Growing Chinese Cabbage

Chinese cabbage, which is either of the heading or non-heading type, refers to several brassicas that are considerably different from each other. Cultural practices are the same as for regular cabbage, although Chinese cabbage matures more quickly and may be harvestable in as few as 60 to 65 days from seeding.

The more common of the two Chinese cabbage types is the one that forms heads, and which is known by such names as napa cabbage, celery cabbage, and Bagu-io pechay or pechay wombok (Tagalog). Napa cabbage, the most popular variety, is widely used in East Asian cuisine and is the vegetable referred to as Chinese cabbage in most areas worldwide.

The non-heading Chinese cabbages are bok choy or Chinese mustard, celery mustard or spoon cabbage. They’re also known to the Chinese as pak choi or “white vegetable.”


Varieties of Chinese cabbage that can be planted in the lowlands include Sakata Tropical Delight, a heading hybrid; and the non-heading Condor Shanghai Pak Choi, Baby Pak Choi, Black Behi Pechay, Flowering Pechay Choy Sum, and Green Shingkang.

Since seedlings of Tropical Delight are more sensitive to transplanting than cabbage seedlings, the plants are best started in individual containers (peat pellets, pots, etc.). On the other hand, Pak Choi and Pechay can be broadcast on prefer-tilized plots or beds and left there until harvest time. Commercial growers of Shanghai pak choy, the most marketable and best priced non-heading Chinese cabbage variety in local markets, broadcast 200 grams of seeds to a 1,000-square meter field.

Transplant Tropical Delight seedlings before these are too old (four to five weeks). Space plants 45 cm to 60 cm apart as this variety is a large heading type. Keep the soil moist and transplant with care. If possible, start seedlings in a protected place and transplant on a cloudy day or in late-afternoon. Apply a starter fertilizer solution like Peters Blossom Starter when planting.


Maintain sufficient soil moisture to keep the plants growing vigorously. Sidedress with nitrogen fertilizer when the plants are half grown, or use Peters Hi-Nitro (30-10-10).


Diseases of Chinese cabbage include Head Rot, Downy Mildew, Alternaria Leaf Spot, Ring Spot, and Mosaic.


Harvest before the seedstalks form. Cut the entire plants at groundline when the heads are compact and firm.


Kailaan Model T, the kai-lan variety recommended for lowland to mid-elevation planting, produces large, uniformed leaves and thick, crunchy stalks that are all edible. A hardy plant, it’s as easy to grow as pechay as its seeds can be similarly broadcast on plots or beds. Farmers who grow seedlings transplant these in their fields after 18 days.

Fertilization and other cultural practices for kai-lan are the same as for pak choi and pechay. Growers harvest the crop at 30 DAT. Some farmers have tried harvesting and selling only its upper stem with the top leaves, leaving the main stem to sprout lateral stems and new leaves yet they say uprooting the entire plant is still the best way to pick it.

author: Antonio A. Rodriguez, Agriculture Magazine,, photo from

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