Cabbage Varieties: 21 Different Types of Cabbage Cultivars
If you are planning on adding some cabbage to your garden this season, picking the right variety can be a challenge. There are many different types of cabbage you can choose from, so how do you pick? In this article, gardening expert Logan Hailey examines her favorite types of cabbage to grow in your garden this season!
Cabbage is a staple vegetable in cuisines across the world. This Brassica-family crop is remarkably easy to grow and well adapted to cold climates. From fermented sauerkraut and kimchis to freshly shaved coleslaw and salad, to winter soups and sautees, cabbage is surprisingly versatile in the kitchen as well as the garden. But not all varieties are created equal.
Certain cultivars are specifically bred for sweet, tender leaves that taste best in fresh recipes. Others have mild, peppery flavor or a dense, low-moisture content ideal for fermenting.
Still, others offer unique colors and seasonal advantages. Bright fuschia or lime green heads add color and diversity to spring or fall gardens, while hardy storage cabbages can last for months through the winter. Cabbage is also quite easy to grow, and they also make great companion plants for other garden vegetables.
So how do you choose from the abundance of options in the seed catalog? Which variety is most suited to your garden soils, climate, and taste buds? Let’s dig into our favorite cabbage cultivars and how to pick the ideal seed varieties for your garden!
Cabbage may seem like a mediocre crop to grow in your garden. After all, you can buy it pretty much anywhere and it tends to be dirt cheap. But homegrown cabbage offers an entirely different culinary experience than its supermarket counterparts.
Not only is it fresher and more nutritious, but garden-fresh cabbage also has more crunch, more flavor, and longer storage time. Better yet, you can try unique varieties from all over the world that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to get your hands on.
While most people are familiar with the classic green heads in grocery stores, there are actually more than 400 different varieties of cabbage. From vibrant red cabbages to crinkly savoys to kimchi-ready Napa cabbage to conehead shapes, there is a dazzling diversity of flavors, colors, and textures of cabbage.
Certain types are bred for sweet tender coleslaws, while others are adapted to poor soils or carry disease-resistant traits. Why settle for a bland store-bought cabbage when you can grow your own? Here are some of our favorites to grow in the garden this season.
Archeological evidence shows that humans have cultivated the humble cabbage plant for more than 4,000 years. In all that time, it’s no surprise that a wide diversity of this heading brassica has arisen from different corners of the world.
Gardeners, farmers, seed savers, and plant breeders have worked together over the centuries to naturally breed cabbage for specific traits like color, flavor, storability, cold tolerance, and disease resistance.
Most all cabbage types are variations of the species Brassica oleracea var. Capitata. The major categories include green cabbage, red cabbage, savoy (crinkly) cabbage, storage cabbage, and Chinese or Asian cabbages. These are the most reliable and time-tested cultivars of each:
Green cabbage doesn’t have to be plain or lacking in flavor. These types offer an array of benefits for gardeners in specific situations, like small spaces or extra hot weather.
For the earliest spring harvest, ‘Farao’ has a deep verdant green color and sweet flavor. The leaves of 3-4 pound heads are tender and thin, yet they can hold in the garden and won’t split under moisture stress. At just 65 days, this variety is perfect for eager (or impatient) spring gardeners.
Mini cabbages are ideal for smaller gardens or cooks who get nervous about slicing into a massive vegetable (you’re not alone!) These 1-2 pound rounded heads are delicious and mildly sweet. They can be cooked or enjoyed fresh. Plant them densely at 8-10” apart. 63 days.
This classic green heading cabbage yields uniform heads up to 10 pounds in weight. It is perfect for eating fresh or storing. It is also particularly suited for fermenting into sauerkraut thanks to the high dry matter content and reduced water weight.
That being said, ‘Typhoon’ requires up to 18” between plants and is best for gardens with plenty of space. 98 days.
For southern gardeners, brassicas can be a challenge. But if you crave summer coleslaws in a hot area, this is the cabbage for you. It is heat-resistant and crack-resistant. You can plant it in spring, summer or fall. It also has an impressive disease resistance profile, including Black Rot and Fusarium. ‘Tropic Giant’ is super resilient and beginner-friendly. 80 to 90 days.
If you’re looking for a variety that isn’t massive but isn’t tiny, these midsize green heads live up to their name with crisp, sweet, and tender soft leaves. I especially love using ‘Tendersweet’ cabbage for wraps. Plant this variety in spring, summer, or fall. 71 days.
This heirloom green cabbage was developed in 1892. It is one of the most heat tolerant varieties out there and performs well almost anywhere. The heads weigh 4 to 6 pounds, form in a conical shape, and have superb flavor. They also store well. 70 days.
