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The Autumn Queen - Ornamental Cabbage

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Although ornamental cabbage is quite edible and is actually a form of the most common vegetable cabbage, this plant is special in everything. Elegant rosettes and bright change of colors, turning the cabbage bunches into charming giant "flowers", never cease to amaze. The fast-growing ornamental cabbage knows no equal at the end of the garden season. Showing its full beauty only with the arrival of cold weather, the cabbage flower brings a patterned appearance to gardens. In flower beds and vegetable gardens, this queen of autumn knows no competition among seasonal plants.

The autumn queen - ornamental cabbage
Decorative cabbage


  • The ornamental relative of the common cabbage
  • Forms and varieties of ornamental cabbage
  • Use of ornamental cabbage in garden design
  • Conditions Growing of decorative cabbage
  • Caring for decorative cabbage
  • Propagation of decorative cabbage

Ornamental relative of common cabbage

Cabbage, one of the most valuable, ancient and widespread vegetable crops, it always looks attractive, even if we are talking about simple leaf or cabbage cabbage. Rounded heads and unique giant shrubs with ornate leaves grace any bed. But when it comes to ornamentality, any other cabbage is easily eclipsed by a variety that belongs to the ornamental-leaf seasonal crops - ornamental cabbage.

Brassica, decorative cabbage, as we simply call this plant, or garden cabbage curly var. headless (today the official name is Brassica oleracea, the popular designation of the variety is Brassica oleracea var. acephala - a synonym name that makes it easier to identify the plant in the diversity of the entire cabbage community) is the only ornamental representative of cabbages in the Cruciferous family (Brassicaceae).

Many novice gardeners simply call this plant the cabbage-flower.

It is still the same curly cabbage form known since Ancient Greece, but modified by selection. The spread as ornamental plants of particularly bright varieties of curly-faced cabbage we owe to the Northern European countries, but also in Japan, and in North America, and in our country cold-resistant ornamental cabbage is very popular.

Ornamental forms and varieties of cabbage are classified as ornamental deciduous annuals and biennials, depending on the cultivation strategy. In fact, ornamental cabbage belongs to the number of herbaceous biennials. The maximum height of the plant is limited to 60 cm for rosette forms, though there are some larger palm-shaped forms up to 2 m tall, surprisingly large leaves.

Bare, rigid, large, with a curly edge, often decorated with waxy bloom, cabbage leaves at the shoot base sit on cuttings, while at the top they change into sessile form, forming rosettes of various densities. Associations of ornamental cabbage with flowers are not accidental: in many varieties rosettes remind of roses, peonies, outlandish huge flowers because of the location and shape formed by "overlapping" rows of leaves.

The rosettes can exceed 50 cm in diameter. They differ in density and neatness of the pattern, the general shape. The leaves may be more pointed or rounded, with deeply incised edges or outgrowths at the ends of the veins, wrinkled or almost smooth, carved, resembling fancy corals or algae. They can form rosettes and are more sparsely arranged on the stem, creating a classic foliage or "bunch" effect.

The color palette of decorative cabbage includes a variety of "cool" fall and winter colors. Green - from silvery and bluish to bright lettuce variations, white, cream, pink, purple, violet, red - these colors create strikingly beautiful effects of both watercolor and mottled-contrast type. The outer leaves in the rosettes are usually green, the inner leaves are brightly colored. The transition from one color to another is always gradual and blurred, as if intensifying toward the center.

The ornamental cabbage reveals its beauty completely only when most seasonal plants fade due to a serious cold snap. Cabbage, on the contrary, shows even brighter beautiful colors of leaves, and up to frosts of 10-12 degrees of frost it retains its ornamentality, decorating the area, already constrained by the first breath of winter.

The autumn queen - ornamental cabbage
Garden cabbage, variety "Nagoya White". © Colors of Texas
The autumn queen - ornamental cabbage
Decorative cabbage, "Sunrise" variety. © Getty Images
The autumn queen - ornamental cabbage
Groot cabbage, "Osaka Red" variety. © Colors of Texas

Weeds and varieties of ornamental cabbage

The ornamental cabbage is represented today by a huge number of not only individual varieties, but also interesting decorative forms. As a rule, the latter have become a real classic and their appearance is familiar to most gardeners. In addition to the ornamental forms, there are also several varieties that differ in growth form and are also considered basic varieties of ornamental cabbage.

To navigate in the diversity of cabbage simple classifications allow:

  1. Size: Cabbage ornamental varieties are divided into low (up to 40 cm), medium (up to 50 cm) and high - from 1 to 2 m in height.
  2. According to the form of growth distinguish rosellate (varieties with a regular rounded or flattened rosette) and column-shaped or palm-shaped varieties.
  3. In the nature of the arrangement of the leaves Kale is divided into cabbage cabbage, half cabbage, rosette, needle and brain varieties.
  4. The dominant color in the leaves are distinguished green, white, pink, yellow, red, purple varieties.
  5. Lead shape distinguish round-leaved, flat-leaved, lyre-shaped pinnate, curly, corrugated, rarely - incised varieties.

