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Brassica oleracea (Acephala Group)

Kale is part of the Brassica (Mustard) genus. Its scientific name is Brassica oleracea (Acephala Group). The botanical name epithet for Kale (oleracea) means 'eaten as a vegetable'.

A type of cabbage which does not form a central head. It is closer to wild cabbage than any other form of cabbage. Kale is extremely hardy, but dislikes warm weather. It is therefore grown mostly in Europe and North America. There are both culinary and ornamental varieties of kale, but this distinction is artificial as the culinary kinds can be quite pretty and the ornamental kinds can be quite tasty.

It can be grown in warm weather, but will bolt.

Attractive to “hummingbird” moths and other butterflies.

Kale is usually classified by its leaf shape. There are four basic shapes, but these are only rough guides, as many intermediate types can be found.

Rape kale: Rape kales produce shoots and leaves, both of which are edible. The shoots look a bit like asparagus, with broccoli-like flower buds. The leaves are generally smooth and not curly.

Curly-leaved kale: The leaves of curly-leaved kales have ruffled edges, causing the whole leaf to look crumpled, curly and frilly. Curly-leaved kales are the most common type.

Plain-leaved kales: The leaves of plain-leaved kales have smooth edges, and the entire leaf is flat. This type includes collards. Plain-leaved kales can be a bit coarse, and are more tender in spring than in fall. Because of their smooth leaves, it is easier to keep plain-leaved kales pest-free, especially compared to curly-leaved kales.

Leaf-and-spear kales: These are a cross between a curly-leaved kale and a plain one. It has curly leaves and produces side shoots that are somewhat like broccoli. As of January 2009, Pentland Brig is the only leaf-and-spear type kale available.

Blooms appear in these approximate colours:   Pastel yellow. The mature flowers are of a funnel form. Leaves appear approximately as a   Cal Poly green and   Ao green

Kale is a flowering edible vegetable / ornamental annual/perennial, it will last at least a year and up to several years in its native climate.

Kale is known for its erect habit and growing to a height of approximately 45.0 cm (1.46 feet). This plant tends to bloom in early summer.

Try planting Kale if you'd like to attract butterflies to your garden.

Popular varieties of Kale with home gardeners are Lacinato, Red Russian, Dwarf blue scotch curled, Georgia southern collard and Nero di toscana.

Kale is normally fairly low maintenance and is normally quite easy to grow, as long as a level of basic care is provided throughout the year. Being aware of the basic soil, sun and water preferences will result in a happier and healthier plant.

This plant info is provided by the myfolia gardener's wiki. All details about Kale have been kindly provided by our members.

How to grow Kale

  • Full Sun

  • Partial Sun

  • Low

Grow during cool seasons. Fall kale will eventually stop growing as the days shorten, but it will hold in the garden and stay quite green through the most severe winter weather. Kale can tolerate a wide variety of soils, and will grow just fine in soils affected by clubroot. Kale is very drought tolerant. In the spring, new growth appears on the “dead” Kale plant. In hot weather, it bolts into a tall, leafy plant that bears yellow flowers in the spring.

Enjoys a full sun / partial sun position in your garden and remember to apply water fairly sparingly. Kale needs a loamy soil with a ph of 6.0 to 7.5 (weakly acidic soil - weakly alkaline soil). Keep in mind when planting that Kale is thought of as very hardy, so this plant will tend to survive through freezing conditions.

See our list of companion Plants for Kale to see which plants you should plant in close proximity to encourage growth.

Growing Kale from seed

Try to aim for a seed spacing of at least 2.97 inches (7.62 cm) and sow at a depth of around 0.25 inches (0.64 cm). Soil temperature should be kept higher than 13°C / 55°F to ensure good germination.

By our calculations*, you should look at sowing Kale about 49 days before your last frost date .

Transplanting Kale

Ensure that temperatures are mild and all chance of frost has passed before planting out, as Kale is a very hardy plant.

By our calculations*, you should look at planting out Kale about 42 days before your last frost date.

Harvesting Kale

Cut individual leaves when plant is 8-10 inches high. You can harvest whole plant by cutting it down to 2" above soil, new leaves will appear in 1-2 weeks.

How long does Kale take to grow?

These estimates for how long Kale takes to sprout, grow and harvest are from real observations from real gardeners, right around the world.

Start logging and journaling your observations to participate!

Days to Germination How long does it take Kale to germinate?
6 days

Average 6 days | Min 1 days | Max 21 days (525)

Days to Transplant How long until I can plant out Kale?
+ 35 days

Average 35 days | Min 4 days | Max 88 days (143)

Days to Maturity How long until Kale is ready for harvest / bloom?
+ 123 days

Average 123 days | Min 18 days | Max 296 days (492)

Total Growing Days How long does it take to grow Kale?
= 164 days

When should I plant Kale?

Our when to plant Kale estimates are relative to your last frost date.

Enter your frost dates and we'll calculate your sowing and planting dates for you!

When to sow The number of days to sow Kale before or after your last frost date.
49 days before Last Frost Date
When to plant out The number of days to plant out Kale before or after your last frost date.
42 days before Last Frost Date

Kale Folklore & Trivia

The Kailyard school of Scottish writers, which included J. M. Barrie (creator of Peter Pan), consisted of authors who wrote about traditional rural Scottish life (kailyard = kale field).

Other names for Kale


Misspellings: Collard greens, Collards, Brassica oleracea var. acephala

Latest Kale Reviews

  • I have a large family to feed and am mainly concerned with yields. This kale performed well in all ways other than giving a high yield. Very compact, rather small. Could be a benefit in other gardens, but not in mine.

    2 stars

    Gertiebaby about growing Kale, Starbor
  • Will try again in the fall, aphids stunted their growth in the spring.

    3 stars

    AAshleySEG about growing Red Russian Kale
  • Will try again in the fall, aphids stunted their growth when they were young

    3 stars

    AAshleySEG about growing Blue Curled Scotch Kale

See all Kale reviews and experiences »


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