Grow Bok Choy

Fast-growing, tasty and nutritious — it’s no wonder that bok choy is increasingly popular in the garden and the kitchen.

This Asian vegetable forms a dense upright clump of leaves that are composed of thick, juicy leafstalks topped with rounded leaf blades. Both the stalks and blades are edible and can be cooked together or separately. “Baby” bok choys are harvested whole when just 4 to 6 inches tall; full sized bok choy can be harvested whole or by the stalk. If left in the garden they will eventually produce flower stalks topped with bright yellow, four-petaled flowers. With its tidy form and glossy foliage, bok choy is a great choice for edible landscaping.

Common name: Bok choy, pak choy, pak choi
Botanical name: Brassica rapa subsp. chinensis
Plant type: Annual vegetable
Zones: n/a
Height: 6 to 18 inches
Family: Brassicaceae

Growing conditions

  • Sun: Full sun
  • Soil: Fertile garden loam
  • Moisture: Evenly moist but well drained

Care

  • Mulch: None, or 1 inch organic mulch such as straw
  • Pruning: None
  • Fertilizer: Work in compost before planting or topdress with soluble fertilizer

Propagation

  • Seeds

Pests and diseases

  • Aphids, leaf-eating caterpillars, flea beetles, slugs, snails

Cultivars

  • Green Fortune grows about 6 inches tall with pale green stalks and dark green leaves.
  • Joi Choi grows 12 to 18 inches tall with long white stalks and dark green leaves.
  • Mei Qing Choi grows 6 to 8 inches tall with jade green stalks and leaves.
  • Toy Choy is a baby bok choy that grows 4 to 6 inches tall with white stalks and deep green leaves.

Garden notes

  • Bok choy grows best in cool conditions and does especially well as a late summer/fall crop in northern regions or a fall/winter crop in southern regions.
  • Though cold tolerant, don’t plant bok choy too early in the spring because temperatures fluctuating above and below freezing may make the plants bolt.
  • Bok choy is a great choice for late season container plantings—throw in some cold-tolerant annuals like pansies or calendulas for extra color.

All in the family

  • Bok choy is a member of the mustard family (Brassicaceae), a large family that includes many familiar vegetable crops and garden weeds.
  • Napa cabbage (B. rapa subsp. pekinensis) is closely related to bok choy; it’s a little more temperamental in the garden and takes longer to mature but is also well worth trying.
  • Though there’s little similarity in outward appearance, bok choy is closely related to turnips (B. rapa subsp. rapa).

Where to buy