9 Great Varieties of Ornamental Cabbage (Flowering Kale)

Condor Cabbage Flower Arrangement
kobzev3179/Getty Images

It's easy to overlook ornamental cabbages and kales at the garden center during the fall when mums are blazing, or during the spring when pansies are popping. Young ornamental cabbages and kales don't look all that different from the vegetable varieties recommended for healthful eating. Young plants are just so...well, leafy.

But wait until a frosty night breathes life into these cruciferous lovelies! Bright pink, frosty white, and moody purple tones appear on leaves that grow ever larger as the plants mature, giving hostas a run for their money when it comes to winsome foliage. Leaves are often deeply ruffled, giving each plant the effect of a single, giant frost-proof blossom. Best of all, ornamental cabbages and kales like these are a piece of cake for a first-time gardener to grow, requiring nothing more than a sunny site and a shovelful of compost to get off to a healthy start. 

It can be confusing to distinguish between the terms "cabbage" and "kale" when it comes to these ornamental varieties. Technically, they are all kales, but those sold as kales tend to produce their leaves in tight rosettes with ruffled leaves, while cabbages form denser heads with more rounded leaves. In the horticultural trade, "flowering kale" is the term used for varieties with curly, frilly or ruffled leaves, while "ornamental cabbage" is the term used for types with flat leaves edged with a contrasting color. 

Here are nine ornamental cabbage/ kale varieties to consider for your garden.

Gardening Tip

Although these plants can be grown in zones 10 and 11, they need a good chilling in order to produce their best color. In warmer zones, plant them in more sheltered areas away from too much direct sun. And if your region never sees temperatures approaching the freezing point, choose your varieties based on the leaf texture, since you may not see the vibrant colors enjoyed by northern gardeners.

  • 01 of 09

    'Color-Up Pink' (Brassica oleracea 'Color-Up Pink')

    Color Up Pink Ornamental Cabbage

    DM/Flickr/CC By 2.0

    The 'Color-Up' series of plants falls in the cabbage type of B. oleracea. 'Color-Up Pink' features minty-green leaves with a blush center and an upright growth habit that looks perky in the garden when a hard freeze has knocked everything else flat.

    The appearance of color in ornamental cabbages and kales depends on two factors: temperatures below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, and the passage of a given amount of time (varies between 40 and 60 days), depending on the variety. You can expect to see the first flushes of pink on 'Color-Up Pink after about 54 days. 

    Native Area: Southern and western Europe

    USDA Growing Zones: 2–11 (grown as annuals)

    Height: 10 inches

    Sun Exposure: Full sun

  • 02 of 09

    Osaka Red (Brassica oleracea 'Osaka Red')

    Osaka Red Cabbage

    daryl_mitchell/Flickr/CC By 2.0

    An outer ring of purple leaves surrounds a vibrant magenta center on this stunning ornamental cabbage cultivar. Vigorous plants have compact heads that reach 8 inches across and a foot tall. The most intense coloration will appear when temperatures range between 35 to 45 degrees Fahrenheit. Purple and fuchsia leaves really pop against a background of snow. 

    Native Area: Southern and western Europe

    USDA Growing Zones: 2–11 (grown as annuals)

    Height: 12 inches

    Sun Exposure: Full sun

  • 03 of 09

    'Condor' (Brassica oleracea 'Condor')

    Condor Cabbage Flower Arrangement
    kobzev3179/Getty Images

    The unusual long stems of 'Condor' ornamental cabbage make it a florist's favorite. Plants grow up to 30 inches tall, but the heads are petite and look best planted in groups of eight or more. Bright green outer leaves encircle bright white leaves with just a hint of blush. 'Condor' ornamental cabbage makes a sweet focal point in the winter container garden. 

    The 'Condor' series includes varieties that are red, white, and white-with-pink centers .

