ORNAMENTAL Cabbage and Kale
Ornamental cabbages and kales add wonderful texture and color to winter containers and garden borders. They offer a cooler color pallet in shades of purple, pink, green and white.
Textures vary from smooth ruffled rosettes to intensely curled heads. Generally the cabbage cultivars have smooth scalloped leaves and stay lower to the ground. In comparison, kale varieties can be more feathery, sometimes taller, and may hold their color better. Like edible cabbages and kales, ornamental varieties slow down or almost stop growing above ground generally in October. If planted in time, most varieties hold at 12-18” tall and wide through the winter.
With the onset of warm weather the spires of yellow flowers can shoot up to three feet tall. Since they thrive in cold weather they are the perfect accent to pansies, dusty miller, conifers, evergreen grasses and perennials. Also some tall varieties are popular in the floral industry for bouquets and arrangements.
Leaves and flowers of ornamental cabbages and kales are also edible! They are the same species as varieties commonly know as edible. Restaurants have been using the attractive leaves for garnish for years, but they are also tasty in salad, stir-fry and as kale chips.
It is important to inquire at your local nursery whether the plants are safe to eat, or may have residual pesticides that are not intended for consumption. Brassica flowers are also an excellent source of early pollen and nectar for pollinators.
Some varieties you can find at Portland Nursery:
Dark purple outer leaves and rich pink inner leaves. Large smooth leaves have gently undulating edges which creates a dense texture.
Same as Osaka Pink but has rich magenta inner leaves.
Dark green and white leaves with pink centers. Some of the white tipped leaves even have green dots around the edges. Deeply incised leaves give plants a lacy effect.
An ornamental kale with dark purple leaves and magenta centers. Deeply incised leaves give plants a lacy effect.
Crane or Pigeon Kale
Tall varieties used in floral arrangements. Generally they grow a tall stem topped by a foliage rosette in a variety of colors.
An award winning variety with unique shiny fringed leaves. Center leaves are bright magenta surrounded by green leaves with outer leaves a dusty purple. Mature size is 10-12” tall and wide.
This variety is most reminiscent of its edible cultivars. Finely dissected purple leaves and bright magenta centers. Leaves are loosely arranged on 18-24” tall 12-18” wide.
An extremely tight head of green outer leaves and white inner leaves. Individual leaves have heavily ruffled edges.
Similar to Purple peacock, but has green leaves with white veins and white specked center leaves.
Genus: Brassica oleracea Acephala Group= kale (no head), Capitata Group= cabbage (heads)
Common Name: Ornamental cabbage and kale
Origin: Western Europe
Culture: Cool weather biennials that intensify in color with temperatures below 40°F. They require full to part, consistently moist well drained soil. These plants persist through the winter in the Portland area and bolt (elongate and go to flower) when temperatures warm up in late winter early spring.
Once plants flower they will begin to decline and die. Some gardeners love the flowers while others do not. Removing flower stalks as they begin to elongate can prolong the ornamental life some what. Cabbages and kales can be buried by snow and survive occasional dips to 15-20°F
Maintenance: Since ornamental cabbages and kales are grown in the cooler season very little maintenance is required other than regular water if they are not exposed to rain.
Pests and Diseases: Unfortunately this group of plants is an aphid magnet. If plants are kept in a very sheltered area through the winter, aphids may appear in the winter months. Otherwise they will most likely arrive during the first warm weather spell. Aphids can be controlled with insecticidal soap, pyrethrins or neem oil.
Propagation: Ornamental cabbages and kales are generally propagated by seed sown in July.