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Growing Chinese cabbage and bok choy in home gardens

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Quick facts

  • Chinese cabbage and bok choy are fall crops in Minnesota.
  • Grow in well-drained yet moisture-retentive, fertile soil with pH of 6.0 to 7.5.
  • Plant in an area where you have not grown cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, turnips, rutabaga or Brussels sprouts in the last four years.
  • Plant seed directly in the garden in July.
  • Chinese cabbage and bok choy need to absorb water and nutrients steadily during their growth.

Chinese cabbage (Brassica rapa pekinensis), also called Napa cabbage, produces a tall, dense, barrel-shaped head of pale, thin, tender leaves. The leaves grow straight upwards and are more tender than round cabbage. 

Green Chinese cabbage growing in garden
Chinese cabbage

Bok choy, also called pak choi (Brassica rapa chinensis), grows an upright clump of dark green leaves, each with a very thick white or light green stalk.

Chinese cabbage and bok choy are now common in many Minnesota kitchens after growing in Asia for more than a thousand years. You can use them in stir-fries and soup, ferment them to make kimchi and mix them into fillings for egg rolls and dumplings. Although they are similar to common round cabbage, there are some important differences.

The only Chinese cabbage variety that grows well in Minnesota gardens is ‘Blues.’ The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum has also grown the ‘Rubicon’ successfully. There have been no trials for bok choy.

Soil pH and fertility

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Planting

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How to keep your Chinese cabbage and bok choy healthy and productive

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Jill MacKenzie

Reviewed in 2018

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