers are yellow and appear when temperatures heat up or the plants are not getting enough water. | Source

How to Start Bok Choy Seeds Indoors

Spring Planting

Start your seeds 1 to 2 weeks before your last frost. Plant them ½ inch deep in containers of premoistened soil. Germination should occur in 7 to 10 days. You can plant your seedlings outdoors after your last frost when the night time temperatures are consistently 50⁰F or above. Space them 6 inches apart.

Fall Planting

Start your seeds indoors in late summer. For me in zone 6, that is August. Plant them ½ inch deep in containers of premoistened soil. Germination should occur in 7 to 10 days. You can transplant your seedlings outdoors 4 to 6 weeks before your last frost. Space them 6 inches apart. Apply a thick layer of mulch to keep the soil cool and moist to prevent bolting.

How to Harvest Bok Choy

Bok choy takes 45 days to reach maturity. You can start harvesting when your plants are 12 to 18 inches tall. You can either uproot the plants or using a sharp knife, cut the plants off 1 inch from the soil. Cutting them off above the soil encourages them to regrow for a second harvest. Another way that you can lengthen your harvest season is by succession planting in the spring. Plant seeds every two weeks until the weather warms, then resume planting mid-summer until late fall.

How to Store Bok Choy

You can store your harvest, unwashed, in a plastic bag for up to a week in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator. Do not wash until you are ready to use it.

Questions & Answers

    © 2020 Caren White

    Comments

      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment

      No comments yet.

      working

      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, dengarden.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://maven.io/company/pages/privacy

      Show Details
      Necessary
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Features
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Marketing
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Statistics
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
      ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)