Flowering Cole

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Scientific Name: Brassica oleracea var. acephala

Common Name: Ornamental Cabbage, Ornamental Kale, Flowering Kale

I. Botany/History

  • Family: Cruciferae (Brassicaceae)
  • Growth Habit: Slow growing, round, dense, and coarse texture.
    • Height: .5 - 1 foot
    • Spread: 1 - 1.5 feet
    • Biennial crop grown as a Hardy-Annual
    • Terrestrial life cycle
    • An upright plant usually not over 18" in height or width.
  • Origin: Africa and Europe
  • Development: Native to the Mediterranean and Asia. Today most are man made hybrids. Kale and collards were probably the first brassicas and the first plants to be cultivated.
  • Key people:


II. Uses

  • Used reliably as a bedding plant in fall and spring. Also used as an edging plant or a plant that frames a flowerbed. Many people cook and eat kale, which contains beta-carotene, calcium, and vitamin C. The leaves can be blanched, steamed, or stir fried, or added to soup. But avoid eating the roots of the plant, which are harmful.


III. Propagation

  • Grown from seeds. Takes around 3-7 days to germinate. Chill 3 days prior to planting to help germination. Seed count is 300 seeds per gram. For 1000 Plants; 5 grams. Sowing Temperature should be around 15C. Plant in March. Transplant within 2 Weeks.


IV. Growing/Flowering

  • Light: Requires full sun
  • Temperature: Improves with frost and cold weather. Has vivid colors with temperatures below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Cold hardy. Germination will take 4-6 days at 65F-70F in the light. Lower temperature to 60F-65F after emergence. The plants respond best to cool (55º to 60º F) nights.
  • Water: Use drip irrigation or automated watering system. Water regularly; do not over-water. Keep soil moderately moist during germination
  • Nutrition: Fertilize with 50-100 ppm of Nitrogen and Potassium after the seedlings emerge. Once transplanted, apply 150-250 ppm of Nitrogen and Potassium with periodic applications of complete fertilizer, 20-10-20. Low Nitrogen rates increase foliage color. Incorporate 2 pounds of a slow-release 12-6-6-fertilizer with minor nutrients per 100 square feet.
  • Media: Maintain media pH between 5.8 and 6.5. Soil should be slightly alkaline, but acidic. Sand, loam coil with moderate drought tolerance.
  • Spacing: Important to prevent foliar disease and to encourage growth. Space at 12-18 inches. Use 6” centers for 4”pots. Use 12” centers for 6”pots. Use 16”-18” incters for 8” mum pots
  • Planting: In Northern U.S., seeds are sown in June. In Southern U.S., late July is optimal. They usually purchase plugs from Northern plug producers. This avoids heat stress and ensures high quality plant. From mid to late August, North Carolina growers receive their shipment of plugs.
  • Sowing: Sew in flats or individual pots 3 weeks before setting out. Cover seeds with 1/8 inch fine soil. Plant 1/2-inch deep. Seed June or July for fall, winter color. Keep soil moderately moist, well fertilized and weed free. Grows best in full sun during the cooler part of the growing season. Sow outdoors after danger of serious frost has passed. Seeds can also be started indoors. If planting from seed, be sure to keep the soil moist at all times - a challenge in midsummer - or the cabbages and kale won't germinate. Add a good layer of mulch after planting to help stabilize soil temperatures and conserve moisture.
  • Thinning and Transplanting: Thin or transplant seedlings when about 2 inches high to 12 inches apart.
  • Growth Regulation: To prevent stem elongation, make 1500-3000 ppm of a B-Nine application when plants have developed their true leaves.
  • Flower color: Red to white, marbled


V. Special Considerations

  • Carefree crop with few disease and pests, but they still exist. When flowers begin to appear it is time to remove the plants and replant with more heat tolerant bedding plants. Requires between 2-2 ½ months to achieve marketable size in 6”pots. A good plant should be short and compact It normally takes between 2 to 4 weeks from start of cool temperatures to develop intense coloration. Don't plant flowering kale or cabbage too early or it will "bolt;" that is, hot weather will make the stem elongate and create a gangly, unattractive plant.


