Ornamental cabbages are one of the last spots of fresh color in the landscape in late autumn. Although they are edible, they are grown for their colorful leaves.
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They come in shades of red, purple, pink, and cream or white, with ruffled foliage that is much fancier than regular cabbage.
Ornamental cabbages share the same botanical name as edible cabbage–Brassica oleracea. The ornamental varieties are edible too, but they are not as tasty and tender as their edible counterparts.
Grow these colorful cabbages the same way you grow regular cabbages. Plant in full sun in rich, fertile soil.
Although you can start them in individual pots and transplant them to the garden, the plants will grow better and produce healthier and larger cabbages if direct seeded where they are to grow. Plant seeds 6 to 10 weeks before your first anticipated fall frost.
Plant seeds 6 inches apart in rows 18 to 24 inches apart. Because the seeds need light to germinate, barely cover them with less than 1/8 inch of soil and do not firm the soil down.
When the plants are 3 inches high, thin to stand 18 to 24 inches apart. Ornamental cabbages reach 18 to 24 inches in diameter and grow 18 to 24 inches high.
The ornamental varieties of cabbages don’t develop their characteristic colors until touched by frost. Subsequent frosts will intensify the colors. They can withstand temperatures down to 5 degrees, but only if it happens gradually.
A sudden cold snap will be fatal. If you watch the weather and cover them when dramatic changes in temperature are expected, your ornamental cabbages can last well into early winter in the north, and even all winter in milder climates.
One caveat about using ornamental cabbages as a cut flower: they start to stink like cabbage after a few days. Get around this by cutting them for arrangements early in the day you plan to use them. Discard within a day or two.
Extend your garden’s growing season with ornamental cabbages. They are one of the last of the “showy” plants left growing in the garden at season’s end.
Sharon Sweeny is a creative copywriter, specializing in gardening and self-sufficient do-it-yourself lifestyles.
She divides her free time among her garden in Minneapolis, alternately juggling half a dozen creative projects and blogging on gardening at https://moxiegardener.com while pondering the exact location of Frostbite Falls, Minnesota.
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