Flowers that look like cabbage heads are called ornamental cabbage (brassica oleracea). Planted in the fall and winter when many of the summer blooms are fading or gone, they add often striking colors of red, purple, pink and green to the garden. The leaves have attractive textured and ruffled leaves. Ornamental cabbage can be grown in containers or garden borders. As temperatures drop, colors become stronger.
Ornamental kale is in the same genus, brassica, as ornamental cabbage and has the same fall and winter attractiveness. Unlike cabbage, which has a compact, rounded cabbage-like form, kale has more upright leaves, with curls and ruffles and a slightly cascading habit. Both ornamental kale and cabbage are edible vegetables. Plants grow to 18 inches in height.
Growth and Care
Ornamental cabbage and kale need to be grown in cool weather to produce their most colorful leaves. If temperatures exceed 80 degrees Fahrenheit, the leaves on these plants do poorly. They need full sun and organically rich soil that is kept moist. Regular watering is necessary as well as periodically light fertilizing. Bug-killers are unnecessary since bugs don't appear on these plants.
Ornamental cabbage and kale should be planted in late summer. Leaves will thrive through fall and survive several frosts -- and some may even survive until Thanksgiving or December. Plants can be grown from seeds. They should be started mid-August. Place the seeds in pots located in half-shade. Plants can also be grown from cell packs available at nurseries.
Glamour Red is the first ornamental kale or cabbage to win an All-America Selection award after 78 years of submissions. Awards are given to new garden seeds in America for their high quality as decided by a network of independent judges. Glamour Red kale, a 2011 winner, has unusual shiny leaves and vivid, striking color. Growing to 12 inches in height, it spreads to 14 inches. If sown from seed, Glamour Red will flower in roughly 90 days.