Growing Pak Choi in Containers is super easy. It is an ideal vegetable for container gardeners as it grows quickly and doesn’t take space!
Pak choi is a cabbage family plant that grows best in moderately cool weather like other brassicas. It is one of the varieties of Asian greens and also known as Chinese white cabbage. This quick growing vegetable grows best in partial shade and does not take a lot of space. A perfect vegetable crop to grow in containers.
The flavor of pak choi is a combination of mild spinach, mustard, and cabbage. The entire plant is edible from bulb to foliage, it can be stir-fried, braised, steamed, baked, and added to soups but tastes best when added to salads.
USDA Zones: 3-11, pak choi is a biennial crop in its favorable climate but can be grown as an annual in all the zones. Timing and growing season may differ.
Other Names: Brassica rapa var. Chinensis, Chinese Chard, Chinese Cabbage, Chinese Celery Cabbage, Chinese White Cabbage, Bok Choy, Buk Choy, Pak Tsoi, Petsai, Mustard Cabbage, Pac Choi, Soup Spoon, 上海青
Pak Choi (Bok Choy) Types and Varieties
Bok choy is divided into four categories, based on the appearance: White Stemmed bok choy, Green Stemmed bok choy, Soup Spoon bok choy, and Canton (Dwarf) bok choy.
Below you can see the information only on White-stemmed and Green-stemmed bok choy as both the Soup Spoon and Canton bok choy come under White-Stemmed and Green-Stemmed bok choy.
White-Stemmed Bok Choy
White-stemmed bok choy varieties are usually large, around 12-15 inches and harvested at full size. However, you can harvest them at a young stage as well. They are more popularly used in stir-fries and soups, but can also be used in salads.
Green-Stemmed Bok Choy
Green-stemmed bok choy (also known as Shanghai bok choi) varieties are smaller in size, and usually do not grow above 10 inches tall. Some of the green-stemmed varieties are harvested young when they are 6 inches tall and sold as baby bok choi. They have thin, tender leaves and pale to green petioles (stalk). This type of bok choy is more suitable for salads and steaming.
5 Best Pak Choi Varieties
A report published in Iowa State University website talks about the research they conducted on the most productive and best pak choi varieties. Check out the report here! We are mentioning those varieties below.
1. Joi Choi: Joi Choi has white stems and large dark green leaves. It is resistant to bolting and cold temperatures. It is one of the two main cultivars that produced the highest yield. It matures within 45-55 days.
2. Black Summer: The Black Summer is light green stemmed variety and bolts slowly in heat. It does not take more than 45 days to reach maturity. Not to mention the fact that it produced the highest number of marketable heads in research.
3. Feng Qing Choi: Feng Qing Choi is a very productive variety. It is a hybrid and has green stems. It is very slow to bolt. It takes no more than 45 days to reach maturity.
4. Mei Qing Choi: Mei Qing Choi is one of the best pak choi varieties. It is very productive. It is a dwarf green stemmed pak choi that is resistant to cold, heat, and bolting. Good for impatient container gardeners as it doesn’t take more than 35-40 days to reach maturity.
5. Win Win Choi: This white stemmed pak choi variety is a hybrid. It does not grow more than 10-12 inches. Plant it if you want a bumper harvest. It takes about 50-55 days to reach maturity.
How to Grow Pak Choi in Containers
Growing Pak Choi from Seeds
Grow pak choi plants from seeds. Sow the seeds 1/2 inch deep directly in the desired pots 1 inch apart or use the seed trays and sow 2 seeds in each cell. Within 4-8 days they will germinate. Thin the unwanted seedlings and transplant when they grow about 2 inches tall.
Tip: As you are growing pak choi in containers, you can also buy young plants from a nearby nursery or online.
Start off seeds indoors by planting 4-5 weeks before the last frost you expect. Or, to make things easier, wait until the last frost prediction date is over to sow the seeds directly and keep the pots outside. The late planting will also help you in stopping the premature bolting of pak choi as young plants exposed to frost or a nighttime temperature below 10 C (50 F) continuously, bolts prematurely. You can also start the pak choi plants in late summer or fall (autumn) and keep sowing seeds until the 6-8 weeks before the expected first frost.
