Growing Napa Cabbage | How to Grow Chinese Cabbage in Pots

Sheri Dorn is a versatile homesteader and culinary artist with a strong focus on organic and heirloom gardening. Holding a Master's degree in Culinary Arts, she combines her love for cooking and gardening in a unique way. Sheri is an active contributor to online gardening communities and enjoys quality outdoor time with her family and pets.
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A great addition to salads, Chinese cabbage is also low in calories! Learn everything about Growing Napa Cabbage and relish it homegrown!

Growing Napa Cabbage

Napa cabbage is a brassica family plant and commonly known as Chinese Cabbage around the globe. You may easily buy it from the supermarket but Growing Napa Cabbage in pots is a much better choice if you want to enjoy its fresh sweet flavor and soft taste in your platter.

Best Climate: You can grow it in any climate as an annual, just like regular cabbage

Botanical Name: Brassica rapa var. Pekinensis

Common Names: Hakusai, dàbáicài, Chinese Cabbage, Sui Choy, Celery Cabbage, Wombok, Petsai, Peking cabbage

Check out our article on growing cabbage here

Varieties of Napa Cabbage

There are many varieties of napa cabbage that are productive and can be grown without much difficulty. From those, we have selected the best ones. You can also check out other varieties on Cornell University Extension and pick the most suitable cultivar!

  • Blues: Bluish-green and barrel-shaped and tolerant to bolting. You can grow it in spring or early summer. It matures in 55-60 days.
  • China Pride: Dark green heads and shows tolerance to tip burn and bolting. You can expect a harvest in 65-70 days.
  • Rubicon: Bolt resistant variety and matures pretty early in around 50-55 days.
  • Wong Bok: Has broad and round leaves. Well suited for a cold climate and is a winter crop.
  • Minuet: Produces dark green leaves and slow to bolt. Highly resistant to downy mildew. Matures in 45-50 days.
  • Monument: Forms cylindrical heads and tolerant to cold temperatures. Matures in 70-80 days, good for fall growing.

This article on the University of Arkansas extension is also really informative, which includes information about Chinese Cabbage and some of its varieties.

Choosing a Container

Select an 8 inches pot with drainage holes for one plant. A standard 12 inches planter can accommodate two plants. You can also grow multiple plants in such a pot but if the cabbage does not get enough room to grow, the heads will be comparatively small. This is why you’ll need much larger containers like tubs, buckets, and barrels for multiple napa cabbages.

How to Grow Napa Cabbage in a Container?

Propagation From Seeds

You can grow napa cabbage from seeds easily. Start off by sowing the seeds in a seed-starting tray or pot, depending upon the number of plants. Sow the seeds at least half-inch deep in the soil and space them 2-3 inches apart.

As the seeds are fast germinating, you can expect new shoots to appear within 3-7 days. Once germinated, thin off weak and unsuccessful seedlings.

Planting Time

If you want to plant seeds in the spring, you should grow them indoors initially. Once the temperature reaches 40 F (4 C) or higher outdoors, you can move the container outside. The last expected date of frost should pass before planting the seeds outdoors. The optimum temperature for planting seedlings in 60-70 F (15-21 C). 

For regions with mild winters, planting in late summer or autumn would be the best for a late autumn harvest. If you live in a frost-free climate, you can plant in winters too.


Within 2-3 weeks, Napa cabbage will be mature enough for transplanting. Do not transplant if the last frost has not passed. You can use row covers to protect the plants if you’re unsure about the last frost date.

It is seen that Napa cabbage is susceptible to transplanting shock and can bolt. To prevent this, you can use biodegradable peat or paper pots for starting seeds as you can place them directly in the garden soil. The pots will degrade in some days.


The seedlings can be spaced 4-6 inches apart. For successful seedlings, thin and space them out 12-18 inches apart. Depending upon the variety you have grown, space the rows 20-30 inches apart.

Requirements for Growing Napa Cabbage


Locate the plant where it receives at least 4-5 hours of sunlight in a day. In tropical regions, napa cabbage can grow in partial shade.


It is a cold-weather crop and grows best in the temperature range of 55-70 F (13-21 C). It can survive in temperature as low as 32 F (0 C) but the growth will be stunted and also as high as 85 F (30 C), but problems with heads may arise. So you should plan to plant according to temperature changes in your area.


Compared to other Asian greens, napa cabbage has a long growing season so you should start off with moist soil, rich in organic matter and nutrients. One great way to achieve that is by adding compost to the soil before planting.

You can also add rapid manure to the soil by turning over the soil and burying it deep underneath. It will act as a slow-releasing fertilizer, providing nutrients to plant in the growing season. You don’t have to worry much about the pH of the soil; it will do best in moderate soil with pH ranging from 6 to 7.5.


Napa Cabbage needs moist soil and this becomes even more crucial if you live in warm tropical regions. So it is important that you water plants regularly. Premature bolting is observed if the watering needs are not fulfilled.

Water the plants in a way so that the top 4-6 inches of the soil remains moist. You should be cautious that soil does not turn soggy or waterlogged as it may cause root rot.

Pro Tip: Mulching is a great way to keep the soil moist and cool. It will also prevent the soil from drying out too quickly and help in retaining moisture.

Napa Cabbage Care

Caring for napa cabbage is not much different from that of normal cabbage. Healthy growth is the result of optimum watering, planting the right variety, and potting in good soil.


You can add organic fertilizer to the potting mix before planting or transplanting it in the garden soil. When the seedlings start to grow, slow releasing fertilizers can be sprinkled over the topsoil. It will aid the formation of new roots in seedlings.

Another best time to use fertilizer when the plant is in the heading stage. At this time young leaves grow at a fast rate, and the plant needs a lot of nutrients. You can add inorganic fertilizer rich in nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium, which will help in the production of robust heads.

Alternatively, you can also go for a 10-5-5 blend. Just follow the instructions on the label.

Note: The temperature should not be too high in the heading stage as it may hinder the development of the head. 53-75 F (12-24 C) is an optimum temperature in this stage.

Pests and Diseases

Napa cabbage is susceptible to clubroot, yellow virus, black rot, and blackleg. As the plant takes more time to fully mature as compared to other Asian greens, it is more prone to damage caused by pests and diseases. Infected plants or parts of the plant should be removed immediately as the disease can spread quickly to nearby vegetation.

Common pests such as aphids, slugs, and whiteflies can also pose a threat. Get rid of them manually or by using an insecticidal soap solution. You should also be on a lookout for cabbage worms, cabbage loopers, and flea beetles. Spraying with Bacillus thuringiensis is a great way to get rid of Cabbage Worms.

Pro Tip: If you are fed up with diseases affecting your valuable cabbage, you can select a disease-resistant variety. Look for it on the seed packet.

Harvesting and Storage

Harvesting time depends on the variety. Check that the closed head has turned hard by applying pressure gently. Pull out the plant gently and remove the outer leaves which are in the form of the rosette. You can store the cabbage in a refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.

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