Ornamental kale is one of the best plants for adding long-lasting and easy-care color to the fall garden. These sturdy plants keep their good looks long after frost has finished off many autumn flowers. The bright colors and interesting textures of their foliage are as ornamental as any blossom -- and much more durable.
New for 2012 is the compact Song Bird™ series, bred by American Takii, Inc. Once temperatures begin to fall into the 55-60 degree F range, Songbird™ kale begins to color, forming ruffled rosettes of leaves in shades of pink, rose, and white that look like large, exotic flowers held in a ruff of green. Plants grow 8-12 inches tall and 12-14 inches wide and do best in full sun. Hybrid Song Bird has a uniform, upright growth habit that allows rainwater to drain out of the rosette, keeping plants looking good no matter the weather.
Ornamental kale looks great when mixed with other seasonal plants like mums and pansies or added to beds of ornamental grasses, asters, and other fall-blooming perennials. Plants set out in later summer and fall are usually less troubled by cabbage family pests such as cabbage loopers, but if these pests do arrive, they can be controlled with the safe natural pesticide Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt). You can grow your own plants from seed or purchase started plants at your local garden store. Sow seeds in midsummer, about 10 weeks before your fall frost date, in order to have good sized plants when autumn arrives.
To find out more about Song Bird™ ornamental kale, go to: National Garden Bureau.