Grow Colorful and Edible Ornamental Kale in Your Garden

Plant ornamental kale to add beauty to your winter garden. Yes, you can eat it, too!

I enjoy having colorful plants in my winter garden. What I love even more is one that is also edible.

Ornamental Kale

Yes, this is the same type of kale that you eat. However, it is also used as an annual ornamental groundcover.

Noelle Johnson
Two colors of ornamental kale line a walkway.

The colorful part of the kale is not a flower, but rather the foliage that is edible. Ornamental kale are great choices for the garden because they establish quickly and are low-maintenance. Plant in full sun in fertile soil. To look their best, they require regular fertilizer.

Ornamental kale can be planted in fall or early spring. They are usually green when first planted in fall and their colors will turn once they experience their first hard frost in winter. Gardeners in cold winter areas often dig them up and bring them indoors for winter color over the holidays.

As the weather begins to warm, the ornamental kale will start to ‘bolt’ like lettuce plants do and start to grow taller in preparation for producing seeds.  During this process the ornamental kale continues to be quite attractive and should be left in the ground until they start to smell like ‘cooked cabbage’.  At that point, you can pull them out and add the to your compost pile.

Ornamental kale are available at most nurseries and should be purchased in 1-gallon containers when possible since they do not grow much after being planted from smaller containers.

So, how about trying something new in your garden? Try this beautiful, colorful and edible annual in your garden. Also check out edible flowers that you can eat.

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Noelle Johnson
Noelle Johnson is a horticulturist and certified arborist who lives and gardens in the desert Southwest. When she is not writing or helping other people with their gardens, you can find her growing fruits and vegetables, and planting flowering shrubs and maybe a cactus or two.