Flowering Kale, also call Ornamental Kale, is a variety of kale that has the top layers of its leaves colored vibrant white, pink, lavender, red, blue, and violet with a rosette type color in the very middle. This type of kale does produce actual flowers but the plant is most known for the flower-like coloration and arrangement of its leaves. Kale is a type vegetable that is closely related to broccoli, cauliflower, collard greens and even brussels sprouts. They grow to full maturity in about two to three weeks.
Growing Requirements for Flowering Kale
Flowering kale prefers colder temperatures at night and areas with good air circulation that allows colder air to reach the plant. This plant does the best when grown outdoors in natural conditions instead of in greenhouse environments. As a general rule of thumb, the cooler the air is the more vibrant the colors will be. The kale can even remain beautiful through the entire winter if it is a mild one.
Taking Care of Flowering Kale
It is recommended that automatic watering systems specialized to service flowering kale are used instead of normal watering cans because the plant is very picky about the amount of water it receives. The leaves will harden and turn yellow when the plant experiences water stress. Fertilization treatments are recommended and should be done only periodically. These plants prefer winter conditions and will only bloom fully after experiencing their first winter season. The bloom will come in spring but by then the plant will look rather haggard and many gardeners prefer to discard it. Flowering kale makes great additions to compost piles.
History and Uses of Flowering Kale
The wild species, Brassica oleracea, is native to Old World Europe where it was grown and harvested by the ancient Greeks and Romans as food. Through the years the plant was cultivated into the many kale species and the related plants we see today. The species is completely edible along with the rest of the family and remains not only a popular decorative plant but a common addition to the dinner plate.
Common Flowering Kale Diseases and Pests
Cabbage loopers, leaf rollers, and aphids are the most common insects bothering flowering kale. Also, when subjected to extensive humidity and moisture, the kale becomes susceptible to a fungal disease known as downy mildew. Keeping optimal growing conditions constant will keep the kale from falling prey to either of these too often. If the problems become too excessive, basic fungicide and insecticide treatments should be more than enough. However, the kale should never be ingested after undergoing these treatments as the chemicals are extremely poisonous to humans.
Additional Information on Flowering Kale
Further details on the history of the flowering kale can be found at the University of Wisconsin – Madison on Ornamental Cabbale and Kale.
A detailed fact sheet on the flowering kale and closely related plants can be found at the University of Arkansas Ornamental Kale.