With its ruffled leaves drenched in pinks, purples, and reds, flowering kale is a decorative and easy-to-grow addition to container gardens and garden beds. Also called ornamental cabbage, flowering kale is in the same plant family as edible cabbage, cauliflower, and broccoli. Flowering kale is edible, but a bitter flavor means leaves are usually reserved as culinary garnishes, not as food. It thrives in cool weather, often taking center stage in the garden during spring and fall. It will tolerate light frost with ease, keeping its good looks through winter in Zones 8 and above.
In cool regions, add flowering kale to containers in early spring, pairing it with pansies and other spring bloomers. When nighttime temperatures reach the 60s on a regular basis, kale will begin to look bedraggled. Remove it and replace it with a warm-weather-loving plant, such as begonia, coleus, or geranium. When nighttime temperatures dip in autumn, flowering kale once again comes into play in containers. In fall, flowering kale adds texture to pretty pots of chrysanthemums, black-eyed Susans, and ornamental peppers.
Flowering kale is right at home in garden-bed plantings, too. Use it as a statement plant near entryways or patios. This frilly, colorful plant will amplify interest in early- and late-season gardens when perennials are slow to emerge in spring, and annuals and perennials are languishing at the end of the growing season in fall. Flowering kale grows slowly, so purchase large plants if you plan to enjoy them for just a few weeks in spring or fall.
Flowering Kale Care Must-Knows
Flowering kale grows best in sunny locations and moist, rich soil. It will tolerate light shade but develops richer color in full sun. When planting flowering kale, sink the plant into the ground so the lower leaves are flush with the soil surface.
Keep flowering kale well-watered, delivering an inch or so of water a week. Plants begin to develop their colorful foliage when temperatures dip below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Once acclimated to a site, flowering kale can withstand frost.