    Native Area: Southern and western Europe

    USDA Growing Zones: 2–11 (grown as annuals)

    Height: 24–30 inches

    Sun Exposure: Full sun

  • 04 of 09

    'Pigeon Red' (Brassica oleracea 'Pigeon Red')

    Decorative composition of fresh decorative brassica oleracea, variety Pigeon Red, autumn bouquet. Multicolored decorative cabbage in autumn botanical garden.
    Iryna_L / Getty Images

    The green foliage on the outer leaves of 'Pigeon Red' is enhanced by white veining that plays off the bright pink center of the plants. Sow seeds about six weeks before the average first frost in your area to achieve large transplants that will be garden-ready when temperatures drop. Seeds need light for germination, so press into the soil, but do not cover. 

    Native Area: Southern and western Europe

    USDA Growing Zones: 2–11 (grown as annuals)

    Height: 8–12 inches

    Sun Exposure: Full sun

    Continue to 5 of 9 below.
  • 05 of 09

    'Pigeon White' (Brassica oleracea 'Pigeon White')

    raw Pigeon white cabbage in garden
    Thanawath Seangsuriyapone / Getty Images

    The creamy white centers of 'Pigeon White' look like the icing on a cupcake and have just as much taste appeal to some vegetable garden insect pests. Ornamental cabbage varieties like 'Pigeon White' can thrive in both spring and fall, but you may have better luck avoiding typical pests like cabbage worms, aphids, and cutworms with a late fall planting. 

    In addition to the red and white varieties, the 'Pigeon' series also offers pink and purple options.

    Native Area: Southern and western Europe

    USDA Growing Zones: 2–11 (grown as annuals)

    Height: 8–12 inches

    Sun Exposure: Full sun

  • 06 of 09

    'Rose Bouquet' (Brassica oleracea 'Rose Bouquet')

    Rose Bouquet Ornamental Cabbage
    Bonita de Boer/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

    The lush pink center and wavy foliage of 'Rose Bouquet' works well as a single specimen plant in containers or as a mass planting in the landscape. Plant your 'Rose Bouquet' cabbage plants in well-drained soil, amended with a generous amount of composted manure or other organic matter. This will help prevent some of the common diseases that afflict all ornamental cabbages, including damping off disease and botrytis. 

    Native Area: Southern and western Europe

    USDA Growing Zones: 2–11

    Height: 8–12 inches

    Sun Exposure: Full sun

  • 07 of 09

    'Tokyo Pink' (Brassica oleracea 'Tokyo Pink')

    Tokyo Pink Ornamental Cabbage

    ccharmon/Flickr/CC By 2.0

    Ornamental cabbages like 'Tokyo Pink' make the chore of replacing tattered annuals a joyful one. Add in some snapdragons, Swiss chard, and violets for a long-lasting garden display that might make it past the New Year.

    The 'Tokyo' series forms one of the most "cabbage-like" heads of the ornamental varieties of B. oleracea, with leaves that form a dense center.

    Native Area: Southern and western Europe

    USDA Growing Zones: 2–11

    Height: 8–12 inches

    Sun Exposure: Full sun

  • 08 of 09

    'Tokyo Red' (Brassica oleracea 'Tokyo Red)

    Tokyo Red Ornamental Cabbage

    Adeel Anwer/Flickr/CC By 2.0

    The 'Tokyo' ornamental cabbage series will please the gardener who values a formal look, as the plants are reliably symmetrical, featuring a compact and very round central head. 'Tokyo Red' has bluish-green foliage and a hot pink center that only takes about 40 days to develop a full coloration. 

    Native Area: Southern and western Europe

    USDA Growing Zones: 2–11

    Height: 8–12 inches

    Sun Exposure: Full sun

    Continue to 9 of 9 below.
  • 09 of 09

    'Tokyo White' (Brassica oleracea 'Tokyo White')

    Tokyo White Ornamental Cabbage

    jacinta lluch valero/Flickr/CC By 2.0

    The large lusty leaves of 'Tokyo White' will satisfy any floral craving you feel during winter's deprivation. Round green leaves transition to white with veining and a creamy blush center that looks stunning in a mass planting. Tuck a few 'Tokyo White' plants into a window box planting, and add some evergreen accent branches for a design worthy of a magazine cover. 

    Native Area: Southern and western Europe

    USDA Growing Zones: 2–11

    Height: 8–12 inches

    Sun Exposure: Full sun