Richard Bogren, Gill, Daniel J.
For Release On Or After 10/14/11
By Dan Gill
Redbor kale is the first edible Louisiana Super Plants selection. It is an incredible multiuse annual for the cool-season flower or vegetable garden. Although perfectly edible, it is so attractive it is being promoted as an ornamental for planting in flowerbeds.
Ornamental kales have been around for a long time. They are short plants that produce a rosette of frilly blue-green to blue-purple leaves. The colorful leaves that are produced in the center of the plants in shades of white, pink, red and purple are the main ornamental feature. Although ornamental kales are edible, they are primarily used in flowerbeds and other ornamental plantings and are rarely consumed.
Redbor kale is beautiful – plenty pretty enough for the flower garden. But it belongs to the vegetable kale group, not the ornamental kale group. You can tell this by how it grows. Ornamental kale has been bred and selected to stay very short – the leaves are very closely spaced and form a rosette or crown. Vegetable kale looks similar when young, but eventually the main stem begins to elongate. Over time, vegetable kale grows taller than ornamental kale. And the center leaves do not turn a bright color.
The dramatic beauty of Redbor kale comes from its striking dark purple-red foliage. Adding to this is the interesting texture of the plant that is created by the finely curled and frilly foliage – producing an almost cloud-like effect. The rich, dark color of the foliage is wonderful when used in flowerbeds as a foil with brightly colored flowers, and it combines well with virtually any color scheme.
A fall planting will provide the most spectacular plants and the biggest bang for your buck. Like all kales, Redbor is extremely cold tolerant and will not be bothered by winter weather. Even temperatures in the mid to low teens will not affect it. It will grow in your gardens through the winter getting larger and more beautiful with each passing month.
By spring, the plants will form large mounds about 2 feet tall and about a foot wide. By the end of its season, this robust kale will eventually grow to be about 30 inches tall. This makes is suitable for the middle or back of flowerbeds. Fall-planted Redbor will continue to look nice until May, at which time it is removed (it’s a great addition to your compost pile) and replaced with colorful summer bedding plants.
In addition to fall, Redbor kale can be planted anytime through the winter and into early spring.
Plant it in a well-prepared bed enriched with a generous addition of organic matter (compost, composted manure, soil conditioner, peat moss) and an application of general-purpose fertilizer. Given their eventual size, don’t plant them too close together. Plant so that the centers of the plants are about 12 to 16 inches apart. Fertilize again in February.
It’s so beautiful you will likely not want to harvest the edible leaves, but there is a way to “have your cake and eat it too.” When you plant your Redbor kale, combine it with other cool-season bedding plants with colorful flowers. Place cool-season bedding plants like snapdragons and dianthus that grow to be about 18 inches tall in front of the kale.
Over the winter and spring, you can harvest your Redbor kale by “cropping,” which means gradually removing the lowest leaves on each plant. This provides leaves for cooking but still leaves the plants in the garden looking attractive. The problem is that the plants will become leggy, with a lower stem bare of leaves. That’s where the flowers come in. As they grow over the winter, they will hide the lower part of the kale plants. As the kale grows taller, so will they. When spring comes, you may have removed the leaves from the lower half of the 30-inch-tall kale, but the flowering bedding plants you planted around them will make sure nobody notices.
Redbor kale has good heat tolerance and will generally stay attractive until May. By then, its beauty will typically begin to fade. Plants may send up clusters of pale yellow flowers on tall stems at that time. Some gardeners like the way the plants look when blooming, and others are not impressed. Allow yours to bloom and see what you think – the plants have a different look when in flower.
Look for Redbor kale at your local nurseries and garden centers. Participating nurseries should have signs telling you about the plants along with the Louisiana Super Plants logo where these plants are located. To find the local nurseries participating in the program in your community, go to the Louisiana Super Plants website at www.lsuagcenter/superplants.
What does it take to become a Louisiana Super Plant?
It’s tough to be a Louisiana Super Plant. Each Super Plant must have at least two years of rigorous evaluations and have a proven track record under north and south Louisiana growing conditions. Super Plants must prove hardy across the state. They must be easily produced and available for all industry wholesalers and retailers to market and sell.
Louisiana Super Plants are selected one to two years in advance of release to the public. The Louisiana Super Plant Selection Committee, composed of LSU AgCenter personnel, select plants based upon observations made in replicated plots and demonstration trials across the state. When you choose Louisiana Super Plants selections, you know you are getting proven plants that are “university tested and industry approved.”Rick Bogren