Ornamental kale, cabbage enhance cool-season flower beds

Richard Bogren, Owings, Allen D.  |  11/1/2013 1:48:55 AM

Ornamental cabbage can be a background plant to viola and pansies in the cool season landscape. (Photo by Allen Owings)

Redbor ornamental kale was named a Louisiana Super Plant in Fall 2011. (Photo by Allen Owings)

News Release Distributed 11/01/13

By Allen Owings

LSU AgCenter horticulturist

HAMMOND, La. – Most of us think of pansies, violas, dianthus, snapdragons and petunias to decorate our fall-through-early-spring landscape. Another nice addition to cool-season flower beds is ornamental types of kale and cabbage.

Ornamental kale and cabbage are becoming increasingly popular as fall bedding plants for Louisiana. These plants have feathery leaves of 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 individual preference.

Peacock kale is available in white and red and has a striking appearance with deeply serrated and feathery leaves. Nogoya kale comes 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 a plant with a brightly colored large center. Toyko cabbage is red, white or pink with smooth, waxy-edged leaves. A smaller plant, Tokyo is frequently used in flower arrangements.

An edible kale, Redbor, has been recognized as a Louisiana Super Plant. It has great cold tolerance for the coldest winters and will last longer into spring than other kale varieties. Another kale, Glamour Red, is an All-America Selection winner.

Flowering cabbage and kale management in the landscape is similar to that of garden varieties.

Proper soil preparation is essential, including cultivating the soil and incorporating fertilizer at the rate of two pounds of 8-8-8 per 100 square feet. An ideal soil pH is 6.0 to 7.0., so work dolomitic lime into the top 6 inches of soil if needed prior to planting.

After planting, broadcast a three- or four-month, slow-release fertilizer over the planting bed.

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 1 gallon container is good for pot culture. Also incorporate a low dose of slow-release fertilizer in addition to using a liquid fertilizer containing trace elements, which are essential when using a soilless medium.

Insect control is important to maintain the aesthetics of flowering kale and cabbage. Worms are the most prevalent concern. Several insecticides are labeled for the control of insects on these plants. Treat them when you begin to see insect activity, following label directions.

Flowering kale and cabbage have several uses in the landscape. Try them as a background plant for a pansy or viola planting. Proper management will lead to success.

You can see more about work being done in landscape horticulture by visiting the LSU AgCenter Hammond Research Station website. Also, like us on Facebook. You can find an abundance of landscape information for both home gardeners and industry professionals at both sites.

Rick Bogren

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