Grow Colorful and Edible Ornamental Flowering Kale

Updated: Sep. 14, 2023

Plant ornamental flowering kale to add beauty to your fall and winter garden. Yes, you can eat these vegetable plants, too!

Care and Growing Tips

Flowering Kale Nagoya Red (emperor Series)Photo: SakataCourtesy of Ball Horticultural Company
Nagoya Red variety

With the arrival of cooler weather, it’s time to say goodbye to annuals that are looking the worse for wear. The good news: There are lots of late-season beauties to keep your container looking fresh well past the first frost. One of the best options is ornamental flowering kale, a visual delight in the autumn garden. These plants are frost tolerant and look more colorful as temperatures drop.

  • Common name: Flowering kale or ornamental cabbage
  • Scientific name: Brassica oleracea
  • Zones: Annual
  • Light needs:  Full sun

Ornamental flowering kale’s ruffled, feathered leaves are just as pretty as a traditional bloom. The compact head of kale looks lovely when planted with pansy and viola. Note that the foliage usually looks green when first planted. The colors will turn once the plant experiences the first frost.

This low-maintenance veggie grows well in full sun and fertile soil. Apply a balanced fertilizer at planting time and throughout the growing season.

It’s a true biennial but is usually treated as an annual. Flowering kale can survive winter in some places, but many think it’s unsightly. If desired, you can pull the plants out and add them to your compost pile.

Check out the top 10 fall vegetables to extend the harvest.

When to Plant Ornamental Flowering Kale

For the best looking fall containers, start flowering kale from seed indoors in early July. Plant outdoors in August, and wait for the autumn show!

Ornamental kale plants are also available at most nurseries in late summer and early fall; purchase them in in 1-gallon containers when possible since this veggie does not grow much after being planted from smaller containers.

flowering kaleCourtesy Sharon Simas
This fall garden favorite is also known as ornamental cabbage.

“My sister, Joanne Bentoske, of St. Clair, grew this flowering kale (above) from seed and was delighted when the plant was still vibrant in late November,” says Sharon Simas of West Branch, Michigan.

Discover the best fall flowers to grow (that aren’t mums).

Is Ornamental Flowering Kale Edible?

ornamental kaleNoelle Johnson
The leaves are edible but most often grown for fall color, not food.

Yes, you can eat this type of kale. The colorful part of the kale is not a flower, but rather foliage and it is edible. However, it is most often used as an annual ornamental groundcover, and in containers.

ornamental kaleNoelle Johnson
Two colors of ornamental kale line a walkway.