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Chinese Flowering Cabbage

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Chinese Flowering Cabbage Links

Species: Brassica rapa var. parachinensis

Family: Cruciferae

Crop status: New


Varieties are classified by length of growing period and susceptibility to bolting, and are very specific to a climate (Moore and Morgan 1998). See Seedquest for a list of seed companies.

Agronomic trials

Observation trials have been conducted in Victoria and at Murwillumbah.


Grown commercially in all states of Australia (Lee 1995).

Climate: It is a cool season crop that prefers uniform conditions, moderate moisture levels and reasonable sunlight (Moore and Morgan 1998). It can be grown year round wherever seasons are not too extreme, but tends to bolt before reaching sufficient size in summer (Nguyen 1992, Moore and Morgan 1998).

Temperature: Cooler weather is needed for optimum quality (Cantwell et al. 1996), with higher temperatures leading to thinner, tougher and less sweet shoots. A purple flowered variety can withstand temperatures down to -5ºC, but others are not frost tolerant (Moore and Morgan 1998). Optimum temperature for minimum time to harvest in short day conditions is 20± 5ºC, but in long day conditions temperature has little effect (Zee 1975b).

Photoperiod: Long photoperiods shorten the growth period of the plant by up to 10 days. Light breaks do not appear to work and a minimum of 6 days consecutive long days is required for a noticeable effect (Zee 1975a).

Soil type: Preferred soil is fertile, high in organic matter, and has good drainage (Moore and Morgan 1998).

pH: Between 6.0 and 7.0, not falling below 5.0 (Moore and Morgan 1998).

Seed size: Larger seed leads to more vigorous seedling growth and earlier harvest. Discard seed smaller than 0.118 mm diameter (Moore and Morgan 1998).

Plant density: Best yields in Victoria (Moore and Morgan 1998) and Hong Kong (Yip et al. 1976) were achieved at a spacing of 10 cm between plants. This is a much higher density than suggested elsewhere (eg; Cantwell et al. 1996), but yields were also much greater.

Seed: Plants raised from seeds >0.118 mm diameter produce more vigorously growing seedlings that mature earlier (Yip et al. 1976).

Sowing depth: 0.6 cm (Moore and Morgan 1998).

Germination: Germination was not affected by light, nor aided by scarification in Brazil. With good fertilisation, 90-95% germination occured in 3-4 days (Ferreira and Ranal 1999).

High temperatures at germination may reduce the incidence of premature bolting (Moore and Morgan 1998).

Emergence: 3 to 9 days in Autumn, less in summer, with a sowing depth of 0.6 cm.

Water: The crop is shallow rooted and benefits from daily or twice daily watering. Apply frequently but lightly (Moore and Morgan 1998).

Nutrition: Liberal nitrogen application can improve yields (Moore and Morgan 1998).

Growth hormone: Applications of 10 ppm gibberellic acid at the 4-5 and 5-6 leaf stages stimulates flower stalk elongation, and can be used in the absence of long photoperiod (Zee and Tsui 1975).

Harvest: First harvest occurs about 50 days after planting (Nguyen 1992) but can be as early as 30 days from sowing. Plants are harvested as the first flower buds begin to open, by cutting at the base and tying 10 - 12 plants together (Moore and Morgan 1998).

Yield: Seasonal yields with 2-3 harvests are commonly around 11-18 t/ha (Shuler 1995). Victorian yields were approximately double this (Moore and Morgan 1998).



Temperature: Store at 0-5ºC (Cantwell et al. 1996). Best at 0-1ºC but should not be allowed to freeze (Thomson 1999).

Relative humidity: 90-95%. Highly susceptible to water loss (Cantwell et al. 1996).

Shelf life: A shelf life of >21 days is possible at temperatures close to 0ºC, but at 5-10ºC is reduced to 3-4 days (Zong et al. 1998). At 10ºC and the appropriate modified atmosphere packaging, it is also possible to achieve a shelf life of 21 days (O'Hare et al. 1998).

Ethylene: Exposure to 1 ppm ethylene reduced shelf life by 30% at 5ºC (Zong et al. 1998).

Quality assessment

A high quality product has a white and tender stalk with developed but unopened yellow flower buds (Cantwell et al. 1996). The main stem should be long (at least 10 cm) and thick at the base (1.5 - 2.5 cm diameter), and there should be no roots (Moore and Morgan 1998). Common postharvest defects include open or deteriorating flowers, yellowed or decayed leaves (Cantwell et al. 1996).

Pests and diseases

Aphids, green looper caterpillar and white butterfly caterpillar are the common pests (Nguyen 1992).

White rust (Albugo candida) causes a mass of small white, circular raised spots on both sides of the leaf, and is common in cool, wet weather (Nguyen 1992). Also observed in Victoria (Chew and Morgan 1997).

Pseudocerosporella capsellae has the same symptoms as white rust. Observed in Victoria (Chew and Morgan 1997).

Black leg disease (Phoma lingam) causes grey-black spots on the leaves (Chew and Morgan 1997).

Albugo spp., Mycosphaerella brassicae and Alternaria brassicae cause yellow spots on the margins of the leaves (Chew and Morgan 1997).


