Growing bok choy indoors

How to Grow Bok Choy

Long a staple in Asian cuisine and embraced within traditional Chinese medicine, bok choy — also known as bok choi, pak choi or pak choy — is now recognized worldwide. This green leafy vegetable closely related to cabbage is characterized by large lettuce-like leaves on top and creamy, celery-like stalks on the bottom. Bok choy leaves are smooth and tender, with a flavor somewhere between cabbage and chard.

The entire vegetable is edible, and when served raw or lightly blanched, bok choy adds a satisfying crunch to salads, stir-fries and soups. Koreans love to ferment bok choy with daikon radish, garlic, ginger and scallions to make a traditional spicy side dish called kimchi. Others enjoy shredded bok choy as a coleslaw. It is also delicious when sautéed with ginger and garlic.

While you will likely find it and other varieties of Chinese cabbage in your local grocery store, you may want to try growing your own. Because bok choy matures quickly and regrows easily, you won’t regret the time spent cultivating this tasty, nutrient-dense vegetable.

How to Recognize Bok Choy

Bok choy (Brassica rapa) is a type of Chinese cabbage related to other cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and kale. Bok choy is characterized by broad green leaves flaring outward from an upright head. Its stalks, which resemble a fatter type of non-string celery, can be either green or white. Bok choy flower stalks emerge from the center of the plant during warm weather and can shoot up to be twice the size of the plant.

Similar to broccoli, bok choy flower stalks are characterized by brilliant yellow clusters resembling the ribs of an umbrella. The appearance of flower stalks may indicate the end of life for this cool-season vegetable. Flowering also signals the arrival of tougher, more fibrous leaves, a bitter aftertaste and, eventually, the end of the leaf harvest.

That said, some find the flower stalks to be tasty, suggesting these tender shoots possess a flavor similar to broccoli rabe. The size of mature bok choy plants depends on the variety grown. Typically, baby bok choy is less than 10 inches tall, with a stalk diameter of about 2 to 4 inches. Standard (or large) bok choy varieties reach 1 to 2 feet tall and have an average stalk diameter of around 6 inches.

Getting Started With Bok Choy

Here’s what you need to know to grow bok choy in containers or your vegetable garden:1,2

  • Bok choy is a biennial and somewhat winter hardy
  • When covered, it may survive in U.S. Department of Agriculture hardiness zones 4 to 7
  • As a cool-season crop, bok choy will quickly flower and bolt to seed when temperatures warm up in the spring

Soil: Bok choy will flourish in well-draining soil with lots of rich, organic matter. If your soil is lacking nutrients, use an organic fertilizer high in nitrogen. While bok choy can survive in a soil pH ranging from 6.0 to 7.5, a pH in the 6.5 to 7.0 range is ideal.

Sowing indoors: To get a jump-start on the growing season, start bok choy seeds indoors about four to five weeks before the last expected frost in your area. Plant seeds one-half inch deep, spaced 1 inch apart. Bok choy seeds germinate quickly, usually within four to eight days.

Sowing outdoors: You can direct seed bok choy outdoors, in containers or your garden bed, beginning one to two weeks before the date of your last expected frost. The planting instructions for indoor sowing also apply outdoors.

Sun: While bok choy can handle full sun, it will thrive in partial shade. So, plan for your plants to receive three to five hours of sun daily. In summer, partial shade can prevent your plants from premature bolting.

Thinning: For best results you will want to thin plants when they have a couple of inches of growth. For full-sized bok choy, thin to allow for at least 6 to 8 inches of spacing between plants. The thinned plants are edible and will be tender and delicious, so be sure to eat them!

Transplanting: Bok choy transplants do better when you wait until nighttime temperatures are consistently maintained above 50 degrees F. If you move them outdoors in cooler temperatures, be sure to cover them. When exposed to frost or prolonged cold temperatures, bok choy plants may mistake it for winter and start to bolt as soon as the weather warms up.

Water: When planting bok choy, be sure to water your starter soil and garden bed well both before planting the seeds and immediately after. During the growing season, bok choy requires consistent watering, especially in the fall. Dry conditions will result in less juicy ribs and may also cause premature bolting.

