How to Grow Collard Greens (Collards)

What are collards?

Collard greens is the American English term for various loose-leafed cultivars of Brassica oleracea (Acephala Group), the same species as cabbage and broccoli. The plant is grown for its large, dark-colored, edible leaves and as a garden ornamental. The name "collard" is a corrupted form of the word "colewort" (cabbage plant).

The cultivar group name Acephala ("without a head" in Greek) refers to the fact that this variety of B. oleracea does not have the usual close-knit core of leaves (a "head") like cabbage.

Collards are also known as tree-cabbage or non-heading cabbage. Collards look like loose cabbage, without the rounded head in the middle. They are similar to kale in growing habits and taste.

Georgia is the most popular variety. Cooked collard greens is a dish often associates with the American South, however, collard is a cool weather plant that grows better in the fall.

Botanical Name: Brassica 'Creole'. Collards are from the cabbage family.

Collards grow 2 to 3 feet tall with rosettes of large, non-heading, waxy leaves growing on sturdy stems. Collard is a kind of kale and a primitive member of the cabbage family.

Grow, Pick and Cook your own Collard Greens (video):

How to grow collards?

Start from seed

You can grow collard greens as either a spring or fall crop. They are more flavorful and sweeter when grown in the cool autumn. Collards are usually sown right into the garden when the danger of frost had passed.

Days to germination: 5 to 10 days
Days to harvest: 85 days to maturity, harvest at 40 days
Light requirements: Full sun or light shading
Water requirements: Regularly and frequently
Soil: Tolerates all soils, extra nitrogen is helpful
Container: Suitable

The plants grow quickly, reaching a spread of up to 2 feet at maturity.

Collards are one of the most cold-hardy of all vegetables, able to withstand temperatures as low as 10 F to 20 F. In Zone 8 and southward, collards often provide a harvest through the entire winter. Collards are a cool-weather crop and can tolerate temperatures as low as 20°F. Collards are more tolerant of heat than cabbage.

Collards are considered to be “heavy-feeders”. Plant a few seeds every 2 feet, and thin them down to 1 plant after they sprout. Seeds should be planted just a 1/4 inch under the surface.

Pinch out the growing tips of the collard greens to encourage side branching. You can eat the leafs you cut off.

If you want to start harvesting young greens earlier, you can not bother with the specific spacing and just sprinkle the seeds over the soil. Cover them over with a thin layer of soil. As the plants begin to grow, you can pick the young ones for eating, until you are left with larger plants with at least 2 feet of spacing between them.

How to fertilize?

Apply a high-nitrogen blend of fertilizer to boost leaf production. Collards like to be fed. Choose a fertilizer high in nitrogen (because you're promoting leaves, not flowers). Try Dynamite Organic All-Purpose (10-2-8). Water regularly.

The secret to tender, succulent collard greens is rapid, even growth. Keep soil moisture consistent. Add a complete organic fertilizer before planting and side-dress with fish emulsion monthly to provide the nitrogen needed for quick growth.

Collards need fertile, well-drained soil with a soil pH of 6.5 to 6.8 to discourage clubroot disease.

Can I grow collards in containers?

Yes. However, collards grow larger than most other greens, so you will have to have one plant per 10-inch pot. Larger containers are fine with 2 plants as long as you can provide at least 18 to 20 inches between their main stalks. Keep them well-watered and well-fed with fertilizer.

Use a 3- to 4-gallon pot that's about 10 to 12 inches in diameter for a single collard plant. A pot this size provides enough soil depth for the collards to produce healthy roots. The roots grow deep, so make sure the container is about foot deep.

Can I grow collards indoors, in containers?

Yes. Hang a fluorescent light that you can raise it up and down. Lower the light until it is 1/4 inch from the seedlings. This distance prevents collards from growing spindly. Raise the light as the seedlings grow. Plug the light into a timer, set for 12 hours of darkness and 12 hours of light.

When to harvest collards?

You can start harvesting leaves 4-6 weeks after you planted the seeds.

You can pick the leaves as the plant grows, by cutting off the ones at the bottom of the plant. As the inner stalk continues to grow upwards and produce more leaves, your collard plant will eventually look like a little tree with a bare stem at the bottom and leaves on the top.

What parasites affect collards?

Cabbage worms grow in the soil and kill collards. Collards may be attacked by cabbage family pests: cutworms, cabbage loopers (preceded by small yellow and white moths), and imported cabbage worms. Handpick these pests or spray plants with Bacillus thuringiensis. Deter collard-loving caterpillars, especially in spring, with a biological insecticide such as DiPel or Thuricide containing Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis).

Otherwise, collards have no serious disease problems.


Collards from Lowe’s Plant Guide -- There is more info at Lowe's plant guide available at

How to Grow Collard Greens | Backyard Gardening Blog

Growing Collards - Bonnie Plants

Can Collard Greens Be Grown in Containers? |

How to Grow Collards | Harvest to Table

Grown Your Own Collard Greens - Southern Living

Collards - Vegetable Directory - Watch Your Garden Grow - University of Illinois Extension

Collard greens - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Collards - Plant Care Guides - National Gardening Association

Container Vegetable Gardening, HYG-1647-00

How to Grow Collard Greens Indoors |

Collards Are the New Kale | Whole Foods Market

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Anonymous said...

What is the best type of pot to grow tree collards; clay,wood,plastic,...etc?
Thank you and have a beautiful day.

Live Better Garden said...

I don't think the container material matters much. Plastic sub-irrigated planters generally work best.

Anonymous said...

How much phosphorous should be in the fertilizer?