Looking for something different to grow from October through December? Once mums season passes, a lot of people put up their cut Christmas greens and call it a season, but there’s actually plenty of outdoor gardening still to be done! Ornamental cabbage and kale are decorative takes on the classic edibles, with unique foliage that looks great alongside Christmas decor. In this blog looking at some varieties as well as the origin of these plants.


According to research done by the University of Arkansas, Kale, called cole in ancient Rome, has been grown for 4,000 years. Like all other members of the cabbage family, it originated in the mediterranean and spread to all corners of the world over the course of several millennia.

Ornamental cabbage is actually just another variation of kale. Technically, they’re the same thing, but gardeners differentiate the two by cabbage’s rounded leaves compared to the more jagged kales. In the 4th century, it made its way to China where it became a staple of their diet. When the plant made its way to Japan, the people there were drawn to the ornamental varieties. By the 17th century, they became a centerpiece of Japanese gardens.

In 1929, the U.S. Department of Agriculture sent Howard Dorsett to China and Japan to search for new plants. One of his favorite finds was the ornamental kale found in Japan. From there, its popularity spread and by 1936 it was available to mass markets.

Although ornamental cabbage and kale are edible, that’s not their primary use. Still, you can add them to your salads if you like. More commonly, they’re used as decorations on the plate.


Ornamental Cabbage and Kale

‘Chidori’ Kale has frilly leaves that create a bowl shape, with rings of leaves getting more compact as the approach the center. It has purple foliage at approaches magenta towards the center. Most commonly used as a garnish!



Ornamental Cabbage and Kale

Nagoya’ Kale gives you the same incredible display of color regardless of temperature. While other variants of ornamental kale like temperatures to drop, as they put on. A more vivid display of color, Nagoya puts on a show even in mild temperatures. Its patterns are a bit less organized than other varieties as well, there’s a lot of individuality to each plant.


Ornamental Cabbage and Kale

‘Peacock’ Kale has the most unique appearance of the ornamental cabbage and kale we’ve talked about thus far. While you can eat it, it’s not particularly good, but peacock kale makes up for that with its foliage that looks a lot like a peacock’s feathers! The foliage is usually magenta, pink, purple, or red.



Ornamental Cabbage and Kale

‘Color Up’ Cabbage

Color Up’ Cabbage is perfect for creating a colorful border or edging from October through November. These mound shaped plants come in a variety of colors, purple, red, and white. They’re easy to grow too!




Ornamental Cabbage and Kale

‘Osaka’ Pink

Osaka’ Cabbage produces colorful and ways leaves the build up to compact heads. They’re great to grow in pots, and unlike the Nagoya kale they’re fairly uniformed.




Ornamental Cabbage and Kale

‘Pigeon’ White


‘Pigeon’ Cabbage is a beautiful, symmetrical plant that has a compact head with wavy leaves. The center turns red when temperatures hit about 60 degrees, making it ideal for planting in late September.




Ornamental Cabbage and Kale

‘Tokyo’ Red

‘Tokyo’ Cabbage almost tastes and feels like lettuce. It’s extremely lightweight, and unlike some of these other ornamental varieties does taste delicious! In the cold is round leaves turn red close to the center of the plant.





Ornamental cabbage and kale are the perfect follow up to mums. Their vibrant colors complement Christmas greenery, and with so many varieties with different uses there’s sure to be one that will take your winter landscape to the next level this year!

Leave a Comment