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Ornamental Cabbages Brassica oleracea (Acephala Group)

Previously known as:

  • Brassica oleracea subsp. acephala
Phonetic Spelling
BRAS-ih-ka ol-ur-RAY-see-uh
Description

Kale, collards, and borecole (a form of kale) are cool-weather plants or winter greens in the Acephala group.   They are the most similar to wild cabbage in appearance. They are often planted in the fall for winter interest lasting into spring. 

Kale is one of the healthiest vegetables you can eat— one serving is both low in calories and packed with vitamins and minerals, including 200 percent of your daily vitamin C requirement. Kale can be grown in the home garden in rows, planted in containers, or even used as an accent plant in the landscape.  It needs 12-18 in. of space to be successful, though edible kale can be planted as densely as 6 in. apart if harvesting when small. In containers, it can grow in a minimum size pot of 6 gal. with as shallow as an 8 in. depth.

Among the edible Acephala group, 'Blue Curled Scotch' is a variety that is nutritious and delicious.  It can be used in salads or stir-frys.  Another edible in this group is 'Lacinato'.  It has a sweeter, milder taste than other varieties of kale. 'Georgia Southern' is a common cultivar of collards with large leaves and little bitterness.

These plants grow best in full sun and rich, loamy, moist, well-drained soil.  They grow best in cool temperatures and may need some afternoon shade to survive in the summer heat. 

Once growing well, there are few insect problems after a frost occurs. Flea beetles are the exception. These insects overwinter as adults in plant debris. In early spring, they often become active. If there are extended warm spells in the winter, they may also come to kale and other crucifers to feed. If you like the sweetest leaves, harvest after the first frost. To encourage plants to continue to grow, harvest the larger leaves, allowing the center leaves to continue to produce.

Cultivars with colored leaves are considered ornamental, and not edible. 

Insects, Diseases and Other Plant Problems:  cabbage worms, cabbage loopers, flea beetles, slugs, aphids, and caterpillars are insects that may affect the plants' health.  Diseases may include leaf spot and black rot.

 

Quick ID Hints:

  • Leaves undulate to fringed, tinted white to purple
  • Large, fleshy, glaucous leaf in a basal rosette

