By LSU AgCenter Horticulturists Dan Gill, Kyle Huffstickler and Allen Owings
Ornamental kale and cabbage are becoming increasingly popular as fall bedding plants in Louisiana. Alternatives to garden mums and pansies, these plants have feathery leaves with robust colors that make them well-suited for landscape and container plantings.
New hybrid varieties are more uniform, compact and colorful than the older, open-pollinated varieties. Selecting the correct variety to grow in Louisiana depends on your individual preference.
Peacock kale is available in white and red and has a striking appearance with deeply serrated and feathery leaves. Nogoya kale is also available in white and red and has heavily crinkled leaves with vibrant colors. It is great for container plantings. Osaka cabbage – also referred to as the Dynasty series – has semi-fringed leaves on plants with large, brightly colored centers. Toyko cabbage is red, white or pink with smooth, waxy-edged leaves. Due to its smaller size, Toyko is frequently used in flower arrangements.
Redbor, an edible kale, is a Louisiana Super Plant for this fall. It has great cold tolerance for the coldest winters and will last longer in to spring than other kale varieties. Another kale thatís looking good in LSU AgCenter trials is new this fall. Glamour Red is a cool-season All-America Selection bedding plant winner for 2011.
The culture of flowering cabbage and kale in the landscape is similar to that of garden varieties. Proper soil preparation is essential, and a pH of 6.0-7.0 is ideal. Soil preparation includes cultivation, incorporating fertilizer (two pounds of 8-8-8 per 100 square feet) and if needed, dolomitic lime worked into the top 6 inches of soil prior to planting. After planting, broadcasting a three- to four-month, slow-release fertilizer over the bed is recommended.
Growing ornamental cabbage and kale in containers is more of a challenge. A well-drained planting medium, such as one containing equal parts of peat moss, perlite and vermiculite, amended with an ounce of dolomitic lime per gallon is good for pot culture.
Insect control is important to maintain the aesthetics of flowering kale and cabbage. Worms are the most prevalent pest. Flowering kale and cabbage have several uses in the landscape. Try them as a background plant for a pansy or viola planting. Proper soil preparation and follow-up care after planting will lead to success with these plants.