Plant of the Month – October, 2011

The rosettes of white Brassica oleracea ‘Peacock’ are shown here in a bed at the Dallas Arboretum. All photos by Jimmy Turner.

Kale ‘Peacock’ series

Latin name:
Brassica oleracea ‘Peacock’
Common name: Flowering or ornamental kale
Foliage: Large rosettes of green and purple or white
Flowers: Not attractive
Mature size: 2 ft. across and tall
Hardiness:  Winter annual
Soil: Not choosy
Exposure: Full sun to light shade
Water usage: Medium
Sources: Local nurseries

I really like ornamental kales. There really isn’t any other winter annual that can give us the foliage texture or leaf color they can. There are many varieties to choose from, but one of my personal favorites is the ‘Peacock’ series. The large feathered leaves turn either a rosy pink or bright white after first frost. Most kale varieties make tight, rounded rosettes, but ‘Peacock’ has larger leaves that will spread to 2 feet across and tall when grown well.

Like all ornamental kales, this variety does best in full sun, but will tolerate a little light shade. If the plants you purchase are rootbound, break the root ball up a little before planting; it helps the plants get off to a good start. One of the secrets to growing kales well, though, is fertilizing. They are exceptionally heavy feeders and will grow much faster and larger if given regular feedings. I recommend incorporating some slow-release fertilizer into the soil when planting and hitting them with a dose of liquid fertilizer once a month. I find that this variety is slightly more winter hardy than others, but if you are expecting an ice storm, I recommend covering the plants with plastic or a blanket. Usually, it isn’t the cold that causes problems, but the ice sitting on the plants.

‘Peacock’ kale looks incredible massed into plantings and or used as an accent in containers. I like mixing the white and the red varieties together for extra interest. Just remember that this kale can get quite large and may smother other nearby plants.

Another reason I like this particular variety is that it’s tasty, too. Because it is ornamental doesn’t mean it isn’t edible! ‘Peacock’ can shine in your flowerbed or vegetable garden and on your plate!

About the author: Jimmy Turner is the senior director of gardens at the Dallas Arboretum. Visit for more information on his trials.

Posted by Neil Sperry
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