Winter Color with Kale

FN1.8 christmas kale
Kale with Christmas boughs as garden mulch in a hypertufa container

To prepare landscape beds with color for winter, kale is our go-to crop. We know we can count on its showy foliage to intensify in color as the nights grow cool—that’s the extraordinary feature of kale. As long as we experience normal wintertime temperatures, these plants will last all the way through to January, still looking as brilliant as ever.

FN1.10 kale planter
Mixed kales in a shallow planter with lamium surrounding the base and dried grass to the right

From deep burgundy to vibrant fuchsia, kale offers a spectrum of red shades to complement autumn décor and transition to other holiday motifs:

  • ‘Scarlet Bor’ has tight, curly leaves that eventually turn deep burgundy-purple.
  • ‘Nagoya Red’ is a large circular variety with a rosy red center that grows larger as the season cools.
  • ‘Peacock Red’, like its namesake, has an overall feathery appearance, with very frilly leaves around a bright red center.
  • ‘Chidori Red’ is a classic ornamental variety, with a vibrant purple-red rosette center surrounded by extra frilly dark green leaves.
  • ‘Glamour Red’ has a bold cherry red center surrounded by crisp, open greens.
  • ‘Nagoya Rose’ is striking, with a fuchsia rosette center surrounded by dark green foliage.

FN1.5 kale median
Mixed kales in raised planters alongside a commercial building

In addition to these bold reds, white varieties—like ‘Nagoya White’—provide dramatic contrast and a touch of clean winter elegance.

FN1.3 kale patterns
Mixed kales arranged in solid patterns used as a lawn replacement

Large rosettes of ornamental kale create dramatic interest around the base of a tree; in the same way, they add an eye-catching festive touch when displayed at the foot of a roadside sign. Kale holds up well in combinations, too—we use it when we need to fill large stone planters on the public side of a property. In the landscape we like to mix varieties and often create a checkerboard pattern, alternating red and white selections.

FN1.7 mums kale ivy
A casual arrangement of mums, kale and ivy next to a stone fence post at the foot of a driveway

Kale is valuable in late autumn because it livens up seasonal décor at a time when most other crops are fading. Surviving well into the cold months, it is unfazed by frost or even light snow—providing more bang for the buck and opening up an extra revenue stream during what is typically a slow time. Offering an extra season of color to clients is like suggesting fries to go with a burger: it makes good business sense.

  • Available in the 4.5-inch pot: ‘Nagoya Red’, ‘Nagoya Rose’, ‘Nagoya White’, ‘Peacock Red’, and ‘Scarlet Bor’
  • Available in the 8-inch pot: ‘Nagoya Red’, ‘Nagoya White’, ‘Peacock Red’, ‘Scarlet Bor’, ‘Chidori Red’, ‘Glamour Red’

 FN1.9 kale circle
A crop circle made of mixed kales and cabbages