Cabbage is a hardy vegetable that beginner vegetable gardeners often choose to plant. Cabbage is rich in antioxidants, contains numerous vitamins, and is a useful prebiotic. It has anti-inflammatory properties and is beneficial for heart health.
Cabbages (Brassica oleracea) have dense heads of green, white, purple, or red leaves. They are an annual vegetable related to cauliflower, broccoli, and Brussel sprouts. Most cabbages weigh one to two pounds, although some can grow very large and weigh excessive amounts. The heaviest cabbage was recorded in 2012 and weighed 138.25 pounds.
Cabbages need to be planted in full sunlight. Various cabbage cultivars can grow in different types of soils ranging from sandy soil to heavy clay. All cabbage cultivars grow well in rich fertile soil with adequate water supplies. Cabbages are heavy feeders and require soil with good nitrogen levels and other nutrients.
Periods of low or high temperature cause the cabbage to plant to ‘bolt .’This refers to the plant becoming leggy, flowering, and not developing a good head. Bolting can also be caused by too much water.
There are three types of cabbages; loose leaf, crinkle leaf, and smooth leaf which usually have tightly packed heads. Cabbages have a shallow root system and are sensitive to the influence of plants in the surrounding area. They are a favorite of many plant-eating insects which can destroy a crop.
1. Ornamental Cabbage
Ornamental cabbage (Brassica oleracea) are cabbage cultivars that are not used for eating. They are planted in gardens for their aesthetic appeal. Ornamental cabbage is also known as flowering cabbage or flowering kale. Although ornamental cabbage is not toxic, the leaves are bitter, making them unpleasant to eat.
Ornamental cabbage is available in various cultivars, which differ in color and texture. Ornamental cabbage can be varying shades of green, red, yellow, pink, and purple. Some ornamental cabbages are variegated, with the cabbages changing color from the outer to the inner leaves.
Gardeners value ornamental cabbage for the texture they add. These forms of cabbage look more like flowers as they are frilly, ruffled rosettes or tightly curled dense heads. Tall and short cultivars are available. Tall ornamental cabbage grows the cabbage head at the top of a tall stem. They are popular with florists for their unusual visual impact.
Ornamental cabbages are annuals that need frost or cold weather for the full color to develop in their leaves. They require moist, fertile, slightly acidic soil with a regular watering schedule to prevent it from drying. Areas with full sun or partial shade in hot climates are best suited to ornamental cabbage.
Lettuce (Lactuca sativa) are annuals that look similar to cabbage. They are also a leaf vegetable that is usually eaten raw in salads. Lettuces are an excellent source of vitamins A and K, iron, and folate. Originally lettuce occurred in regions from the Mediterranean to Siberia, but now it is grown throughout the world.
Related: 8 Plants That Look Like Lettuce
Lettuce is usually green or yellow-green, but some cultivars have deep purple-red leaves. Some varieties have variegated, yellow, gold, or blue leaves. Lettuces have a tap root with smaller secondary lateral roots.
There are four types of lettuce. Asparagus lettuce has a thick edible stem with narrow leaves. Head lettuce and curled lettuce look very much like cabbage. They have a rounded head or rosette. Romaine or cos lettuces have a tall, loose head of smooth leaves.
Lettuces must be harvested before they flower, as the leaves become bitter and smaller as the plant bolts. Lettuce does not cope well in dry conditions so mulching the soil is essential. They require moist soil constantly and do not tolerate excessive heat.
Lettuces can be protected from heat by planting them next to taller plants. They grow best in partial shade or under shade cloth. Lettuce belongs to the family Asteraceae or daisy family.
3. Cabbage Roses
Cabbage roses (Rosa centifolia) are also called Provence roses or Rose de Mai. These roses have multiple layers of tightly packed petals, resembling a cabbage head. The name Rosa centifolia means rose with a hundred petals. Cabbage roses have a strong fragrance, making them a popular choice with gardeners and florists.
Related: 9 Plants That Look Like Roses
Cabbage roses have grey-green foliage and as they are large roses, they usually need staking. Cabbage roses grow best in full sun and well-fertilized soil. They need regular feeding and can be pruned to control their height. Good drainage and air circulation are essential for healthy cabbage roses.
Cabbage roses are hardy plants ideal for beginner rose growers. They are disease-resistant and cold-tolerant. Cabbage roses are produced in various cultivars, which range in color. They may be white, pink, lavender, mauve, and even dark red, almost black. The flowers may also be variegated or striped.
Echeveria is a succulent that belongs to the family of Crassulaceae. These plants are found naturally in the semi-desert areas of Mexico, Central America, and the northwestern regions of South America. Echeveria plants have dense layers of succulent leaves arranged in a rosette, making them look like little cabbages.
Related: Are Succulents Poisonous?
Echeverias are easy plants to care for. They enjoy hot weather and are tolerant of dry periods. Like most succulents, echeverias have low water needs. Echeverias survive neglect and do not have high feed requirements. They grow best in full sunlight and well-drained soil.
Echeverias have a stalk with a rosette of waxy succulent leaves. The leaves can vary from grey-green to blue-green. Some echeverias have leaves with red or orange leaf edges, or the whole leaf may have a bronze or rusty tint. Others have light pink or purple leaves, with the central ones having a deeper color.
Echeverias produce small flowers on the end of tall stems. The flowers vary in color and can also be multi-colored. Some gardeners prefer to pinch off the flowers so that they do not reduce the plant’s vigor.
Echeverias are easily propagated by cuttings. They are usually evergreen, but do not tolerate frost well and may die from severe cold. Echeverias can be grown in pots or the garden. Echeveria Ruffles is the cultivar that many people feel looks most like cabbage. It is sometimes called the ornamental cabbage.
5. Common Houseleek
The common houseleek (Sempervivum tectorum) is native to the southern regions of Europe, although it is now found throughout the world due to its popularity with gardeners.
Sempervivum tectorum is called a house leek as it was planted on the roofs of many Roman homes to protect them from thunderstorms.
The name Sempervivum means ‘lives forever’ and refers to the plant’s ability to create new plants. It is sometimes called hen and chicks. The hen is the original rosette, and the chicks are the new rosettes formed from the mother plant.
Sempervivum tectorum forms a layered rosette reminiscent of cabbages. The two-to-four-inch leaves are green with red tips and edges or completely red or black. The leaves are fringed with hairs. The succulent forms bunches of star-shaped reddish-purple flowers in summer. After flowering, the plants die off.
Sempervivum tectorum is an easy plant to grow as it requires minimal care. It needs good drainage to moderate moisture to dry soil conditions. Sandy or gravelly soil and rock gardens are suitable for houseleeks. These plants do best in complete sunlight or partial shade in hot climates.
House leeks are salt tolerant and are popular in coastal gardens. They are also cold-tolerant and immune to most diseases and pests. Deer and rabbits do not eat houseleeks, making them a popular ground cover with gardeners that have wildlife visiting their gardens.