How to grow Kale in the Tropics


How to grow Kale in the Tropics

I first got to know about kale 2 years ago. Everyone – bloggers, online health sites, magazines and even chefs were raving about this super veggie. I had my first taste of kale last year during my Europe trip, and made it a point to get some seeds back to plant them. Many of you were curious how I grew this winter vegetable, so here’s my little guide on How To Grow Kale In The Tropics.  

Kale or borecole, is a vegetable with green or purple leaves, is a species of Brassica oleracea that includes cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, brussels sprouts, savoy, and Chinese kale (kai lan). These are also known as Cruciferous vegetables, the Super Veggies with vitamins, fiber, and disease-fighting phytochemicals, recommended to include a few servings into our weekly meals.

How to grow Kale in the Tropics

Kale is a common winter vegetable in Europe, as it tolerates frost and sleeps happily under the snow. I was told kale tastes sweeter and more flavourful after being exposed to a frost. If kale is hardy enough to tolerate frost, I think it can survive the tropics. With that in mind, I planted the curly kale seeds in November on my apartment balcony in Kuala Lumpur. After 7 months, I found the plants do not require much care and are really hardy even in the tropics. The average temperature in Kuala Lumpur is 30C throughout the whole year.

How to Grow Kale

Stage 1: Starting your seeds

Sow seeds in small pots filled with a mix of soil and fertilizers/compost. Place the seeds 1 inch deep. Keep the soil around the seedling evenly moist throughout its growth, but allow the top layer of soil to dry between watering. Make sure they are placed in a shaded area. Keep the kale plants away from direct sunlight, it will burn the leaves. I place my pots in the shade, with indirect sunlight.

A note on quantity: If you plan to use kale on a regular basis, you’ll need at least 2-3 plants per household member.

How to grow Kale in the Tropics

Stage 2: Transplanting seedlings

After 3-4 weeks, three to four true leaves will be begin to form. The plant will usually be approximately 3-4 inches high. The planting area must be shaded. Before transplanting, distribute a good amount of organic fertilizer (I use epsom salt and grind coffee) over the area you will be using and work it into the soil. If you are planting in pots, plant 1 seedling per container.

No matter the shape of the stem, set the transplants perpendicular (90 degrees) to the ground so they will grow straight up, and place them deep enough to support the plant, but no further than the base of their first leaves.

I did not transplant my seedlings until after 6 weeks, and the seedlings remained stunted in the small pot. Both plants started to flourish after transplanted to deeper pots.

How to grow Kale in the Tropics

Growing kale in a Pot:
If you don’t have the space to grow kale in the garden, you can grow it in a deep pot or 15 liter pail container. The pot or container must have at least six square inches of space for the plant to grow in. Kale also prefers well-drained, moist (but not soggy) soil. However, planting in pot will not produce large leaves.

How to grow Kale in the Tropics

Stage 3: Care and harvesting

– Keep your plants well watered. Keeping the soil most will also help keep the leaves sweet and crisp.
– Fertilize with compost approximately every 6-8 weeks.
– Kale is relatively good at resisting disease, although some worms enjoy munching on kale.

Kale is usually ready for harvest 80-95 days from seed. Check the seed packet for specific times.
– You can cut individual leaves off the kale plant when the plant is approximately 8 to 10 inches high. My leaves remained tender even after 4 months. Make sure to harvest kale leaves before they become too old and tough.
– If you decide to harvest the entire plant, cut the stock two inches above the soil and the plant will sprout new leaves in 1 to 2 weeks. As you can see from my plants, it keep growing higher as I only harvest the leaves. I use a stake to keep the plant standing straight, else it will keep falling over.

How to grow Kale in the Tropics

Check out these delicious kale recipes:
Kale Salad
The Perfect Green Smoothies with cooked kale
Spicy Kale and Egg Breakfast
Creamy Triple Pepper and Kale Dip

Note: for Malaysians, there is a member of Malaysian Gardeners Facebook group organising a group buy for kale seeds.


