Ornamental cabbage and kale plants make a brilliant display in the winter landscape. The leaves of flowering cabbage and kale can be smooth or deeply cut. They start out blue-green and turn magenta or white when kissed by frost.
Cold weather has a profound effect on the color of these plants.
They will color most reliably in mild winter climates where temperatures do no fall below 20 degrees F.
White varieties tend to turn brown when subjected to hard freezes. The pink varieties do not exhibit this undesirable trait.
Ornamental kale and cabbage seeds are available but can be difficult to use as the seedlings must be kept cool. The seed would have to be sown in late summer in order for the transplants to be ready for the fall garden.
Large nursery plants can be set close together as they will not grow wider.
If the weather becomes unseasonably warm, the plants may grow a stalk.
You can dig them up and replant them so that the unwanted stem is buried.
This will happen again in the spring.
As the weather will only be getting warmer, the plants should be removed.
Ornamental kale plant growing a stalk due to heat stress.
These are the most popular cultivars:
Flowering Kale Emperor
The Emperor series features rose, red, and white selections with tight heads of ruffled leaves 1 foot tall.
Emperor white ornamental kale is green with a truly white center.
This flowering kale produces small rosettes atop sturdy stems. The outermost leaves are green. This is contrasted against creamy leaves with a soft pink center. The effect is quite surprising and very decorative.
The stems of this selection will grow to a height of 2 feet and they should be allowed to do so as these make beautiful cut flowers.
Ornamental Cabbage Icy Fingers
Deeply cut silver-blue leaves with a bright pink center. Dense growth to 1foot high and wide.
Dynasty Red features blue-gray foliage with a bright pink center. Dynasty White is green with a creamy center. Both plants feature smooth leaves with ruffled edges and grow to 15 inches tall.
The leaves of this series are green and smooth with wavy edges. They feature large, colorful centers.
Pigeon White has an off-white to snow white center. The center of Pigeon Red is lipstick red. Pigeon Purple is a bright purple-red. All plants in this series top out at 18 inches.