Bok choy, Pak choi, Bok choi (Chinese Cabbage) ~ Brassica rapa var. chinensis Plant Care Guide

Growing Guide

Pak choy

Vegetable (Cool Season) – Cabbage Family

Also known as Bok choy, Pak choi, Bok choi
Brassica rapa var. chinensis
Brassicaceae Family

No matter how you spell it, pak choy’s mild flavor is a must for stir fries. It’s not as finicky about heat and cold as Chinese cabbage, and the striking white petioles and green leaves make it a must for edible landscaping.

Site Characteristics


  • full sun
  • part shade

Partial shade can help prevent summer crops from bolting.Soil conditions:

  • requires well-drained soil

Prefers well-drained, fertile soil high in organic matter, pH 6.0 to 7.5. Can tolerate slightly alkaline soil. Needs plentiful, consistent moisture.

Plant Traits
Lifecycle: annual

Biennial grown as an annual.

Ease-of-care: moderately difficult

Spring crops require good timing and careful pest control. Direct-seeded fall crops are easier to grow.

Height: 1 to 2 feet

Spread: 1 to 1.5 feet

Foliage texture: medium

Shape: cushion, mound or clump

Special Considerations

  • frost – Spring crops may bolt prematurely if young plants are exposed to frost or a week of nighttime temperatures below 50 F. Wait until after last frost date to direct seed or transplant out.

Special characteristics:

  • not native to North America – Not known in the wild. Probably developed from selections of oil seed varieties in China about 2,000 years ago.

Special uses:

  • edible landscaping

Growing Information
How to plant:

Propagate by seed

Germination temperature: 50 F to 80 F

Days to emergence: 4 to 7

Seed can be saved 4 years.

Maintenance and care:

While not as sensitive to heat and cold as Chinese cabbage, spring crops may bolt prematurely if young plants are exposed to frost or a week of nighttime temperatures below 50 F. Wait until after last frost date to direct seed or transplant out.Start transplants inside 4 to 6 weeks before last frost date. Transplant 6 to 12 inches apart in rows 18 to 30 inches apart. Use the closer spacings for smaller varieties.

Plant direct-seeded spring crops ¼ to ½ inch deep and about 1 inch apart in rows 18 to 30 inches apart. Thin to 6- to 12-inch spacings. Use thinnings in salads.

For fall crops, direct seed ¼ to ½ inch deep in rows 18 to 30 inches apart in summer. Thin to 6- to 12- inch spacings. Or set transplants out at 6- to 12-inch spacings 4 to 6 weeks before first frost.

Mulch fall crops heavily and provide adequate moisture to avoid premature bolting.


Browse bok choy/pak choy varieties at our Vegetable Varieties for Gardeners website.“Baby” varieties grow just 6 inches tall while others may reach nearly 2 feet. Some are more tolerant of heat and cold than others.

Varieties recommended for New York include:

Mei Qing Choi — hybrid
Tropical Delight — hybrid
Two Seasons — hybrid
China Pride — hybrid
Jade Pagoda — hybrid
Dynasty — hybrid

What the Heck Is Bok Choy?
by Farmers’ Almanac Staff | Monday, March 22nd, 2010 | From: Food and Recipes

Bok choy is one of many names given to a popular variety of Chinese cabbage. Also called Chinensis, Chinese chard, Chinese mustard, celery mustard, and spoon cabbage, among other names, bok choy is a smooth, dark green, leafy vegetable with pale succulent stems.

How to Grow Bok Choy Without Bolting

What Are the Health Benefits of Bok Choy

Bok choy is a type of Chinese cabbage that doesn’t look like the typical cabbage. Instead, it has dark green leaves connected to white stalks. One cup has just 9 calories and barely a trace of fat, yet delivers protein, dietary fiber and almost all the essential vitamins and minerals. This makes bok choy a nutrient-dense food that offers several health benefits.

April 11, 2014 | Categories: gardening general info, Green Living, plant care guides, small tips, starting a garden, taking care of your garden | Tags: Bok choi, Bok choi Brassica rapa var. chinensis Brassicaceae Family, Bok choy, Chinese Cabbage, Growing Guide, How to grow bok choy in containers, How to Grow Bok Choy Without Bolting, Pak choi, Pak choy, Pak choy Vegetable (Cool Season) – Cabbage Family Also known as Bok choy, plant care guide, What Are the Health Benefits of Bok Choy, What the Heck Is Bok Choy? | 4 Comments

Bok Choy In A Pot – How To Grow Bok Choy In Containers

Bok choy is tasty, low in calories and rich in vitamins and minerals. However, what about growing bok choy in containers? Planting bok choy in a pot isn’t only possible, it’s amazingly easy and we’ll tell you how to do it.

