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Growing Chinese cabbage and bok choy in home gardens

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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Managing pests, diseases, and disorders

Many things can affect Chinese cabbage and bok choy. Changes in physical appearance and plant health can be caused by the environment, plant diseases, insects, and wildlife. In order to address what you’re seeing, it is important to make a correct diagnosis.

You can find additional help identifying common pest problems by using the online diagnostic tools or by sending a sample to the UMN Plant Disease Diagnostic Clinic. You can use Ask a Master Gardener to share pictures and get input.

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Authors: Marissa Schuh, IPM Extension educator, and Jill MacKenzie

Reviewed in 2022

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