By Jennifer Poindexter
Chinese broccoli (also known as Chinese kale) is a delicious crop that most people enjoy for the fresh greens instead of the floret, like traditional broccoli.
This plant produces green foliage with a hint of blue and small broccoli florets in the center. It has a thicker stalk as well, and the entire plant is edible.
If you’re interested in adding a different crop to your garden, stick around as I walk you through what you should know to begin growing this plant.
Here are our tips on how to grow Chinese broccoli:
What You’ll Learn
- Understanding what Chinese broccoli is and why it’s a valuable addition to your garden.
- Recognizing the ideal growing conditions for Chinese broccoli, including sunlight and soil requirements.
- Learning the step-by-step process of planting Chinese broccoli, from seed sowing to transplanting.
- Knowing the difference between starting your seeds indoors versus directly sowing them outdoors.
- Gaining insights into how to properly care for Chinese broccoli, including watering techniques and the importance of mulching.
- Identifying common diseases and pests that affect Chinese broccoli and how to protect your plants from these threats.
- Mastering the harvesting process, including when and how to harvest your Chinese broccoli for optimum freshness.
- Understanding how to properly store your Chinese broccoli harvest and how long it can be kept.
- Learning how to collect and store seeds from your Chinese broccoli plants for future planting.
Growing Conditions for Chinese Broccoli
Chinese broccoli is a true perennial in planting zones nine and ten. However, it can be grown in planting zones two through ten.
In zones eight and below, this plant should be treated as an annual. It’s known for being a heat-tolerant plant that can even handle light frost.
If you feel this is a good fit for your gardening set-up, ensure you find an adequate growing location to increase your chances of having a positive growing experience with Chinese broccoli.
This plant needs a growing area that receives full to partial sunlight. It also needs soil that drains adequately and is nutrient dense.
Should you be able to provide these conditions, you should have what you need to start Chinese broccoli on the right foot.
How to Plant Chinese Broccoli
Chinese broccoli can be directly sown into its growing location, or you may start your seeds indoors. If you’d like to get a jump on the growing season, let’s start with how you can start the plants inside your home.
Begin by filling a growing tray with well-draining soil. From there, poke a slight hole in the soil and plant two seeds per cell in the tray.
Cover the seeds lightly and apply an even layer of moisture to the soil. You may mist it with a spray bottle to avoid oversaturation, or you can water the seeds from beneath.
This is accomplished by pouring water into a tray, then placing the tray with the seeds inside the tray with the water.
Check the soil and ensure it’s damp. Once it is, pour off the excess water. Repeat the process as the soil begins to dry.
The seeds should sprout in approximately fifteen days. If both seeds sprout in a single cell, pick the sturdier plant.
The other seedling should be cut off at soil level. Then provide adequate water, lighting, and care to your seedlings until they’re 3-inches tall and have two sets of true leaves.
At this point, they can be hardened off and moved to their permanent growing location. The only drawback to starting your seeds indoors is this does make it easier for the plants to bolt due to the stress of transplanting.
This bit of information makes Chinese broccoli a great option for direct sowing. You may do so as soon as the soil allows. If your ground doesn’t freeze over the winter, you may sow Chinese broccoli throughout this time as well.
When ready, till the soil to where it’s ready to receive seed. From here, sprinkle the seeds to where they’re 2-inches apart. Plant at a depth of ¼ inch and cover the seeds lightly with soil.
Each row should have 2 feet between them. Keep the soil evenly damp and watch for your seeds to sprout in approximately fifteen days.
Once the seeds sprout, thin them to where there’s a half-foot between each plant. You may succession plant Chinese broccoli every three weeks to prolong your harvest and avoid having too much at one time.
These are a few ways you can grow Chinese broccoli in your garden. Pick the method that makes the most sense for your planting zone and begin your growing journey with this crop.
Caring for Chinese Broccoli
Chinese broccoli is fast-growing and extremely low-maintenance. The only thing you must do to keep this crop healthy is to water it deeply and apply mulch.
When watering your Chinese broccoli plants, apply water for a longer period of time, fewer days of the week.
As the plant digs to gain access to more water, it develops a deeper root system which typically correlates with stronger, healthier plants.
Don’t apply more water without testing the soil first. Insert your finger into the dirt surrounding the plant. When it’s dry to your first knuckle, water the plant deeply again.
If not, hold off on applying more water until you test the soil again in a day or two.
The next thing you should do is mulch your plants. This helps with keeping weeds down and also helps retain moisture around the plants.
By providing these two things to your Chinese broccoli, you should encourage healthy growth for your crops.
