Bok choy is a favorite leafy green vegetable, and many types of bok choy are easy to grow at home. What exactly is bok choy? Commonly known as Chinese cabbage, bok choy is a biennial vegetable grown in the cold season, and growers harvest in its first year of growth for food. Crispy stalks produce soft dark green leaves similar to cabbage and chard in taste.
Plants grow an upright head with outward fanning leaves, and their smooth, non-stringy green or white stalks resemble celery. Flower stalks emerge from the center of bok choy and have the yellow, four-petal cross shape of the cruciferous vegetable family.
Bok choy is of the Brassica rapa species and has developed several colloquial names over the years, including pak choi or pak choy, bok choi, pok choi, Chinese chard, or Chinese broccoli. Asian cruciferous vegetables are readily available at grocery stores, though growing your own is more satisfying. Bok choy, napa cabbage, white cabbage, gai lan, choy sum, pea shoots, and Chinese mustard greens are popular stir fry ingredients.
Growing Common Bok Choy Types
These leafy green veggies are rich in antioxidants, calcium, potassium, and vitamin A and are low in carbohydrates and calories. They are often stir-fried in a wok with dumplings, soy sauce, or oyster sauce to make a delicious meal native to China.
This leafy green also works well in kimchi, Shanghai bok choy, and other traditional Cantonese, Mandarin, and Korean dishes, and baby bok choy tastes excellent in a salad.
Bok choy grows best in full sunlight, but it also withstands some shade, which is very important in the summer. During the bok choy season, it requires roughly six hours of direct sunlight per day. Soil with good drainage and rich in organic matter is best for most varieties of Bok choy, as they are heavy feeders. All Bok choy types thrive in soil with a pH from 6.0 to 7.5, while a pH of 6.5 to 7.0 is ideal.
Bok choy prefers a damp but never saturated soil environment, and drought might cause it to bolt and go to seed. Plants must be watered regularly, especially during the drier fall months. The best rule of thumb is to water bok choy once a week to keep the soil moist.
In the United States, bok choy grows as an annual in every hardiness zone. It thrives in milder temperatures like most different types of cabbage; dry, hot weather might cause bok choy to bolt too soon. This veggie isn’t as rugged as smaller Asian greens in the winter, but it may survive under shelter in some areas.
Space seeds 1/2 inch apart and 1/4 inch deep when planted. When planting many rows of bok choy, space them 18 to 30 inches apart for the best results. If you want a steady supply of bok choy, plant new seeds every two weeks.
The carrot is a great companion plant for bok choy, as are beets and cucumbers. Take advantage of companion planting to improve your crop yield and deter pests.
Like the many types of broccoli plants, different types of bok choy seeds are available, each producing different cultivars. Learning about the common types of bok choy helps you make the best selection for your garden when you’re ready to grow this leafy vegetable.
Types of Bok Choy – Black Summer
One of the common types of bok choy is Black Summer. It is identifiable by its dark green leaves and is usually planted in the fall and ready for harvest in winter, making it one of the bok choy varieties best for cool climates.
Bok Choy Types – Mei Qing Choi
This cultivar is easy to spot with broad, oval-shaped, deep green leaves and flat, pale, light green stems forming a solid base. This compact, vase-shaped plant grows to be around 8–10″ tall when fully grown. It is one of the hardier bok choy types with good bolt, cold, and heat tolerance.
Joi Choi – A Tasty Variety of Bok Choy
The leaves of the Joi Choi bok choy are soft and dark green, with crisp white stalks. This variety is slower to bolt and produces a lot of usable veggies. Because it is cold-tolerant, the Joi Choi bok choy varieties are ideal for growing in the fall and winter and in less temperate areas because they withstand lower temperatures.
Bok Choy Varieties – Ching-Chiang
This dwarf variety is more robust and stocky than most dwarf types of bok choy. Smooth medium green leaves with sturdy petioles have a delightfully mild flavor and are delicate with few strings.
One of the common types of bok choy, Ching-Chiang, was developed to withstand heat, rain, cold, and moisture, making it an excellent choice for planting in early spring, late summer, or fall.
Other Bok Choy Varieties
If you’re still looking for different types of bok choy, consider the Win-Win. This kind of bok choy has a beautiful vase appearance. Win-Win has enormous, thick, homogeneous white stems about 10-12″ tall and is highly flavorful. The green leaves of this bok choy cultivar are slightly smaller than those of the Joi Choi variant.
Homemade Fertilizer for Bok Choy
All bok choy are heavy feeders. It’s easy to make fertilizer at home to meet their nutritional needs and ensure delicious leafy green veggies from your garden.
Shake well, and leave the solution to sit for about 15 minutes, or until all the powder has dissolved. Add this fertilizer to the soil when planting bok choy to provide soil rich in nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus to sustain these heavy feeding plants.
Bok choy is relatively easy to grow, though it requires some care when you plant it. Because bok choy quickly bolts to seed, producing edible flower stalks prematurely, timing may be challenging. Bolting makes the leaves hard and bitter, so it’s essential to avoid this by planting at the right time.
The most common brassica diseases do not frequently impact bok choy, but many insect pests, such as cabbage loopers and cabbage worms, are attracted to many varieties of bok choy. For outside plants, row covers or garden fabric assists in reducing damage from pests. To keep insects away from potted bok choy, cover with netting.
Depending on the variety and weather, the best time to harvest bok choy is 45 to 60 days following seed germination. Harvest leaves from the outside section of the plant to allow the interior leaves to continue to grow. After gathering the leaves from the plants, cut them to approximately an inch above the ground, and they will re-sprout.
Like the popular chinensis, or Chinese rose, this Asian veggie is fun to grow and a beautiful way to add something exotic to your garden.
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