If you’re looking for a nutritional punch, red cabbage is known for its higher antioxidant content, greater concentration of vitamins, and exceptional flavor. These bright burgundy, fuschia, or purplish-red varieties make beautiful ferments, pickles, and slaws.
Known for its fancy appearance and lovely flavor, ‘Ruby Perfection’ is consistently prized in taste tests as well as storage trials. The mid-sized 4 to 6 pound heads are dense, hard, and tightly wrapped.
They have amazing cold tolerance (down to 18°F in some trials) and surprising storage capabilities (from harvest until May). If you have problems with thrips, this resistant variety is also a great choice. Plant ‘Ruby’ in late summer for a fall harvest. 85 days.
If you have issues with brassica foliar disease in your garden, ‘Buscaro’ plants are taller than usual for maximum air circulation. This red variety has oval-shaped heads that average 5 to 6 pounds. They mature late for fall preserving or fresh eating. 98 days.
Vibrant purply-red, ‘Omero’ cabbages average about 3 pounds and have a slightly rounded oval shape. They are slightly sweet with a mild peppery flavor. You can plant these at 6-12” apart for mini or mid-size heads. Great for late spring plantings and mid summer harvests. 73 days.
‘Mammoth Red Rock’
At 100 days to maturity, these storage red cabbages take some patience, but they are well worth the wait. The large and firm heads grow to 8-10” in diameter and 5 to 8 pounds in weight.
They have a delicious sweet, crisp texture that has been treasured since the late 1800s. In the early 1900s, it was awarded “the surest heading red variety ever introduced”. ‘Mammoth Red Rock’ is an American heirloom treasure that reliably heads and stores through the winter.
When you want to shake things up, savoy cabbage is a versatile category with crinkly, ruffly leaves. These cabbages tend to be looser, more tender, and the sweetest of all types. Savoy, or curly cabbage, is the prettiest and tastiest for fresh eating.
One of the earliest curly cabbages, ‘Alcosa’ is a beautiful blue-green color with a slightly yellow, dense interior. The leaves are fluffy and tender. They average 2 to 4 pounds and can be planted densely in small space gardens for mini heads.
The flavor of this savoy sweetens even more in cold weather, so be sure to plant in the shoulder seasons! 72 days.
This midseason variety can be planted in late spring or early summer for a late summer harvest. It has a lovely green exterior with a gold-tinted tender interior. ‘Famosa’ is best used in cooked dishes like sautes.
Like other midsize varieties, this savoy averages 2 to 4 pounds in weight. It also has moderate resistance to downy mildew, which makes it ideal for humid areas. 81 days.
Known for its dazzling magenta outer leaves and lime green interior, ‘Deadon’ is extra sweet and cold tolerant. The outer leaf coloration gets darker in cold weather. Heads are firm, moderately sweet, and resistant to Fusarium. 105 days.
This F1 hybrid yields solid flattened heads that are light green inside and dark blue-green on the outside. The waxy wrapper leaves help this variety adapt to cold wet conditions and close spacing. It is Fusarium resistant and known for uniformity, beauty, and sweet flavor that improves in cold weather. 85 days.
Northern gardeners either rely on greenhouses, grocery stores, or storage crops to get fresh vegetables through the winter. Storage cabbage is a reliable green that can hold for up to 6 months under proper conditions in a root cellar, cooler, or refrigerator. These types are specifically bred for their firmness, ability to hold flavor, and their cold hardiness in the late fall.
‘Storage No. 4’
Bred in New York State, this green cabbage cultivar still tastes delicious after being stored all winter long. It is adapted to weather stress, low fertility, and drought. The heads average 4 to 8 pounds and are consistently firm. 95 days.
This heirloom has mild and tender flavor for all-purpose use throughout the winter. The large 7 to 10” heads are well-wrapped and can stay in the garden into early winter in most regions. It was first introduced from Denmark in 1887 and has been an American favorite ever since. 120 days.
This heirloom storage cabbage hails from Germany, where the giant heads were bred for exceptional cold hardiness. While this variety requires a ton of space (at least 18” between plants), it is great for spring or fall production and is a top choice for homemade sauerkraut. 85-95 days.
If you prefer the least amount of peeling possible, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by SuperStor’s easy-to-remove wrappers that protect the inner cabbage from dirt. The upright growth habit is also ideal for maintaining air circulation and preventing mud splash during fall rains. This variety is best for planting in the late summer and harvesting in early winter. 112 days.
Chinese or Asian cabbages are most recognizable by their elongated football shape and use in egg rolls, stir-fries, noodle dishes, and dumplings. These varieties tend to belong to the Brassica rapa species Chinensis or Pekinensis group, making them more like cousins of traditional cabbage.