Garden Pests and Diseases Which Impact Chinese Broccoli
There’s no true cure for bacterial leaf spot, but you may apply a copper spray to help reduce the signs of this disease. You can also remove any damaged parts of the plant.
Be sure to destroy anything you remove. Composting it could only further spread the issue to other plants around your home and garden.
Rot can be avoided by planting in adequate growing conditions. If your plants are grown in well-draining soil, it shouldn’t be left in an oversaturated situation.
Also, ensure you plant where your Chinese broccoli receives enough light. This should keep the soil warm which also helps deter fungal issues.
If rot appears, remove damaged portions of the plant. You should also avoid watering your plants from overhead or at least water earlier in the day to give the plant time to dry before the cooler night temperatures move in.
Downy mildew is another fungal issue that can be deterred by planting in well-draining soil, enough sunlight, and ensuring there’s enough airflow around your plant.
You may also treat the issue by using a fungicide and removing any damaged parts of the plant. Again, don’t compost these parts. They should be destroyed instead.
Finally, damping off is a disease which impacts seedlings. It occurs when they’re grown in inadequate growing conditions. This typically means they’re left oversaturated and cold.
Provide your seedlings enough drainage, light, and heat. You can also sprinkle the top of the soil with cinnamon as it has antifungal properties which might help keep this disease at bay.
If damping off occurs, your seedlings won’t recover. It’s best to destroy them and start over.
The most common pests to damage Chinese broccoli are cutworms, aphids, cabbage loopers, slugs, and snails. They can all be treated with an insecticide.
These are the things you should remain alert to when growing Chinese broccoli. Catch these issues early, and you might be able to salvage your harvest.
How to Harvest Chinese Broccoli
Now that we’ve discussed adequate growing conditions, planting methods, tips for caring for Chinese broccoli, and even the things which threaten this plant, let’s discuss how to harvest this crop.
Chinese broccoli is usually ready to harvest in two months. You may eat the entire plant, but it’s best to only harvest a half-foot of the stem.
This leaves enough in the ground for side shoots to form for an additional harvest. Cut the part of the plant away that you desire and store it fresh in your refrigerator for up to five days.
Place your harvest in a plastic bag or bowl that’s left unsealed for better airflow. You may also blanch and freeze your harvest for longer storage.
If you’d like to harvest Chinese broccoli seeds from your plants, let the plants go to seed. They’ll form pods.
Allow the pods to dry before you harvest them. Once dry, use a sharp knife to cut the stalk. Hang it upside down in a location that’s cool, dark, and dry for approximately forty-eight hours.
When complete, open the pods and remove the seeds. Store them in an airtight container in a location that’s cool, dark, and dry.
These are multiple ways you can enjoy and use your Chinese broccoli plants. Pick how you’d like to use your plants and put them to work for your enjoyment or future gardens.
You now have the basics of growing Chinese broccoli. Hopefully, these tips will guide you along this new gardening journey.
Trying new things in the garden is always an exciting time. You never know when an experimental plant could become a favorite that makes its way into the garden year after year.
- Chinese broccoli, a heat-tolerant and perennial plant, is an ideal crop for those residing in planting zones two through ten. Its needs include a sunny growing area with well-draining, nutrient-dense soil.
- The plant can be sown directly into its growing location or started indoors, the latter offering a head start to the growing season but a higher risk of bolting due to transplanting stress.
- Adequate care involves deep watering, allowing the soil to dry before the next watering, and mulching to retain moisture and prevent weed growth.
- Chinese broccoli is susceptible to various diseases like leaf spot, rot, downy mildew, and damping off, and pests such as cutworms, aphids, cabbage loopers, slugs, and snails. Early detection and intervention can help salvage the crop.
- Harvesting involves cutting off a portion of the stem, leaving enough for side shoots to form for an additional harvest. The harvested crop can be stored fresh for up to five days or blanched and frozen for longer storage.
- Chinese broccoli seeds can be harvested by letting the plants go to seed, drying the pods, and storing the seeds in a cool, dark, and dry location.
Chinese Broccoli Quick Reference Growing Chart
|Category||Chinese Broccoli Info|
|Other Names||Kai Lan, Gai Lan, Chinese Kale|
|Description||Resembles regular broccoli with broader leaves and longer stems. Flowers form into diminutive heads then elongate into stalks bearing yellow flowers|
|Growing Conditions||Cool season vegetable. Grows like regular broccoli. Cabbage loopers can be a problem. Spacing should be 6-inches apart in rows 12- to 24-inches wide|
|Harvesting & Use||Harvest the flower stalk prior to flowers opening. A few open buds will not impact quality. Leave 4- to 6-inches of flower stem attached. Usually stems are split before stir-frying or using in other cooked recipes.|