Growing and Planting Red Cabbage

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red cabbage

Red Cabbage is very similar to regular green cabbage, however, there are some distinct differences that you may need to know about.

Moreover, red cabbage has 10 times more vitamin A than green cabbage and contains twice the amount of iron.

It stores better than green cabbage and also is a low-maintenance plant when you grow it in your garden.

Growing red cabbage is not difficult, as it prefers cooler temperatures and partial shade.

However, this hardy leafy vegetable is susceptible to pests, therefore, make sure to always keep an eye on it.

If you plant them correctly, you can get two crops in one year, one in spring, and another one in fall.

Keep on reading to learn more about red cabbage in detail.

Red Cabbage

Red cabbage or purple cabbage belongs to the Brassicaceae family and is more peppery in taste in comparison to usual cabbage.

It is due to the presence of anthocyanin pigments.

The color of red cabbage is due to the presence of anthocyanins and you can use it to make beautiful stews, salads, and pickles.

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Moreover, it is a great way to add cancer-preventing carotenoids to your diet.

The leaves of the plant are lightly arranged to form a headed cabbage, having a flat-topped, cylindrical, spherical, or oval shape.

They have even leaves, with a rounded shape and average size, and this plant also bears a compact head of red leaves.

It is important to note that the red cabbage bears flower spikes easily in cold conditions, which is why experts recommend using tunnels.

Quick Facts about Red Cabbage

Name – Red Cabbage

Scientific Name – Brassica oleracea

Origin  – Origins are strictly European

Shapes – Standard round to flattened or pointed

Taste – Faintly peppery taste

Plant Growth Habit – Biennial plant but grown as an annual vegetable crop

Growing Climate – Easy to grow in cool weather

Soil – Well-drained and nutrient-rich soil that’s high in organic matter

Light – Partial sunlight (summer), and full sunlight (winter)

Seasonal Information – all seasons

Head size – 3 pounds

Matures – 75 days

Plant spacing – 24 inches apart

Plant size – About 18 inches tall and 24 inches wide

Learn more about Cruciferous Vegetables: Why Are They Important here.

Types of Red Cabbage Varieties

Some popular red cabbage varieties you can have are:

  • Red Ball is a variety with compact and probably the most flavorful of all varieties of red cabbage.
  • Mammoth Red Rock is large and stores nutrients well.
  • Scarlet O’Hara is a Japanese hybrid plant.
  • Ruby Perfection red cabbage is popular for its beauty.
  • Lasso and Red Acre are two open-pollinated red cabbages.

Planting Red Cabbage

Choosing a panting site for red cabbage is important.

You should make sure that the space receives full sun, about 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight per day in order to get the best results.

Moreover, cabbage is a heavy feeder, and will quickly deplete the soil of nutrients and needs a steady supply of water and nutrients throughout the growth.

Therefore, you should prepare the soil in advance by mixing aged manure and/or compost.

Also, the soil should be well-draining, as the roots that stand in water may cause heads to split or rot.

When to Plant Cabbage

In case of a summer harvest, start seeds indoors, sowing about 6 to 8 weeks before the last spring frost.

However, you can also count the planting calendar for your region for suggested dates.


In case of the fall harvest, you can directly sow the seeds outdoors or plant transplants in mid to late summer.

If your area is particularly hot and dry, make sure to hold off on planting until late summer.

Moreover, make sure that the young plants do not dry out in the summer heat.

Planting Cabbage

To plant cabbage, sow seeds about 1/4 inch deep. Before planting the seedlings outdoors, however, harden off the plants over the course of a week.

Transplant seedlings outdoors on a cloudy after about 2 to 3 weeks before the last spring frost date.

Lastly plant the seedlings about 12 to 24 inches apart in rows, depending on the size of the head you want it to grow.

While closer spacing will yield smaller heads.

Growing Red Cabbage

When seeds of red cabbage are about 5 inches tall, thin to leave the desired space between them.

However, if you want, you can transplant the thinned seedlings elsewhere.

Moreover, make sure to mulch thickly around the area as it will help to retain moisture and regulate soil temperature.

Water the space at least 2 inches per square foot per week.

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The optimum soil temperature for the growth of red cabbage is 60 to 65°F, while young plants that have exposure to temperatures below 45°F for a period of time can bolt or form loose heads.

Therefore, make sure to cover plants in case you are expecting cold weather.

Furthermore, fertilize 2 weeks after transplanting the cabbage with a balanced or 10-10-10 fertilizer.

Three weeks later, you will need to add a nitrogen-rich fertilizer, as cabbage needs nitrogen in the early stages of growth.

Make sure to practice crop rotation with cabbages to avoid the buildup of soil-borne diseases.

Soil and Water Requirments

When growing red cabbage, it is important to make sure you provide well-draining, nutrient-rich soil that is high in organic matter.

You can grow red cabbage in different kinds of soil ranging from sandy loam to clay soil.

However, make sure to maintain the soil pH at about 6.5 to 7 to get a good yield.

Moreover, soil that is rich in organic matter with good drainage is all that your plant will need to thrive.

Furthermore, you should make sure to keep the soil constantly moist throughout the growing season.

Often, established plants will need 1 to 1.5 inches of water a week that you can either supply through rainfall or irrigation.

Add mulch to maintain consistent soil moisture.

Harvesting Red Cabbage

When harvesting red cabbage, you can do so when they reach the desired head size and are firm.

Mature heads will leave the stem and split, and the days to maturity are 70 days for ore green cabbage varieties and most will produce about 1 to 3-pound heads.