More information on growing, purchasing and cooking kale

See this plant in the following landscapes:
Vegetable Garden at Reynolda Gardens Fence Planter
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Blue Curled Scotch'
    A sturdy compact kale with dark green leaves that are tender and delicious.
  • 'Coral Prince'
    Ornamental. Creamy white centers surrounded by feathery green leaves.
  • 'Coral Queen'
    Ornamental. Deep red center surrounded by green leaves.
  • 'Georgia Southern'
    A popular edible cultivar of collard greens. Great flavor along with heat and cold tolerance.
  • 'Jersey Longjack'
    Ornamental. Grown up to 10' tall. Stems are used for walking sticks.
  • 'Kamome'
    Ornamental. Red leaves or white centers with fringed green leaves.
  • 'Lacinato'
    Also called Dinosaur, Toscano, or Tuscan kale. Has dark blue leaves, tender, great taste.
  • 'Nagoya'
    Ornamental. Red, white or rose centers with fringed purplish-green leaves.
  • 'Nagoya Garnish Red'
    Ornamental kale with frilly leaves.
  • 'Red and White Peacock'
    Ornamental. Red or cream colored.
  • 'Redbor'
    Ornamental with upright habit, curled leaves, deep purple color.
  • 'Sparrow Red'
    Ornamental. 1'-1.5' wide rosette of red leaves surrounded by fringed green leaves.
  • 'Sparrow White'
    Ornamental. 1'-1.5' wide rosette of cream colored center surrounded by fringed green leaves.
Tags:
#purple#red#white#sun#full sun#annual#foliage#green#container plant#pink flowers#purple leaves#red leaves#pink leaves#low maintenance#winter interest#fall interest#interesting leaves#coastal#interesting foliage#cpp#vegetable garden#cool temperatures#cool weather plant#rock gardens#spring interest#edible garden#fantz#edible#ornamental#cool season vegetable#pink#small space#winter#problem for horses
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Blue Curled Scotch'
    A sturdy compact kale with dark green leaves that are tender and delicious.
  • 'Coral Prince'
    Ornamental. Creamy white centers surrounded by feathery green leaves.
  • 'Coral Queen'
    Ornamental. Deep red center surrounded by green leaves.
  • 'Georgia Southern'
    A popular edible cultivar of collard greens. Great flavor along with heat and cold tolerance.
  • 'Jersey Longjack'
    Ornamental. Grown up to 10' tall. Stems are used for walking sticks.
  • 'Kamome'
    Ornamental. Red leaves or white centers with fringed green leaves.
  • 'Lacinato'
    Also called Dinosaur, Toscano, or Tuscan kale. Has dark blue leaves, tender, great taste.
  • 'Nagoya'
    Ornamental. Red, white or rose centers with fringed purplish-green leaves.
  • 'Nagoya Garnish Red'
    Ornamental kale with frilly leaves.
  • 'Red and White Peacock'
    Ornamental. Red or cream colored.
  • 'Redbor'
    Ornamental with upright habit, curled leaves, deep purple color.
  • 'Sparrow Red'
    Ornamental. 1'-1.5' wide rosette of red leaves surrounded by fringed green leaves.
  • 'Sparrow White'
    Ornamental. 1'-1.5' wide rosette of cream colored center surrounded by fringed green leaves.
Tags:
#purple#red#white#sun#full sun#annual#foliage#green#container plant#pink flowers#purple leaves#red leaves#pink leaves#low maintenance#winter interest#fall interest#interesting leaves#coastal#interesting foliage#cpp#vegetable garden#cool temperatures#cool weather plant#rock gardens#spring interest#edible garden#fantz#edible#ornamental#cool season vegetable#pink#small space#winter#problem for horses
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Brassica
    Species:
    oleracea
    Family:
    Brassicaceae
    Life Cycle:
    Annual
    Biennial
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Seed
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Mediterranean
    Edibility:
    Leaves are edible raw or cooked. Cooking can help to tenderize tough leaves.
    Dimensions:
    Height: 0 ft. 8 in. - 1 ft. 2 in.
    Width: 1 ft. 0 in. - 1 ft. 6 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Annual
    Edible
    Vegetable
    Growth Rate:
    Rapid
    Maintenance:
    Low
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Soil Texture:
    High Organic Matter
    Soil pH:
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Available Space To Plant:
    Less than 12 inches
    12 inches-3 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    2a, 2b, 3a, 3b, 4a, 4b, 5a, 5b, 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9a, 9b, 10a, 10b, 11a, 11b
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Green
    Fruit Length:
    > 3 inches
    Fruit Description:
    Short-beaked siliqua 5" long and round in cross-section.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    White
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Raceme
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Edible
    Flower Shape:
    Cross
    Flower Petals:
    4-5 petals/rays
    Flower Size:
    < 1 inch
    Flower Description:
    Rarely flowers, a terminal raceme with 20-40 flowers. 4 petaled yellow to yellow-white, clawed with 6 stamens.
  • Leaves:
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Pink
    Purple/Lavender
    Red/Burgundy
    Variegated
    White
    Leaf Feel:
    Fleshy
    Leaf Value To Gardener:
    Edible
    Long-lasting
    Showy
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Rosulate
    Leaf Margin:
    Lobed
    Undulate
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Description:
    This plant can be green, purplish, pink, red to white, purple, or marbled. Loose rosettes (not solid heads), lyrate or pinnately divided, with undulate and sometimes fringed margins, thick, glaucous.
  • Stem:
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Description:
    Usually unbranched
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Coastal
    Container
    Hanging Baskets
    Naturalized Area
    Patio
    Small Space
    Walkways
    Landscape Theme:
    Edible Garden
    Rock Garden
    Winter Garden
    Design Feature:
    Border
    Mass Planting
    Small groups
    Problems:
    Problem for Horses