The best ornamental forms and variety types of headless curly cabbage belong:

  • prolifera - tall, up to 60 cm cabbage with wavy leaves, serrated rather than ruffled edges, growths at the end of veins and a curved leaf shape in rosettes in which white, pink and red hues with mottled effects pass one another;
  • laciniata - A large cabbage with deeply emarginate, pointed, curving leaves of mixed mottled green-red or green-white coloration;
  • crispa - A plant with filiform, delicately cut leaves and green-purple coloration;
  • palmifolia - a very tall variety that can grow to 200 cm, with narrow, curved, bubbly green leaves gathered in a wispy rosette at the top of the shoots;
  • mosbach cabbage - a medium-grown green-leaved plant with curved, ruffle-curled leaves;
  • green branching - medium-grown cabbage with lyre-like bluish leaves with wrinkled surface and serrated edges;
  • curly green - low-grown or tall varieties with strongly curly leaves along the edge;
  • green roughly curly green - medium-grown cabbage with pinnate leaves, coarsely serrated edges and light green color;
  • Japanese round mottled white - medium-grown cabbage with solid, festooned leaves, changing color from green with pink spots in outer circles to white with a green border on inner ones;
  • Japanese mottled pink-red is a medium-grown, densely festooned, whole-leaf cabbage that surprises with crimson coloration;
  • curly red - A tall-grown cabbage with a purple stem and densely curly blue-purple leaves;
  • plumage mottled red - A medium-grown cabbage with pinnate leaves decorated with crimson veins, purple spots and narrowly dissected openwork leaves;
  • Plumage mottled white - A medium-sized cabbage with deeply dissected pinnate leaves decorated with white fringes and veins;
  • blue giant - A tall, more than a meter tall form with bluish or mottled purple lyre-like leaves decorated with an irregularly jagged carved edge.

Basic forms and varieties of cabbage are increasingly rare on the market, but varieties with particularly striking colors and expressive shapes are added new names each year.

The autumn queen - ornamental cabbage
Decorative cabbage, "Peacock Red" variety. © Colors of Texas
The autumn queen - ornamental cabbage
Acorative cabbage, variety 'Scarletbor'. © Colors of Texas
The autumn queen - ornamental cabbage
Garden cabbage, "Peacock White" variety. © Colors of Texas

The best varieties of ornamental cabbage

The best varieties of ornamental cabbage include:

  • The "Kamome Pink" variety is a low-growing cabbage with a very dense rosette of densely veined, wavy, corrugated at the edge of the leaves, changing from green with a purple tint on the edges to crimson-pink with a green border on the inner leaves.
  • The old variety "The Relay" is a low-growing, up to 35 cm high and a little more spreading in diameter, dense-foliated roseate variety with drooping, sitting on long petioles, rounded solid leaves with strongly corrugated margins.
  • The "Nagoya White" variety is a charming densely lacy leaf-edge variety with beautiful longitudinal veining on the leaves, creating a graphic effect. The dark green leaves at the edge of the rosette are not as densely arranged as the creamy white leaves in the center. Nagoya' stands out with its unique graphic veining and its broadly fluffy, fringed edges on its perfectly round two-tone rosettes.
  • Sunrise11> is a rose variety with perfectly straight, oval leaves making a rosette which looks like a giant copy of a classical bush rose. The dark green colouring of several outer leaf circles is in contrast to the yellowish cream colouring of the inner leaves and a slight lilac-pink bloom in the very center of the rosette.
  • Pink variety "Osaka Red" with a strikingly regular ornamental rosette shape, smooth-veined leaves and a double color - greyish blue on the outer leaves and silvery pink inside the rosettes. Other varieties of the Osaka series offer the opportunity to admire large, showy rosettes with varying degrees of terry on the edges of the leaves and the transition of the two colors.
  • Tokyo Red and the other full 'Tokyo' varieties surprise with their very compact, wavy, fluffy, dense rosettes in the middle of their rosettes.
  • Tongue of the Lark is a palm type with a thickly flushed, carving leaf up to 70cm long with a unique play of shades of green.
  • The Raspberry variety is a tall cabbage up to 150 cm tall with a narrow column-shaped form, a dense rosette of descending rounded whole leaves, with a richly corrugated edge and a dominant reddish purple tone.
  • The Palmira11> variety is a tall, to 140 cm long, narrow-columnar variety with drooping leaves on long leafstalks. The leaves are bright green with a very corrugated edge.
  • The "Colors of the East" is a semi-branched variety up to 50 cm in height with smaller rosette diameter of rounded, wavy, long-cell leaves. The outermost leaves are bluish, gradually turning purple and cream-white. The middle leaves turn a deep purple.
  • Autumn Waltz11> is a late variety with a raised, dense rosette about half a meter in diameter and a little higher, formed by rounded, wavy leaves on medium-sized leafstalks. The waxy bloom emphasizes the play of green and purple.
  • The Sparkle11> variety is a sprawling, low-growing cultivar about 40 cm tall with the same diameter of rosette and with waxy, deeply parted leaves with a slightly wavy edge.
  • The "Peacock White" variety is a nice-looking variety with finely carved, splintered into tiny fragments and something reminding one of a frieze or coral with the change of color from gray-green to white with a pinkish center.
The autumn queen - ornamental cabbage
The ornamental cabbage will add bright colors to the fading autumn garden. © Ydvn

