Heat Up Your Garden With Colorful Kale

Ornamental kale makes cool-season gardens more colorful.
Red Cabbage

Red Cabbage

There was a time when master gardener Paul James wasn't all that keen on ornamental kale.

"To me, it just looked like cabbage, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it's not necessarily the look I wanted in my ornamental beds," he says.

But all that has changed, because ornamental kale is now available in a whole range of new colors, shapes and textures. These cool-season cuties can dress up a garden in ways that no other plant can.

Of course, you can still get the old standbys like these green and purple varieties, but there's so much more to choose from.

'Snow Prince', for example, features long, deeply cut leaves and a center that turns purple. 'Purple Peacock' has unusual foliage and features interesting, contrasting colors. 'Red Bull' has wrinkled magenta leaves that get even more magenta as temperatures drop. 'Tuscan Black' is a rather strange but appealing beauty featuring really unusual textures.

All kales require cool weather for optimum growth, which is why they're ordinarily sold in late summer to late fall. They also like moist, rich soil, and at least a few hours of sunlight a day. Beyond that, they're pretty easy to grow whether in the ground or in containers, and they can handle temperatures down in the 20s. If that weren't enough, kales combine well with other fall favorites including mums and pansies.

"So you see," says James, "ornamental kales aren't what they used to be. These days they're different, bold, and exciting or - said another way - kales are cool."

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