Quick-growing and massive, giant kale, also known as colewort, makes an early-season focal point in a garden. At 4 to 6 feet tall, the huge green leaves resemble edible kale and are a striking contrast to the cloud of tiny white flowers that appear in late spring and early summer. Tough to find in garden centers and online, giant kale is worth the search. Its cousin, sea kale, has similar flowers and foliage and is easier to find sources for.
What to Plant With Giant Kale
Giant kale is a spectacular addition to the spring and early-summer garden. After its three-week bloom period, the foliage slowly goes dormant or gets chewed by pests so can appear untidy. Plan ahead for giant kale's summer siesta by pairing it with summer- and fall-blooming perennials. Great companions include purple coneflower, black-eyed Susan, Joe Pye weed, pink turtlehead, and plume poppy.
How to Grow Giant Kale
Giant kale grows best in full sun and deep, fertile well-drained soil. Moist soil is key for long-lasting foliage. Plants growing in soil that dries out during summer are likely to go dormant after blooming. Giant kale does not grow well in the heat and humidity of the deep South.
Plant giant kale in spring where it will have space for its robust growth. After planting, spread a 2-inch-thick layer of mulch over the root zone to help conserve soil moisture and prevent weeds. Water giant kale regularly and deeply during the first year. Continue watering as necessary during dry conditions.
Giant kale flower heads often become heavy and topple over while in full bloom. Stake plants to keep them upright. Sink a 6-foot-tall bamboo stake into the ground near the plant in early spring and loosely tie stalks to the stake using garden twine.
Plant Giant Kale With:
Add a pool of sunshine to the garden with a massed planting of black-eyed Susan. From midsummer, these tough native plants bloom their golden heads off in sun or light shade and mix well with other perennials, annuals, and shrubs. Tall varieties look especially appropriate among shrubs, which in turn provide support. Add black-eyed Susans to wildflower meadows or native plant gardens for a naturalized look. Average soil is sufficient for black-eyed Susans, but it should be able to hold moisture fairly well.
Sedums are nearly the perfect plants. They look good from the moment they emerge from the soil in spring and continue to look fresh and fabulous all growing season long. Many are attractive even in winter when their foliage dies and is left standing. They're also drought-tolerant and need very little if any care. They're favorites of butterflies and useful bees. The tall types are outstanding for cutting and drying. Does it get better than that? Only in the fact that there are many different types of this wonderful plant, from tall types that will top 2 feet to low-growing groundcovers that form mats. All thrive in full sun with good drainage. Ground cover types do a good job of suppressing weeds, but seldom tolerate foot traffic. Some of the smaller ones are best grown in pots or treated as houseplants.
Valued for its unusual flower shape, blazing star sends up erect spires of usually magenta, sometimes white flowers. Emerging from grasslike foliage, the blooms make a dramatic statement in flower gardens with other perennials, annuals, or even shrubs. Well-drained but moisture-retentive soil is a must for this prairie native.