Plant Ornamental Cabbage and Kale to Replace Frost-Bitten Annuals

Updated on May 31, 2018
Casey White profile image

Dorothy McKenney is a former newspaper reporter turned researcher. Her husband, Mike, is a professional landscape/nature photographer.

Ornamental kale, surrounded by other gorgeous flowers, makes an eye-popping container.
Ornamental kale, surrounded by other gorgeous flowers, makes an eye-popping container. | Source

Not Tasty, But Spectacular to View

Don't you get a little sad when the weather starts getting colder and the flowering annuals that you had admired for so long start to die? Removing them from the ground feels a tad depressing for many people who dread a winter with no flowers. But, that doesn't necessarily have to happen so don't put your gardening gloves away just yet, as there is still some planting to be done and some beautiful plants that will bring about some oohs and ahhs. You can always dress up your cool-season garden with the colorful foliage of ornamental kale and cabbage.

Although they are sometimes called flowering kale and flowering cabbage, these two related plants rarely put out real flowers. Ornamental kale (Brassica oleracea) and its cousin, the ornamental cabbage, were developed for their spectacular colors and foliage.

Some people say they are edible and others say they are inedible, but that's probably because they have a very bitter taste, although they are often used as a food garnish. They are planted, instead, for their colorful and extravagantly-ruffled, feathered leaves. The two plants are similar in color, size and overall appearance, but the main difference is that the cabbage leaves have smooth edges and the kale leaves are very frilly.

Both plants are ideal as a part of your container gardening. Alongside other plants, such as poppies, pansies or ornamental peppers, they create a gorgeous display of beautiful blues, purples, greens, and whites for fall and winter. They love the chilly weather when nighttime temperatures dip down to about 50 degrees Fahrenheit. If you live in a milder climate, you can expect them to continue looking great throughout the winter.

The Beauty of Ornamental Kale Outdoors

Aside from the spectacular beauty of ornamental kale, the plants don't require pinching, pruning or staking, which should be appealing to most gardeners.
Aside from the spectacular beauty of ornamental kale, the plants don't require pinching, pruning or staking, which should be appealing to most gardeners.

Ornamental Kale in a Planter

Ornamental kale is beautiful in a planter surrounded by other colorful flowers. They are a perfect plant for growing in pots to display on porches, patios, or beside entryways.
Ornamental kale is beautiful in a planter surrounded by other colorful flowers. They are a perfect plant for growing in pots to display on porches, patios, or beside entryways. | Source

Growing Ornamental Kale and Cabbage

The growing information for both ornamental kale and cabbage is the same. They both need to be planted in an area that receives full sun and should be spaced about 18-24 inches apart, depending on the type you are planting.

  • The soil needs to be well-drained and nutrient-rich (high in organic matter). Planting beds need to have about 3-4 inches of organic matter worked in before planting.
  • During the growing season, keep the soil consistently moist. Add mulch to aid in maintaining consistent soil moisture.
  • These plants will tolerate hard frosts, but those that experience hard freezes will not store as well, so harvest before the temperature dip below 28 degrees Fahrenheit if you plan to store the heads in a refrigerated area for any length of time.

Damaging Pests

Dusty gray to dull green cabbage aphids are capable of forming large colonies on plants. Aphids also like to feed between leaf layers where most insecticides can't reach.
Dusty gray to dull green cabbage aphids are capable of forming large colonies on plants. Aphids also like to feed between leaf layers where most insecticides can't reach. | Source

No Plant Is Problem Free

Some of the pests you need to watch for include:

  • Cabbage loopers - This is a small green caterpillar that can defoliate your plant in only a few days, so look for multiples holes in the leaves and you will probably find this little wave of destruction hilding underneath the foliage.
  • Slugs - You should be able to recognize these planting nightmares by the slimy trail of mucus they leave behind as they move about your garden. They will chew on the leaves from the outer edges and can devour a young plant all the way down to the stem. The best way to get rid of slugs is to hand-pick them and squash them, or drop them in a bucket of salt water. If you are one of the rare people who prefer not to kill a slug, you can collect them in a bucket of leaves and transport them a few miles away from your garden. Or, you could bring them to me, as I have no qualms about killing these little plant-munching devils.
  • Aphids - Cabbage aphids can form large colonies on plants. If you have a large infestation, you might want to try releasing some ladybugs, a cute little bug that won't harm your plants but loves to have a lot of aphids for breakfast, lunch, and supper. Or, you can dilute a few tablespoons of any mild dish soap in a small bucket of lukewarm water, then use a sponge or spray bottle to apply the mixture to plants where aphids appear.
  • Flea beetles - These pests are small but very destructive and they have an insatiable appetite for your ornamental plants. You can get rid of them by applying an insecticidal dust. Naturally-derived spinosad and permethrin can also help in getting rid of them, but because these pests are very mobile, consistent applications are necessary.

Blackleg Cabbage Disease

Blackleg is one of several diseases  that can detrimentally affect your ornamental cabbage and kale, and there are no resistant varieties. It can only be managed and prevented with proper education.
Blackleg is one of several diseases that can detrimentally affect your ornamental cabbage and kale, and there are no resistant varieties. It can only be managed and prevented with proper education. | Source

Great Companion Plants

There are a lot of plants that will grow very well with ornamental kale and cabbage because they give and receive benefits due to their close proximity. If you want to plant vegetables along with your kale and cabbage, gardeningknowhow.com suggests you try some of these:

  • Artichokes
  • Beets
  • Celery
  • Cucumber
  • Lettuce
  • Onion
  • Peas
  • Potatoes
  • Radishes
  • Spinach

Herbs that are suggested as companion plants include the following:

  • Garlic
  • Basil
  • Dill
  • Chamomile
  • Mint
  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • Thyme

References

  1. Nowak, Jeff (2003), "Ornamental Cabbage & Kale", Birds & Blooms, December/January 2003:14-15 Print

Questions & Answers

    © 2018 Mike and Dorothy McKenney

    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://dengarden.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

      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)