Also called Napa cabbage, these types are curly like savoy but taller, looser, and leafier. Chinese cabbage is especially delicious in fried rice and fresh cabbage roll recipes.
Known for its resistance to Fusarium and the dreaded Club Root, ‘Bilko’ napa cabbages grow heads up to 12” tall. They are deep green and mildly sweet. This F1 hybrid variety is slow-bolting and great for fresh salads. Plus, they mature more quickly than their rounder cousins, 54 days.
For small-space and impatient gardeners, ‘Tokyo Bekana’ is a fast growing baby Chinese cabbage that is often bunched or added to salad mixes. The ruffly, lettuce-like leaves are pale green and sweet like lettuce, yet never bitter.
They make a delicious slaw and can regrow from multiple cuttings. This variety is best for seeding in mid-summer and harvesting through early fall. Sow densely for cut-and-come-again baby greens harvest, or thin to 4-6” for heads. 20 days for baby, 45 days for full size.
If you love aesthetically pleasing vegetables, this is the prettiest cabbage you can plant! ‘Merlot’ is a napa variety with incredible fuschia and deep-burgundy colored leaves.
The heads are dense, bulky, and average 12” long. But in spite of its beauty, ‘Merlot’ is a bit finicky about weather. It is strictly a midseason variety due to bolting in cold weather and tip burn in hot weather. You have to wait until night time temperatures are reliably above 50°F. 60 days.
Choosing Your Cultivar
The best variety for your garden comes down to spacing, weather, seasonality, flavor, texture, and how you want to use cabbage in the kitchen. Let’s take a deeper look at some of the considerations you’ll want to keep in mind when picking a cultivar.
When it comes to spacing, cabbages aren’t often considered high-value enough for small gardens. However, mini heads and baby cultivars are changing the game. These cabbages are adapted to denser spacing and can still head when planted close together.
The rise in Asian bunching types like ‘Tokyo Bekana’ also offers that delicious flavor in salad-mix-style plantings.
Best for Small Space Gardeners: Mini cabbage cultivars like ‘Tiara’, ‘Alcosa’ and ‘Tokyo Bekana’. Most varieties can also be planted denser (6-10” apart) for mini heads.
Weather is another key consideration for growing cabbage. Cabbage can be reliably grown in USDA zones 1-9, but it may also perform in southern subtropical zones.
If you live in a hot climate, pests, diseases, and bolting can be major issues. If you live in a cold climate, extreme frosts below 10°F can kill plants or significantly reduce storability.
Best for Southern Gardeners: Heat-tolerant and slow-bolting varieties like ‘Tropic Giant’, ‘Bilko’, or ‘Charleston Wakefield’.
Best for Disease Resistance: Downy mildew and Fusarium resistant varieties like ‘Famosa’, ‘Deadon’, and ‘Melissa’.
Cabbage is typically planted in three major seasons: early spring, midseason (fall crop), and winter crops. Early spring varieties can be planted in the garden as early as a few weeks before the last spring frost. Daytime temperatures above 40°F are typically a signal that early varieties can grow in the ground. It also doesn’t need as much sun as other garden plants, like tomatoes or zucchini.
Midseason types are typically planted from early to late summer and harvested in the fall. These varieties are specifically adapted to long days of sun and warmth.
Late or overwintering cabbages can be sown in early fall and withstand mild winters in zones 7 and warmer. Otherwise, cabbages need to be harvested around the time of the first fall frosts for optimum storage.
Remember that this is a cool-weather crop but is not as hardy as its kale cousins. Young plants are only cold tolerant down to freezing, but mature plants can handle as low as 15°F. If you plan to grow winter cabbage or store your cabbage in the garden (rather than harvesting and keeping in a root cellar), consider using row cover for added protection.
Best for Cold Tolerance: Frost-adapted varieties like ‘Ruby Perfection’, ‘Alcosa’, ‘Deadon’, ‘Brunswick’ and ‘Melissa’.
Who knew cabbage could come in such incredible diversity? These varieties are unlike anything you’ll find in stores and they are sure to deliver better flavor and more unique meals… curly cabbage saute, purple coleslaw, red sauerkraut, or homegrown egg rolls anyone?
Finding the best cabbage variety for your garden can take a bit of trial and error. Fortunately, you can plant as many types as you’d like in one season. Unlike zucchini or winter squash, there is no risk of cross-pollination because the crop is harvested before it flowers.
I recommend trialing as many varieties that call your name. You can also experiment with different spacings and times of planting to see what yields the best flavor and texture. Just don’t forget to keep track of your experiments for next season!
As long as you take into consideration the spacing, seasonality (when you want to plant and harvest), and the specific adaptability of each variety, cabbage tends to be fairly forgiving. After all, this crop has been grown for millennia almost everywhere in the world!