Figure 1: High and low prices (A) and throughput (B) of Chinese flowering cabbage at Flemington Markets during 1996 (green), 1997 (blue) and the first half of 1998 (red). Note that the weight of one dozen cuttings can vary with season (Flemington Market Reporting Service, NSW Agriculture).

Domestic market

One of the more popular Asian vegetables in Australia. The stems are generally uniform in size (hence cook evenly) and need not be peeled. The leaves are tender and whole stalks cook quickly. Steam, lightly boil or stir-fry, but cook for no more than a couple of minutes to preserve the flavour. It is often mixed in meat and prawn dishes or simply seasoned with oyster sauce. Flower shoots can be used in salads, provided they are harvested when young and tender (Anonymous 1997).

Wholesale price in Melbourne ranges from $0.50 to $1.30 per bunch, and retail price from $1.00 to $1.50 per bunch (Moore and Morgan 1998). Melbourne supply comes from both Victoria and NSW, but Baby Chinese Flowering Cabbage is supplied entirely from NSW (Chew and Morgan 1996).

Export market

(click here for exchange rates).

Not viable for export from WA because it is a low density product, hence is a high cost / kg to export, and its value in Asian countries is low.

Very common in Hong Kong, as the crop originates from adjoining Guangdong province. Grown and consumed almost year round throughout south east Asia (Moore and Morgan 1998).

One of the top five vegetables sold in Indonesia (Lee 1996).

Related projects

Tim O'Hare (Sept 1996 - Sept 1998). Extending shelf life of minimally processed Asian vegetables. RIRDC Project Number DAQ-213A. Work is extended to June 2001 under Project Number DAQ239A.


Anonymous (1997). Using the popular Asian greens. Good Fruit and Vegetables (April): 22.

Cantwell, M., X. Nie, R. J. Zong and M. Yamaguchi (1996). Asian vegetables: Selected fruit and leafy types. Progress in new crops. Ed.: Janick, J. Arlington, VA, ASHS Press: 488-495.

Chew, M. and W. Morgan (1996). Melbourne retail Asian vegetable survey. Melbourne, Agriculture Victoria 143 pp.

Chew, M. and W. Morgan. (1997). List of identified pests and diseases affecting Asian vegetables. Access to Asian Vegetables. (2): 1.

Ferreira, W. R. and Ranal, M. A. (1999). Seed germination and seedling growth of Brassica chinensis L. var. parachinensis (Bailey) Sinskaja (flowering white cabbage) [Portuguese]. Pesquisa Agropecuaria Brasileira 34(3): 353-361.

Lee, B. (1995). Audit of the Australian Asian vegetables industry. RIRDC Research Paper No. 95/13. Canberra, Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation 97 pp.

Lee , B. (1996). Assessment of economic benefits for Asian vegetables. RIRDC project CON-4A review meeting 14 November 1996.

Moore, S. and W. Morgan (1998). Chinese flowering cabbage. The New Rural Industries. Ed.: K. W. Hyde. Canberra, Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation: 178-181.

Nguyen, V. Q. (1992). Growing Asian vegetables. Agfact, NSW Agriculture H8.1.37.

O'Hare, T. J., L. S. Wong, et al. (1998). Extending the Shelflife of Leafy Asian Vegetables. Canberra, Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation.

Shuler, K. D. (1995). Guidelines for Chinese leafy and root crop vegetable production in South Florida. In: FACTS 1995 Vegetable Crop Proc. Ed.: G. J. Hochmuth and D. N. Maynard: 53-57.

Thomson, G. (1999). Postharvest handling of leafy Asian vegetables. Access to Asian Vegetables. (16): 1.

Yip, S. M., Pao C. S., Tong T. C. and Ng Y. S. (1976). A note on some studies of Chinese flowering cabbage (Brassica parachinensis Bailey). Agriculture Hong Kong 1(5): 407-418.

Zee, S. Y. (1975a). Studies on Chinese flowering cabbage (Brassica parachinensis). 1. Effects of photoperiod on the growth and development of the flower-stalk. Agriculture Hong Kong 1(4): 257-265.

Zee, S. Y. (1975b). Studies on Chinese flowering cabbage (Brassica parachinensis). III. Effects of temperature on the growth of the flower-stalk. Agriculture Hong Kong 1(4): 273-277.

Zee, S. Y. and Tsui, S. M. (1975). Studies on Chinese flowering cabbage (Brassica parachinensis). II. Effects of indole-3-acetic acid (IAA) and gibberellic acid (GA3) on the growth and development of the flower-stalk. Agriculture Hong Kong 1(4): 266-272.

Zong, R. J. (1992). Postharvest studies on four fruit-type Chinese vegetables. Acta Horticulturae 318: 345-354

Zong, R. J., Morris, L. L., Ahrens, M. J., Rubatzky, V. and Cantwell, M. I. (1998). Postharvest physiology and quality of gai-lan (Brassica oleracea var. alboglabra) and choi-sum (Brassica rapa subsp. parachinensis). Acta Horticulturae No(467): 349-356.