Rows of ornamental cabbage with butterflies

If you’re looking to plant something a bit different this fall, why not try the various selections of ornamental cabbages and kales? Ornamental cabbage and kale provide vivid color for your landscape from fall into early winter! The vibrant greens, purples, pinks, and whites that wash the leaves of these plants work as a standalone planting or as a compliment to other fall plantings such as chrysanthemums or pansies.

Plant ornamental cabbage and kale in group plantings, beds, pots, or containers. Use where your annuals have finished flowering for the season. These plants are “cousins” to the ones grown in the vegetable garden. However, they are not edible. They are raised for their ornamental value only. Another difference between the two is in color—ornamentals have a center of bright color, either fuschia, pink or white, surrounded by gray-green leaves. The edges of the leaves range from wavy to frizzy. The color lasts from mid-September until the temperatures fall below 10 degrees for several days, often continuing through December and into January. They love cool weather! Pots can be brought indoors and used as a centerpiece for 2 or 3 days, then returned to the garden.

When planting ornamental cabbage and kale, it’s best to buy as mature a plant as possible. Transplant the cabbage or kale deeper than they are growing in their pots. They like lots of loose, fertile soil and little lime for alkalinity. Pull off any discolored bottom leaves and make sure the base is snug against the ground when planting. You’ll need to keep to a regular watering schedule until the plant’s root system can get established. If you notice holes in the leaves from insect damage, dust them with a powdered insecticide like Sevin to prevent more critters from feasting. After that, there is little care needed once they get started.