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Ornamental Cabbages Offer Fall Color

Ornamental Cabbages Offer Fall Color

Auburn, Alabama — Looking for something to brighten your flower beds and containers through the fall and winter?  Ornamental cabbage may be just what you need.

What is ornamental cabbage?

Ornamental cabbage is closely related to kale and common cabbages. The plants need cool temperatures to produce the best leaf color. The main difference between ornamental cabbage and other cabbages is the taste, and ornamental cultivars do not produce a head.

“They are both in the Brassica oleracea species and the crucifer family, along with kale, cauliflower, broccoli and mustard,” said Taylor Vandiver, an Alabama Extension regional agent in home grounds, gardens and home pests. “However, it does not get the large head that our common edible cabbage does.”

Vandiver said while you can eat ornamental cabbage, most people grow it for its aesthetic value.  People often find it bitter in taste.

Seeds or Transplants

Many people buy ornamental cabbage as transplants and use them in containers along with other annuals or along borders of flower beds as a low-growing foliage plant.

“You can plant them from seed or buy transplants at a local plant nursery or garden center,” said Vandiver. “It is probably easier to find transplants than seeds.”

“Some people like to see an immediate impact and so will choose to plant transplants.”

Vandiver said to space them about a foot apart. At maturity, they will be approximately six inches to one foot tall.

You can either grow ornamental cabbage indoors or outdoors. Vandiver recommends to grow them outside. 

“If grown indoors, it will need a sunny spot and checked often for water,” said Vandiver. “You can do this by sticking your finger down in the soil. If it is moist, you don’t need to water.”

Cabbage is a cool season crop. Vandiver recommends planting in the fall and early spring for the best results. They will start to decline as the summer heat arrives.

“Keep an eye out for insect pests. Ornamental cabbage, similar to our common cabbage, is also susceptible to cabbage worm, cutworms, aphids, and slugs,” said Vandiver. “Some of these you can pick off or spray off with water and others (the worms) you can use a natural bacteria called Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) for control.”


To make sure you ornamental cabbage grows as healthy as possible, provide it with good care. Keep an eye out for pests. Water on a regular basis, unless rainfall provides adequate water, said Vandiver.

“Because they grow during the cool season, you may not need to water as often as if it were a warm season crop,” said Vandiver. “They are relatively easy to maintain and have most of the same requirements as edible cabbage.”


Featured image by Panya_Anakotmankong/Shutterstock.com

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