Use of ornamental cabbage in garden design

The ornamental varieties of cabbage are not accidentally called one of the best late autumn plants. If the garden lacks colors and beautiful greenery at the very end of the active season, decorative cabbage is the best candidate to solve this problem. It will help liven up flowerbeds and mixborders, compensate for the lack of skeletal plants, enliven empty areas and create bright spots that will not make an autumn garden seem dull and lifeless.

The ornamental cabbage in the garden is used:

  • as a border plant, to create bright lines or dividers;
  • as a filler for the areas freed from summer beds, mini-flowers and spots;
  • to fill the voids in flower beds and rabatka;
  • for solitaire groups or mono-flowers - small islands of different varieties of cabbage or small-sized squares, devoted to this plant, including in patterned, ornamental compositions;
  • in carpeted mixborders and arabesques, to create elaborate patterns and ornaments;
  • as a foreground decoration for compositions that are dull in autumn;
  • as a backing for shrubs and ornamental trees that attract attention in autumn.

Traditionally, ornamental cabbage is not recommended for use in the vegetable garden, but in the ornamental garden, as a traditional seasonal plant and the main decoration of the late fall and early winter. But there is also a place for it in the garden. Ornamental cabbage is one of the best plants for mixed design, decorating beds, creating not just a boring traditional collection of vegetables and greens.

It can be planted in the border around beds with other vegetables, enter in company with tea and spice plants, planted as small accents in compositions with perennial vegetables, which will enliven the beds in autumn. Just a few bushes can decorate those places where since October you have to admire only bare soil.

This plant will reveal its beauty not only in the open ground, but also in a potted culture. Decorative varieties of cabbage will decorate vacant stone flowerpots and plinths, replace potted lettuce, perfectly cope with the role of filling voids in street vases and balcony containers, and if used with ampelous partners will even decorate hanging baskets. At the end of the season, after the arrival of stable frosts and reaching maximum ornamental value, cabbage can be dug up and transferred to containers to decorate window sills.

The leaves of decorative cabbage are not just edible, but very useful - just like any other cabbage. It is similar in bitterness and taste to kale leaf cabbage. Young leaves are eaten. To reduce toughness and bitterness, you should wait until the first frost, when the plant's full flavor potential is revealed. "Artificially" seasonal ripening is imitated by simply freezing the leaves before consumption.

Partners for ornamental cabbage can be selected from among any seasonal plants. Different varieties and forms work well together, but cabbage also looks great with cereals, with velvets, with chrysanthemums and with evergreen garden plants. This plant contrasts with any neighbor and does not lose its beauty in the company of even the brightest stars.

The autumn queen - ornamental cabbage
The ornamental cabbage will reveal its beauty not only in the open ground, but also in a potted culture. © Elinor Gaye

Conditions of cultivation for ornamental cabbage

Despite the status of an unpretentious plant, ornamental cabbage cannot settle in any place of the garden. It is a light-loving crop, which in the shade in late summer will not have time to reveal either the power or the beauty of the rosettes. If bright color or lush rosettes are not so important, you can experiment with scattered-semi-shaded sites, but traditionally for planting cabbage choose light or sunny sites. This plant is not afraid of drafts, it is cold-resistant, grows well even in polluted air.

Carefully it is necessary to choose the characteristics of the soil. Ornamental varieties of cabbage prefer medium, high-quality and worked soils. They cannot grow normally in soils with strongly pronounced acidity or alkalinity, in poor, dense, too light soil. The best option for ornamental cabbage is rightly called nutritious sandy loam and loamy soils. The soil is deeply recultivated, making full mineral and organic fertilizers in a standard dosage.

Ornamental cabbage does not like either too dense or sparse planting (bare ground does not decorate the composition with this plant). When choosing the distance, usually observe the distance to the neighboring plants, equal to the expected diameter of the rosette of the cabbage itself. On average, cabbage is planted at a distance of 50-60 cm from the neighboring plants. Ornamental cabbage is always planted in a staggered pattern.

