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How to Grow Colewort — Crambe

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Crambe is a tall perennial that produces mounds of dark green leaves below clouds of tiny white fragrant flowers. The wispy blooms are nearly see-through.

Crambe is a member of the cabbage family; leafy mounds have a cabbage-like appearance. Crambe is much branched; blooms appear in clusters and are honey-scented.

Set Crambe at the front of a bed or border. Give Crambe plenty of room; it is a large, imposing plant.

Crambe maritima common name sea kale
Crambe maritima common name sea kale

Get to know Crambe

  • Plant type: Perennial and annuals
  • Growing Zones and range: Zone 5 to 9
  • Hardiness: Crambe cordifolia is hardy to -10°F (-23°C).
  • Height and width: 4 to 6 feet (1.2-1.8m) tall; 2 to 4 feet (.61-1.2m) wide
  • Foliage: Simple basal leaves and thick, erect stems usually leafless or may bear smaller leaves
  • Flowers: Clouds of tiny, scented, cross-shaped similar to baby’s breath
  • Flower colors: White or yellow
  • Bloom time: Early summer
  • Uses: Flower beds and borders; fragrant gardens
  • Common name: Crambe, sea kale
  • Botanical name: Crambe spp.
  • Family: Brassicaceae
  • Origin: Open grassland Europe, Turkey, Central Asia

Where to plant Crambe

  • Plant Crambe in full sun.
  • Crambe will grow in average to humus-rich, well-drained soil.

Crambe uses and companions

  • Plant Crambe in a large border. Crambe will thrive in a wild or woodland garden or in coastal sites.
  • Crambe needs plenty of growing space in a border; flowers form a fine-textured veil through which bolder plants can be seen.
  • Good garden companions for Crambe include Acanthus mollis, Boltonia asteroides, Euphorbia corollata, Gypsophila paniculata.
Crambe (Crambe maritima)
Crambe (Crambe maritima)

When to plant Crambe

  • Set Crambe outdoors in spring.

Planting and spacing Crambe

  • Space Crambe 2 to 4 feet apart.

How to water and feed Crambe

  • Keep Crambe well watered; do not let  the soil dry out.
  • Fertilize Crambe with an all-purpose fertilizer every 4 weeks.

Crambe care

  • Stake plants when they get tall to prevent plants from falling over.
  • Trim away spent blooms to avoid reseeding.
  • Crambe is susceptible to caterpillars and aphids.

Crambe pests and diseases

  • Crambe is susceptible to clubroot and soil-borne black rot.
Flowers of Crambe maritima
Flowers of Crambe maritima

Crambe propagation

  • Sow seed in containers in spring or autumn. Seeds will germinate in 7 to 14 days at 60° to 75°F (16°-24°C).
  • Divide Crambe in early spring or start root cuttings in winter.

Crambe varieties to grow

  • Crambe cordifolia, colewort: mound-forming perennial with ovate, dark green leaves which die down in mid-spring; stems bear white flowers in panicles in late spring and midsummer.; this variety can grow to 8 feet tall and 5 feet wide.
  • C. maritima, sea kale: spreading, mound-forming perennial with blue-green leaves; grows 2 feet tall and tolerates sand and salt neat the seashore; white flowers borne in dense racemes to 30 inches high and 24 inches across.

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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