Flowering cabbage and flowering kale are grown for their very ornamental, highly colored leaf rosettes, which look like giant, deep blue-green peonies marbled and edged with white, cream, rose, or purple. Kale differs from cabbage in that its head is slightly looser and its leaf edges are more heavily fringed. Both are spectacular in the cool-season garden. They appreciate the same soil, care, and timing as conventional cabbage. Plant 1518 in. apart in open-ground beds, singly in 8-in. pots, or several to a large container. Colors are strongest after first frosts touch plants. A single rosette cut and placed on a spike holder in a bowl makes a striking harvest arrangement. Foliage is edible raw or cooked and is highly decorative as a salad garnish.
If winter does not dip below 15-20 F, or plants are protected by snow, these low rosettes will survive to bloom in spring. They will bolt, growing 2-4 ft. tall with a flurry of pale yellow flowers. Properly sited, they are lovely. If a tidy, low-growing border is desired, it is time to pull them out when they begin to bloom.
Reliable selections of kale include 'Peacock Red', 'Peacock White', 'Chidori Red', 'Chidori White', and the taller 'Red Bor', 'Winter Bor', 'Lacinato', and 'Red Russian'.
For the edible flowering cabbage typically used in Chinese cooking, see Asian Greens.