Brassica rapa (Pekinensis Group)

Common Name: Chinese cabbage 
Type: Annual
Family: Brassicaceae
Zone: 2 to 11
Height: 0.75 to 1.00 feet
Spread: 0.50 to 0.75 feet
Bloom Time: Flowers not showy
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Medium
Suggested Use: Annual, Vegetable


Chinese cabbage prefers cool weather and is sensitive to transplant shock. For spring planting, sow in peat pots 6 to 7 weeks before frost-free date. Transplant outside when 4 to 5 weeks old to allow seedlings to mature before warm weather encourages bolting. Space 15” to 20” apart in rich garden soil. Keep soil moist to insure vigorous growth. Provide additional nitrogen when plants are half grown. Harvest as soon as the first heads begin to get firm. When the plants are almost mature, they may be tied with string near the top of the head to blanch the inner leaves and make them more tender. Row covers are useful to protect from pests. For fall planting, sow seeds directly 1/4” to 1/2” deep and 3” to 4” apart. Thin to 15” to 20” apart.

Noteworthy Characteristics

The common name “Chinese cabbage” is a misnomer. This cool-season, mild-flavored vegetable is more closely related to mustard, and has thinner and less-rugged leaves than cabbage. Other names used for Brassica rapa (Pekinese group) are napa, celery cabbage, and bok choy (which is also sometimes used for the vegetables in the Brassica rapa (Chinensis group)). The two types commonly seen in the United States are the hearted type, which is barrel-shaped with crinkly leaves and the cylindrical type, which is thin and has smoother leaves. Both types are compact, with dark green to very pale leaves and a broad white leaf midrib.

Genus name comes from the classical Latin name for cabbage.

Specific epithet means relating to turnips.


Slugs, aphids, cabbage worms, cabbage root fly and flea beetles can be problems. Diseases include club root, bacterial rots, powdery mildew, and leaf spot.


Use in soup, stir fried, steamed, as stuffing or filling, or fresh in salads. Leaves can be dried and used in soup.