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The Ultimate Guide to Successfully Growing Flowering Kale

Kale, also called a leaf cabbage, is an edible plant that is part of the cabbage family. It is well known for being a hardy plant, and its leaves are great in salads and can even be cooked.  Just like there are many types of cabbages, there are also many types of kales.  Curly kale, Lacinato kale, Premier kale, Redbor kale, Siberian kale, Red Russian Kale, and Walking Stick kale are just a few of the many types of kale.  One popular type of kale known for its beauty is the flowering kale.  Also called ornamental kale, this flowering kale plant has beautiful purple/pink leaves in addition to its green leaves.  Flowering kale is very similar to ornamental cabbage, which also grows purple flowers.  Similar to the other types of kale, flowering kale is edible, although it has been described to have a bitter taste.  If you are interested in growing ornamental kale in your garden, you have come to the right place.  Today, let's take a look at how to grow flowering kale, as well as additional information about this type of kale.  Let's dive in.

What Is Flowering Kale?

As I have already mentioned, flowering kale is a type of kale that grows pink or purple flowers.  However, you can also get white ornamental kale, which grows white flowers instead of the regular pink and purple flowers.  Whether you choose white ornamental kale or purple flowering kale, this type of kale is great for cooking with, although some have described it as being bitter.  I'll talk more about how to eat flowering kale later in this article.

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How to Grow Flowering Kale

Growing ornamental kale from seed is not as hard as you may think.  Growing flowering kale is very similar to growing regular kale.  Let's take a look at the steps on how to grow ornamental kale from seed.

Planting the Seeds

Kale grows best in cool weather.  Because of this, you should plant them either in early spring or fall.  Do not plant them in the summer heat, because the kale will not grow as well.  You can grow flowering kale indoors too, or you can start growing it indoors and then transplant it.  As for growing the kale outdoors, if you’re planting during the cool season, find a spot where your kale will receive full sunshine.  If you are planting during the warm season, or in a warmer climate, plant kale in partial shade.

Flowering kale needs light in order to grow.  Because of this, do not put much soil on top of the seeds.  Just lightly push the seeds into the ground.  For a fall garden, plants should be started by the first of July.  The pots can be placed in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks before sprouting, but this is not necessary.  Just remember to place the seeds in the shade outdoors, because the summer heat can damage the kale.

Companion Planting

Companion planting is when you plant certain plants next to the kale.  There are many different plants that kale grows great next to.  Artichokes, beets, celery, cucumbers, dill, garlic, lettuce, mint, onions, peas, potatoes, radishes, and spinach are all great companion plants for flowering kale.  Incompatible plants (plants you should never plant next to kale) are basil, strawberries, and tomatoes.  Kale does not like these plants, so do not plant them next to each other.

Fertilize the Kale

Once you plant the flowering kale, you'll need to add some fertilizer.  Use a balanced fertilizer, such as 12-12-12, applying about 1 1/2 tsp. per plant.  Sprinkle the granules evenly around the edge of the plant, covering the area that is 2 to 4 inches from the base.  Then, apply it lightly into the soil about 1/2 to 1 inch deep with a rake and apply 1 inch of water to help settle the fertilizer into the soil.  Reapply the fertilizer once a month until your flowering kale reaches its mature size.  Flowering kale can grow up to 18 inches tall.

Water Your Flowering Kale

It is important that you do not let your flowering kale go dry.  This is especially important if your plant flowering kale in the summer when the weather is hot.  But during the fall and winter, you may not need to water your flowering kale as much since it will probably be snowing out.  When you do water your flowering kale, water the kale if the soil dries out about 1 inch deep.  Water with 1 inch of water so the water seeps deep into the soil.

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Check for Diseases and Pests

Every one or two weeks, examine your ornamental kale thoroughly, including the underside of the leaves for eggs, larvae, brown fecal matter, and caterpillars.  Cabbage worms are a popular pest that can cause damage to your kale, even during the winter.  If your plants are infested and signs of damage are noticeable, treatment will be needed.  Try using a natural pesticide so that it gets rid of pests but does not damage your kale and the plants around it.  Apply the pesticide as directed on the label, but usually, you spray it directly on the leaves where larvae are present.

