It's easy to overlook ornamental cabbages at the garden center during the fall when mums are blazing, or during the spring when pansies are popping. Young ornamental cabbages don't look all that different from the vegetable types we're always told to eat more of for our health. They're 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 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.
01 of 09
"Color-Up Pink" ornamental cabbages feature 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 depends on two factors: temperatures below 50 degrees F, 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.
02 of 09
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 F. Purple and fuchsia leaves really pop against a background of snow.
03 of 09
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.
04 of 09
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.Continue to 5 of 9 below.
05 of 09
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.
06 of 09
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.
07 of 09
08 of 09
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.Continue to 9 of 9 below.
09 of 09
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.