VI Disorders

  • Insect
    • Caterpillars= eat holes in leaves= unattractive
    • Cabbage Worms= Use Bacillus thuringiensis products such as Dipel or Thuricide to control
    • Flea Beetles and Aphids= controlled by regular dustings of Rotenone or spraying with insecticide soaps
    • Harlequin bugs
    • Leaf Roller also a problem
    • Cabbage Looper= a green worm in the larval stage turns to a white moth in its adult stage. Creates holes.
    • Control with Sevin
    • One control method for insects is that you can cover them with floating row covers to keep the bugs from reaching the plants
  • Disease
    • Under excessive moisture and humidity, young plants are susceptible to Downy Mildew.
    • Black Rot
      • To avoid both Downy Mildew and Black Rot problems use proper soil preparation and crop rotation.
  • Physiological
    • Die-back may occur in coolest regions
    • Yellowing of leaves and lose of lower leaves is a result of low Nitrogen
    • Excess Nitrogen will prevent good colorationd. Some Boron deficiency


VII. Marketing and Grading

  • Areas of production in U.S.: Available in most areas and all zones (mainly 7 to 11)
  • Specific dates or holidays if applicable: Used mainly in fall and winter for color replacement that is normally lost in the fall.
  • Flowering Season: Fall to spring, Late Spring/Early Summer Mid Summer, They last from October or November through April.
  • For best effect, plants should be greenhouse-produced and near full-size when planted out. Allow 11 weeks to produce a marketable product in 6-8” pots. When marketing, promote it as a colorful, unusual and long-lasting plant. This will increase sales. It offers an attractive complement to garden mum sales in the fall. Takes between 2 ½-3 moths to produce crop from sowing to coloring period when marketing begins.


VIII. Postharvest Handling

  • Never harvest until after a hard frost or two. Freezing nights keep kale flavor, if you prefer to eat it. To keep plants in production, avoid cutting the developing bud at the center of each plant.


IX. Cultivars

  • Red, pink, white cultivars are grouped by leaf shape
  • Round, smooth leaf types are grouped into ornamental cabbage.
  • Feathered, fringed leaf types are grouped into ornamental kale types.
  • Some of the different cultivars include the following: Flamingo Pink, Peacock White, Rose Bouquet, Osaka Pink, Coral Prince, Osaka Red, Color-up Pink, Tokyo Red, Snow Prince, Coral Queen, Pigeon Red, Tokyo Pink, Osaka White, Color-up Red, Pigeon White, Tokyo White, Sparrow Red, Chidori Red, Nagoya Red, Frizzy White, Sparrow White, Kamone White, Chidori White, Nagoya Rose, Nagoya White.


X. Medical Uses

  • Cabbage has many antioxidants that help detoxify the body when eaten. Cabbage also contains Isothiocyanates, which stop tumor growth and Coumarins that block cancer forming compounds. The Romans also used cabbage to cure hangovers. “The anti-cancer properties of cabbage are so well-established that the American Cancer Society recommends that Americans increase their intake of cabbage and other crucifer crops” (Christman, 2000).


XI. References

1. Emily Compost. 2000-2005. Ornamental Cabbage. http://emilycompost.com

2. Floridata Marketplace. 2003. Brassica oleracea var. acephala. www.floridata.com/ref/B/bras_ole_kale.cfm

3. James L. Gibson and Brian E. Whipker. 2001. Ornamental Cabbage and Kale Cultivar Comparison Study: Growth Characteristics and Response to Daminozide and Uniconazole Foliar Sprays. http://wfrec.ifas.ufl.edu/faculty/Gibson/PDF/kale_cv_trial.pdf

4. Brian E. Whipker, James L. Gibson, Raymond A. Cloy, C. Ray Campbell, and Ron Jones. North Carolina Cooperative Extension. 1998. Success with Ornamental Cabbage and Kale. www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/hil-507.pdf

5. Burpee. 2006. Kale. www.burpee.com

6. Umass Amherst. 2006. www.umass.edu/umext/floriculture/fact_sheets/specific_crops/cabbage.html

7. Seeds-by-Seeds. 2005-2006. http://www.seeds-by-size.co.uk/flsbct2.html

8. The Garden Helper. 1999. Ornamental Cabbage and Kale. http://www.thegarderhelper.com/kale.html

9. (Christman, 2000) Steve Christman, 2000, Florida Data. www.floridata.com/ref/B/bras_ole_kale.cfm