Trimming the Flowerhead

In the spring, your flowering kale will probably go to seed.  Although you can let it go to seed, your kale will not look as nice.  To remove the flowerhead, take shears and trim the flowerhead.

Only Cover Kale If It Will Be Really Cold

Flowering kale is very hardy.  Keep in mind that until cool weather arrives, the ornamental kale flowers won't have many colors.  White, pink, or red pigments will begin to develop when temperatures are below 50 Fahrenheit degrees.  Once acclimated in a site, decorative kale can survive temperatures as low as 5 Fahrenheit degrees, so plants may last well into November and December.  Flowering kale actually grows better in the fall.  It even tastes better in colder weather.  If you are wondering what to plant in your fall garden, flowering kale is definitely a plant that will survive the cold weather.  You only need to cover the ornamental kale plants if the temperatures drop very low.

How to Harvest Kale Leaves

Harvest the leaves when they are up to 10 inches long.  Younger, shorter leaves have the mildest flavor.  Pick the lower leaves first, and the plant will continue to produce new upper leaves.  Be aware that flowering kale may be more bitter than other kale types.

Is Ornamental Kale Edible?

Many people wonder, "Is ornamental kale edible?"  While it may not seem like you could eat this colorful plant, flowering kale is edible just like the other types of kale.  Decorative kale, as well as decorative cabbage, has been eaten for many centuries.  Other types of kale are bred for its taste, but flowering kale is bred for its decorative looks.  That said, many still enjoy eating this leafy green, although it has been described as being bitter.  Because decorative kale is naturally bitter, you'll want to boil the leaves and discard the water before following your favorite kale recipe.  The leaves can be blanched, baked, stir-fried, or steamed.  It is best not to eat flowering kale plain since it will be extra bitter tasting.  Remember to always wash the leaves of kale before you cook with it.  For more flowering kale nutrition facts, click here.

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Is Flowering Kale a Perennial?

No, flowering kale is neither a perennial nor an annual.  It is a biennial, which means it has a two-year life cycle.  After your flowering kale bolts (goes to seed), it is about done growing.  That doesn't mean you can't keep eating off your kale.  Kale may be able to grow for up to five years, but usually, flowering kale grows the most in those two years.

How to Collect the Seeds from Your Kale

When your flowering kale bolts, you will be able to collect the seeds.  If you want to harvest seeds, don't grow any other cabbage family members during the time your kale is flowering to prevent cross-pollination.  Wait until the plants bolt in spring or summer and gather the seed pods as they dry.  Then plant your flowering kale seeds just like I instructed you earlier in this article.

Final Thoughts

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Are you wondering how to grow flowering kale?  If so, I hope you found this article to be helpful.  Flowering kale is part of the cabbage family and is very similar to ornamental cabbage plants.  This purple kale plant comes in the colors pink, purple, and white.  Today, I went over how to grow flowering kale and flowering kale care instructions that you should follow.  Flowering kale grows best in cooler weather, so avoid planting it in the summer.  If you do plant it in the summer, make sure your flowering kale has plenty of shade.

In this article, I also answered the very popular question "Is decorative kale edible?" Surprisingly, this colorful plant is indeed edible, just like the other members of the cabbage family.  However, it is much more bitter than other types of kale.  To lessen the bitter taste, boil the kale and then dump the water.  Overall, flowering kale is a great plant to add to your garden.  It is beautiful to have, it produces nutritious greens, and it is one of the plants that thrive in cold weather.  Have fun planting this colorful plant!

Mariann Foster

I am one of our content writers for Everything Backyard. I am a mother and business owner of Big Horn Mountain Alpacas in Wyoming. I love farm life, cutting my own firewood in the mountains, and participating in local trail run races.

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