  1. Hi,

    May I know whr did u bought the seeds in malaysia and wht’s is the price?


  2. This is gold! I just bought kale seeds to give a try.

  3. Hi,
    what variety/ies tolerate the warmer temperature ?

  4. So great! Thank you ! I’d like to share this with my friends. Plse put a pintrest and Facebook link on this page

  5. Hi, Shannon, like the others, I found your posting on kale growing really useful. It actually inspired me to push on with it at my condo balcony. Whenever I’m in London, I always enjoyed kale smoothies, but unsure if kale will ever grow in the tropics until I saw your posting. I have started the planting, but the seedlings seem quite stunted…after about

    One quick question: How much of epsom salt do you use in each pot? In addition, I’m also adding in some coffee grinds plus organic composts.

  6. Extremely interesting. Does kale produce seed for replanting?
    My experience is that when I buy seeds like basil and plant in Nigeria the seeds do not reproduce.
    Have you tried to grow kale in a garden out of pots?
    I am so interested that I am asking many questions.

  7. Hi, where didyou get the kale seeds, is it available here in the Philippines?

    • Ramgo for curly kale, allied botanicals and haverson for cavolo nero type. Take notehowever, most of the article was cut and pasted from another site.

  8. THANK YOU for your wonderful article on how to grow Kale in the tropics… I live in the Virgin Islands and am a beginning gardener so am soaking up as much information as I can about how to grow things that I use daily. Your article was very comprehensive and is much appreciated!!

  9. I bought some kale seeds and had been researching on how to grow it. I came across this article and it helped me a lot. Thank you.

  10. Where to buy kale seed?.
    Pls let me know tq…my hp no 0167379816

  11. You’re article is very informative – probably the best one written on growing kale in the tropics. I am in the Philippines and have just gotten some kale seeds. I can’t wait to plant them this weekend. I hope they grow just like yours did!

  12. Did you notice if the kale you planted was a bit more bitter than what you had in Europe? I read that the warmer the climate, the more bitter kale becomes.

  13. thanks so much!

  14. Ecstatic to stumble upon your blog! Have always wanted to optimize balcony space with an organic garden but never knew how / where to start. And to know we can actually grow kale! thank you so much!

  15. thank you for sharing how to grow kale seedlings and transplanting..I started to grow kale and only managed to have a few seedlings grown.
    where do you get or buy the seeds?
    I ama box garden fan…many thanks

  16. Hi there, where can i get kale seeds? I would love to plant them!

  17. I would like to grow kale i love to eat in salad

  18. Hi, thanks for this really helpful post. The Edible Garden FB group has some kale seeds. How much sun does kale require?

  19. Hi Shannon! Been meaning to ask, where did you get your kale seeds from? Would love to know so I can try this myself! X, Bee

    • Hi Bee, thanks for dropping by my blog. I bought my kale seeds from The Netherlands last year. there is a lady is the Malaysian Gardeners FB group that sell the seeds, cant remember what’s her name though

  20. Pingback: Spicy & Tangy Kale Crisps, Two Ways + Viner’s Bakeware Giveaway | food to glow

  21. Wow, you have given a fantastic guide for those like you who garden in a year-round warm climate. And your plants look beautiful. I have quite a few plants, some of which I snip right down and others where I pick as needed. Either way they thrive very well. Living in Scotland it is really a case of plant some seeds and forget about it really – the weather seems to do the rest. I love tropical foods a lot but kale (and chard) from the garden is a delicious necessity for us. So many of my recipes involve kale that I probably wouldn’t have a blog without it. Only sightly joking!
    kellie@foodtoglow recently posted..Greens and Beans Breakfast TostadosMy Profile

    • When I did a search on your site, I found many kale recipes, you must like them a lot! I’m surprised they thrive really well in the tropics, and so easy to take care. My friends were so impressed.. haha. Hope my plants will be alright when I get back to Malaysia 😀

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