Kale is not afraid of transplanting, but only if the plants immediately after planting are given regular care, do not suffer from drought and if the rootball around the roots is kept intact. When planting, it is important to avoid contact with the roots. Ornamental cabbage can be transplanted from place to place at any age, using rosettes to fill in the voids.

The autumn queen - ornamental cabbage
Decoral cabbage can be transplanted from place to place at any age - and this is another of its advantages. © Derfel

Care for ornamental cabbage

This crop cannot be classified as a "plant to plant and forget". Without proper care neither to enjoy the size, density and quality of the leaves, nor to observe the luxurious colors will be possible. The plant needs regular care, especially during abnormal weather.

The ornamental cabbage care program includes:

  • abundant watering before the resumption of active growth after planting and in drought, which are carried out not superficially, if possible combining with sprinkling or spraying of plants and using only warm, settled water;
  • loosening the soil, combined with weeding or watering;
  • mulching with any available materials, which will reduce the number of both watering and weeding;
  • fertilizing with any organic (except for manure) or complex fertilizers in a standard dosage (it's carried out 7-10 days after planting and repeated 1-2 times, for poor soils - 3-4 times);
  • pouring of soil to the stem base in case of disturbance of rosette stability.

The ornamental cabbage is no less susceptible than its purely useful congeners to damage by moth caterpillars and loved by slugs. To combat the latter, it is worth mulching the soil with pine, hay or ash, but caterpillars are dealt with by preventive spraying with a solution of superphosphate at a concentration of 10 g per 1 liter of water, which is best carried out after every rain. If there are signs of damage by any fungal diseases, plants should be treated immediately with systemic fungicides.

The ornamental cabbage reveals its beauty only with the arrival of cold, showing in full all the colors characteristic of varieties. Lower temperatures and light frosts are not a problem for it. Plants are left in compositions until the temperature drops below 12 degrees of frost and rosettes do not lose their decorativeness. Frozen cabbage can be left for garden decoration also in winter, removing the bushes only in spring.

The autumn queen - ornamental cabbage
Decorative cabbage cannot be attributed to "plant and forget" plants. © HEN-Magonza

Propagation of ornamental cabbage

Cabbage varieties are grown only from seeds, mainly by seedling method. Sowing directly into the open soil is not always successful because of the susceptibility of young sprouts to black leg and the need for careful care, but it is quite acceptable. Cabbage is sown in mini greenhouses or greenhouses, under non-woven materials, at the end of April or the first decade of May. Young plants need careful watering. Nest plants as full-grown leaves.

In order to get 100 bush ornamental cabbage, enough to use 0.5 g of seeds. Sowing for this culture is carried out in individual pots or cassettes with individual cells. Optimal lines of sowing - the third decade of March. Seeds should preferably soak for a few hours before sowing in warm water or a weak solution of fungicide.

For decorative cabbage use universal substrate or soil of sand, leafy soil and peat in a ratio of 1:2:2. Containers for sowing carefully fill the substrate, not tamping it down and watered before sowing. Seeds are sown in 2 pieces, covering the top layer of soil about 1 cm. After sowing, watering is repeated. Containers do not need to be covered with glass or film. For the germination of ornamental cabbage you need to maintain a stable temperature of about 19-20 degrees. On average, sprouts appear in 2-5 days. The lower the temperature, the slower the germination process.

Young sprouts of ornamental cabbage very often fall out. It is rightly ranked among the most sensitive plants to black leg, but seedlings can also die from simple rot and other factors. In order to save sensitive seedlings, it is necessary to give up traditional watering until the plants are mature enough to form thick trunks and produce the first real leaf. To maintain humidity instead of normal and drip irrigation use the method of frequent but very light spraying. Ornamental cabbage seedlings are not picking, of the two sprouts leave the strongest.

For the entire period of preplanting of seedlings, before planting in the soil plants are carefully watered, avoiding overwatering and drying the soil between these procedures. For seedlings of ornamental cabbage spend two feedings - during the growth of the first true leaf and at the beginning of hardening for the transfer to the permanent place.

For decorative cabbage should choose the brightest place on window sills. On cloudy days, it is better to illuminate the plants. It is desirable to keep the seedlings of this plant in a cool place, at a temperature no higher than 16 degrees. The minimum allowable values - 12 degrees Celsius. If possible, temperatures can be controlled more strictly, maintaining optimum values:

  • from 10 to 12 degrees by day and from 6 to 8 degrees at night in the first week after the appearance of seedlings;
  • from 13 to 16 degrees by day and from 8 to 10 degrees at night before the beginning of hardening.

Ornamental cabbage seedlings can be transferred to a permanent place in the third decade of April or the first decade of May, with protection against return frosts, or from the second half of May, if there is no possibility to cover the plants additionally. Seedling hardening begins at least 2 weeks before planting.