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Ornamental kale: an ideal plant for lasting autumnal drama

Ornamental kale comes in a variety of colors. Pictured is 'Frost Prince.'
Ornamental kale comes in a variety of colors. Pictured is 'Frost Prince.'
Photo by Colleen Smith for Friday Jones Publishing

Ornamental kale is an ideal plant for September, which typically brings beautiful, warm days and cooler nights. And ornamental kale typically will last into October and November, possibly beyond, depending on Jack Frost. You can easily and affordably refresh your late summer early-autumn garden with an investment in ornamental kale.

Ornamental kale adds instant, long-lasting drama
Ornamental kale adds instant drama to container gardens. The plants typically are large, so if your pot is small, you might need just one kale. Kale mixes beautifully with pansies in container gardens, flower beds or borders. An architectural plant prized for textural foliage, kale varieties range from ruffled, curly leaves or flatter leaves that form clustered heads. Colors range from gray-green with pale magenta or yellow-green with ivory.

Incredible, edible kale
This cabbage and collard cousin is actually a biennial, but grown as an annual in Colorado. Plant kale in full sun or light shade, and water regularly. Also known as ornamental kale or sold in markets as salad savory, the plant is edible. You can add leaves to salads, soups and stir-fries. Or steam or saute' leaves. Hot sun can make leaves bitter, while a light frost will sweeten kale.
Even if you don't want to dine on this plant, kale deserves a spot in your garden. A low-maintenance plant, unlike cabbage, kale typically does not suffer from pest infestation. Kale spruces up gardens in spring and autumn, preferring cooler temperatures at the perimeters of the growing season. Given proper growing conditions, kale can withstand a frost and last well into autumn, perhaps even winter depending on weather.

Also known as flowering kale, this plant doesn’t actually flower, though ornamental kale has plenty of other merits. For the best variety, watch for kale plants at your favorite garden store. You'll probably find kale for sale at big box stores, too. Swap out your tired annuals with fresh kale, then enjoy the magnificent, fresh beauty of ornamental kale as the seasons change.

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