In order to harvest cut each cabbage head at its base with a sharp knife.

Then remove any yellow leaves, or retain loose green leaves, as they provide protection in storage.


And then immediately bring the head indoors or place it in a shade.

While you can alsp pull up the plant, its roots, and all, and hang it in a moist cellar that reaches near-freezing temperatures.

To get two crops, cut the cabbage head out of the plant, leaving the outer leaves and roots in the garden.

The plant will then send up new heads while pinching off only those four or so smaller heads that remain.

Harvest when tennis ball-size are left for salads.

After harvesting, remove the entire stem and root system from the soil. This will help prevent the disease.

Only compost healthy plants destroy any with maggot infestation.

Storage The Plant

You can store cabbage in the refrigerator for up to two weeks, by wrapping it tightly in a plastic bag.

While making sure that the cabbage is dry before storing it.

In proper root cellar conditions, cabbage will keep up for at least 3 months, and you can also follow the old-time technique for cabbage crop:

  • In the fall, harvest the whole cabbage plant, including its stems, heads, and roots, enjoy the head as usual, and store the roots in a root cellar through winter.
  • As soon as the ground thaws in spring, plant the root outdoors.
  • Soon, fresh sprouts will form, and you can either eat them alone or add them to soups, salads, dishes, etc.
  • These replanted cabbages will not produce full heads, however, they will go to seed by the end of summer, which will provide cabbage seeds for the next year.

It is important to note that you can also perform the above process indoors on a windowsill in mid to late winter while keeping the roots damp and sprouts will form.

Pests and Diseases

Some common pests and diseases in cabbage are:

Pest/Disease Type Symptoms Control/Prevention
Aphids Insect Misshapen/yellow leaves; sticky “honeydew” (excrement); sooty, black mold Grow companion plants; knock off with water spray; apply insecticidal soap; put a banana or orange peels around plants; wipe leaves with a 1 to 2 percent solution of dish soap (no additives) and water every 2 to 3 days for 2 weeks; add native plants to invite beneficial insects
Black rot Fungus Yellow, V-shape areas on the leaf edge that brown and progress toward the leaf center; leaves eventually collapse; stem cross sections reveal blackened veins Destroy infected plants; choose resistant varieties; provide good drainage; remove plant debris; rotate crops
Cabbage loopers Insect Large, ragged holes in leaves from larval feeding; defoliation; stunted or boring heads; excrement Handpick; add native plants to invite beneficial insects; spray larvae with insecticidal soap or Bt; use row covers; remove plant debris
Cabbage root maggots Insect Wilted/stunted plants; off-color leaves; larvae feeding on roots Use collars around seedling stems; monitor adults with yellow sticky traps; use row covers; destroy crop residue; till the soil in fall; rotate crops
Cabbageworms Insect Leaves have large, ragged holes or are skeletonized; heads bored; dark green excrement; yellowish eggs laid singly on leaf undersides Handpick; use row covers; add native plants to invite beneficial insects; grow companion plants (especially thyme); spray Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt)
Clubroot Fungus Wilted/stunted plants; yellow leaves; roots appear swollen/distorted Destroy infected plants; solarize soil; maintain soil pH of around 7.2; disinfect tools; rotate crops
Downy mildew Fungus Yellow, angular spots on upper leaf surfaces that turn brown; white/purple/gray cottony growth on leaf undersides only; distorted leaves; defoliation Remove plant debris; choose resistant varieties; ensure good air circulation; avoid overhead watering
Flea beetles Insect Numerous tiny holes in leaves Use row covers; mulch heavily; add native plants to invite beneficial insects
Slugs/snails Mollusk Irregular holes in leaves; slimy secretion on plants/soil; seedlings “disappear” Handpick; avoid thick bark mulch; use copper plant collars; avoid overhead watering; lay boards on soil in the evening, and in the morning dispose of “hiding” pests in hot, soapy water; drown in a deep container filled with 1/2 inch of beer, or sugar water and yeast, and sunk so that top edge is slightly above ground; apply a 1-inch-wide strip of food-grade diatomaceous earth as a barrier
Stinkbugs Insect Yellow/white blotches on leaves; eggs, often keg-shape, in clusters on leaf undersides Destroy crop residue; handpick (bugs emit odor, wear gloves); destroy eggs; spray nymphs with insecticidal soap; use row covers; weed; till the soil in fall
Thrips Insect Leaves, especially in folds near the base, have white patches or silver streaks; brown leaf tips; blistering/bronzing on cabbage leaves; curling or scarring Remove plant debris; choose resistant varieties; add native plants to invite beneficial insects; use row covers; use straw mulch; monitor adults with yellow or white sticky traps; use sprinklers or other overhead watering
White mold Fungus Pale gray, “water-soaked” areas on stems, leaves, and other plant parts that enlarge and develop white, cottony growth, later with black particles; bleached areas; crowns rot; plants wilt/collapse Destroy infected plants; ensure good air circulation; water in the morning; weed; destroy crop residue; rotating crops on a 5-year or longer cycle may help


Both red and green cabbage are good for your health, however, red cabbage contains more powerful nutrients and antioxidants. For instance, it contains about 85% of the daily vitamin C your body needs while the green ones provide 47%.

It is important to note that improper watering, can damage the cabbage and will cause it to wilt. Thus, make sure to water the plants according to recommendations by experts. Another important thing to note is that excess nitrogen can cause the plant to form more leaves that are loosely held and do nka ahead. While early damage by cutworms can prevent the plant from heading.

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