How to Grow Bok Choy in Containers

Bok choy is a good-sized plant. To grow potted bok choy, begin with a pot with a depth of about 20 inches (50 cm.) and a width of at least 12 inches (30 cm.) in order to grow one plant. Double the width of the container if you want to grow more potted bok choy plants.

Fill the pot with fresh, lightweight potting mix containing ingredients such as finely chopped bark, compost or peat. Avoid regular garden soil, which doesn’t drain well.

Bok choy doesn’t tolerate soggy soil. Mix a small amount of dry, organic fertilizer to the potting mix.

You can start seeds indoors four to five weeks before the last frost date in your area, either in the pot or in seedling trays. Alternatively, save time and purchase small plants at your local garden center or nursery. Either way, allow 6 to 8 inches between each plant. Note: You can plant a second batch in later summer for a fall harvest.

Caring for Container Grown Bok Choy

Place potted bok choy where the plant receives at least six hours of sunlight per day. Afternoon shade is beneficial if you live in a hot climate.

Water bok choy regularly and never allow the soil to become bone dry. However, avoid overwatering as the plant may rot in waterlogged soil. Water carefully at the base of the plant to keep the leaves as dry as possible.

Cover potted bok choy with a net if pests such as cabbage loopers or other caterpillars are a problem. Aphids, flea beetles and other small pests can be treated with insecticidal soap spray.

At harvest time, remove the outer leaves and allow the inner part of the plant to continue growth. This cut-and-come-again method of harvesting allows the plant to produce leaves for a longer period of time.

Grow Pak Choi Indoors

Pak Choi, Bok Choi, Joy Choi, Buk Choy or Chinese Cabbage – whatever you prefer to call it, this vegetable is popular for stir fry, noodle soups, and other Asian recipes. It is also a renewable crop, meaning that you can harvest from the same plant multiple times. For the small indoor garden, this gives you more efficient use of space and energy. Recently dwarf or baby varieties of Pak Choi have arrived on the scene, and everyone loves them. You can certainly grow the single serving size version in your grow room, but if it’s a small space you’ll get more food to eat sticking with the standard size version.

Cabbage is a cool season plant, and like lettuce, Brassica rapa plants quickly go to seed in temperatures over 70F. The best companion plants in your indoor garden will be lettuces, cilantro, tatsoi and other crops that thrive in the spring or fall garden outdoors.

You can grow Pak Choi in traditional containers, using hydroponic methods NFT, drip or deep water culture, and also aquaculture. It’s a fast growing crop, and you should be able to enjoy your first harvest in about 4 weeks from germination. The hydroponic nutrient solution that this plant does best in has pH of 5.5-6.5, PPM 1050-1400, and an EC range of 1.5-2.0. Growers in Singapore have found that EC 2.0 (CF of 20) delivers the most rapid growth for lettuces and Chinese Cabbage. Don’t let the pH drop below 5 or go above 7, or your crop will have nutrient deficiencies.

In warmer climates, this is grown as a winter crop, which makes it a great candidate for doing well under T5 lights like so many leafy plants you can grow in an indoor garden. Since you don’t want it to flower there is no need to switch tubes to finish off Pak Choi. They need a minimum of 7 hours of sun a day and don’t like the long day length or intense light of summer. Too much light stresses this plant.

You can also grow a variety of different Pak Chois. There are green stemmed and red leaf variations, along with a number of types that have the familiar white stem.

Like celery, cutting above the soil line to harvest individual stalks allows the same roots to produce new growth from the center. Pak Choi also has this characteristic and will allow you to harvest 3 times from a single set of mature roots. This usually will give you faster growth on new leaves and stems as the root system is already there that seedlings have to create to support the production of the canopy, though there may be fewer stems to harvest than the first cutting.

This video below is more about lettuce than Pak Choi, but the grower discovered that they are more robust with drip than NFT.

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Tammy Clayton

Contributing Writer at Garden Culture Magazine Tammy has been immersed in the world of plants and growing since her first job as an assistant weeder at the tender age of 8. Heavily influenced by a former life as a landscape designer and nursery owner, she swears good looking plants follow her home.

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