If you live in a hot tropical climate, grow pak choi in fall, winter, and early spring.
When young plants are exposed to frost and cool temperatures, they start to bolt as soon as the temperature rises. To prevent this, begin transplanting or keeping your containers outdoors when the nighttime temperature starts to stay above 50 F (10 C). This procedure will help in reducing the transplanting shock, which causes premature bolting.
Space the plants according to the variety you are growing. For dwarf pak choi varieties, 3-4 inches of spacing is sufficient. For larger varieties maintain minimum 6-8 inches of space between each plant.
Choosing the Container
Choose the container that is 6 inches deep and as wide as possible for growing dwarf or baby pak choi. If you are growing full-sized pak choi, use a container that is 8-10 inches deep. Wide rectangular window boxes are great for this purpose, or you can choose small separate pots with a diameter of 6-8 inches for one single plant.
Requirements for Growing Pak Choi in Pots
Pak choi grows well in part shade. So choose the spot that is partially sunny. However, if you live in a really cool climate or in the weather where the intensity of sunlight is low, increase the exposure to the sun. If you live in a hot climate, provide more shade than sun. For example, if your area falls in USDA Zone 11, only 3 hours of direct sunlight is enough.
For growing pak choi, use well-drained quality potting mix rich in organic matter. Soil texture must be crumbly and loose with some water holding capacity as it prefers lightly moist growing medium. Avoid soil that promotes clogging and thwarts the drainage, which leads to waterlogging. It prefers neutral to the slightly alkaline soil, and the ideal soil pH is between 6 to 7.5.
It prefers slightly moist soil so never let the soil to dry out completely. Regular watering and sufficient moisture level is the key to success when growing pak choi, especially when the temperature warms up. Avoid wetting the foliage, overwatering and water stagnation as it can lead to root rot and other fungal diseases.
Tip: Premature bolting and less juicy leaves can be the signs of insufficient watering.
The optimum temperature for growing bok choy is between 55 F to 75 F (13 C to 24 C). However, it can grow when the temperature ranges from 30 F to 90 F (10 C to 32 C). It can tolerate light frost and temperature below 30 F (0 C) for some time. Bok choy can also tolerate heat and temperature around 90 F (32 C).
Tip: As you are growing bok choy in containers, you can easily maintain the temperature when it goes down by providing warmth and protection. Similarly, provide more shade and moisture in higher temperatures in hotter areas.
Pak Choi Care
Growing pak choi is not difficult, and no special care is required. Regular watering, choosing the correct variety, timing, and best soil is the key to a bountiful harvest.
Apply nitrogen-rich fertilizer to promote the vegetative growth. You can add balanced slow-release fertilizer at the time of transplanting, it will provide the constant supply of nutrients at a slow rate. Or go organic by mixing a lot of compost or well-rotted manure in the potting mix at the time of planting in the desired containers. Feed the plants with fish emulsion, compost or manure tea after 10 days of transplanting and when they complete half of their growth. If in case you are not adding slow-release fertilizer, feed with liquid fertilizer at regular interval.
Tip: Pak choi benefits from frequent light fertilization, instead of one heavy fertilization.
You can start to harvest tender bok choy leaves as soon as 3-4 weeks after their emergence. Cut the outer leaves carefully and let the inner leaves thrive. For harvesting whole heads, wait for 45-55 days, depending more on the variety. Cut the whole plant at the soil level and use accordingly.
Tip: Bok choy bolts to seed quickly when the temperature soars up. So make sure that you harvest the plant before the hot weather perks up.
Tip: Do succession planting for the constant pak choi supply. Sow seeds after every couple of weeks.
Pests and Diseases
Pests such as cabbage loopers and cabbage worms can cause damage to the pak choi crop. Flea beetles chew off the leaves making small holes in the leaves can also be the problem. Common garden pests like whiteflies and aphids also attract towards it.
However, the greatest advantage of container gardening is you can easily keep an eye on them and knock them off before the infestation.