Let's grow purple tree collards!

Purple Tree Collards – A Fantastic Perennial Vegetable

Purple tree collards are a fantastic but rare perennial vegetable. With a nice mild flavor, and reaching heights over 6 feet (1.8 meters), these plants can provide you with a year-round abundance of greens for you and your family. Ready to get started with purple tree collards? Keep reading to learn more.

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Purple tree collards are a perennial vegetable that is related to other brassicas like broccoli, cabbage, and other common garden vegetables.

Because of this, they’re one of the easier perennial vegetables to introduce to your garden, since you can use them just like you would kale or collard greens.

Wild Tip

There are several types of perennial brassicas which all make great additions to the garden. Check out this post to learn more: Perennial Brassicas – An Easy First Perennial Vegetable.

While tree collards are fairly easy to grow, they aren’t very cold-hardy, doing best in USDA climate zones 8-9.

But they can be grown in greenhouses in colder areas and you can take cuttings from them. You can root these cuttings inside over the winter and then transplant them back out in the spring.

I know of at least one example of this being done in zone 5 in Chicago.

Here in western Washington, they have survived several winters along the south side of my house. The coldest temperatures were down in the upper teens (F) but the warm micro-climate along the south side of our house kept them happy.

If you live in a warm enough climate for growing purple tree collards, they will make a fantastic addition to your wild homestead.

Let’s dive into more information about these great perennial vegetables!

But before you scroll on down, make sure to grab your free and easy-to-print cheat-sheet all about perennial greens! Tree collards are just one of 11 perennial greens covered in this cheat-sheet.

Growing and Harvesting Purple Tree Collards

Purple tree collards are a great perennial vegetable

While our tree collards started out small, they’ve grown quite large! So much so that they even help shade part of our house. Soon I will have to keep them trimmed so they don't block our window!

Purple tree collards are very easy to grow, though they can be a bit slow to get established. I got my first 3 as rooted cuttings from a great nursery about 2 years ago (see the link at the bottom of this section).

During the first year I only harvested them occasionally to let them get established. But now at the start of year 2 they’ve taken off, and they provide a ton of great tasting greens.

You harvest the leaves like you would kale or regular collard greens.

The leaves can get quite large, and these are best used for cooking. But the plant will get lots of smaller leaves that are nice and tender. You can eat these leaves raw in salads, in sandwiches or in wraps.

As an evergreen plant, the leaves will be available to harvest all year round, and they’re a bit sweeter in the winter after a frost.

This makes them a fantastic winter green in milder climates.

Purple tree collards are a fairly rare perennial vegetable, but they’re becoming easier to find in local nurseries. I ordered mine online, but this year (2020), a nursery in my area was selling them.

While these plants can take a frost, they may be killed or die back from temperatures below the upper teens (F).

In zone 8, most winters will be fine. But cold snaps do happen that push the temperature colder than purple tree collards would like.

Because of this, if you’re in zone 8 (or trying your luck in zone 7), make sure to plant them in a sheltered warm micro-climate. Ideally a spot where they’re protected from cold northern winds.

Purple tree collards are fairly easy to propagate through cuttings. So if you’re worried about your plants surviving an upcoming cold snap, take some cuttings inside to root.

If your plants are killed, you will at least have the cuttings to replant in the spring. This could be a good option if you only get cold snaps like that once every 5 to 10 years.

To learn more about how to propagate purple tree collards, check out the fantastic Project Tree Collard’s site which goes over each of the steps needed to propagate these great plants.

They also have great information on how to prune your purple tree collards to get the most out of them and keep them healthy.

Ready to get started with these great plants? Here is a quick summary, along with a link, to order your own purple tree collards.

Info on Purple Tree Collard

  • First Harvest: 1st year
  • USDA Climate Zone: 8-9 
  • Sunlight Requirement: full to partial-sun 
  • Plant Size at Maturity: 8 ft high and 2-2.5 ft wide
  • Purchase: Rooted Cuttings 
  • Note: Propagated by rooting cuttings of existing plants. The link for purchasing is the best source I was able to find. This is a rare but amazing plant.

Getting Started with this Great Perennial Vegetable

Close up of purple tree collard leaves

I just love how big the leaves can get on these great perennial vegetables!

Purple tree collards are a great example of how you can start transitioning away from traditional annual and biennial vegetables.

But tree collards are called that for a reason. They can get really big!

So make sure to put them somewhere that they won’t shade out your other vegetables. They will also need something to support them.

After mine fell over and started growing sideways, I built a simple wire fence using u-posts. This is enough to keep them from falling over.

The plants are happier and I can get through my path again. Plus, it’s much easier to harvest them now!

If you want to learn more about perennial vegetables, then make sure to check out these other posts:

There are many other easy-to-grow perennial vegetables, including ones that do great in colder climates.

Growing these sorts of vegetables is a great way to work with nature to cultivate abundance for people, plants and animals.

Every year, I try to add some new perennial vegetables to my wild homestead. How about giving purple tree collards a try this year on your wild homestead!

I would love to hear from you—leave a comment below saying if you’ve tried purple tree collards or if you’re planning to in the future.

Happy growing!

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Daron

Daron is a restoration ecologist, a lifelong gardener, and the founder of Wild Homesteading. He manages the restoration program for a local non-profit, and he applies restoration and sustainable gardening techniques on his family’s own wild homestead. He loves sharing the joy of growing food with his two beautiful children. In addition, to running this site Daron manages the restoration program for a local non-profit and is a husband to an amazing wife who makes this site and the homestead possible and daddy to 2 perfect kids.

  • Lyda says:

    I have not tried these, but I intend to. I like collards, just getting ready to go fix them with some scrambled eggs for breakfast! I have to grow most things indoors so hoping these will work. I do micro greens and a lot of other things but didn’t know about perennial collards. Thanks for the info.

  • Amy says:

    Hi Daron… what might be some good veggies to grow underneath in a mini food forest type of arrangement?

    • Daron says:

      Hello, really any veggies that stay low would be fine under tree collards. But I would let the tree collards get established for a year and start planting under them in their 2nd year. By then they will be well above most other vegetables except for large ones like tomatoes and any climbers. But in the first year you could plant veggies that wouldn’t shade them like spinach, lettuce, and maybe even carrots near by. Once the tree collards are established you could plant most greens under them but I would avoid large ones like kale and some chard varieties. Root crops like carrots should be kept out a bit say 1 foot away to prevent disturbing the roots of the tree collards. Any veggies that stay under 3 feet in height could work once the tree collards are well established. Really even taller ones could work since tree collards can get up to 8 feet but you will want to keep the leaves within easy reach to harvest so I’m assuming 5 to 6 feet is more likely. I haven’t tried using them in this way but it should work. Good luck!

  • Bonnie says:

    Hi Daron, thanks for all the great info on tree collards. I have been intrigued for a couple years after seeing them mentioned on a blog, but I have not been able to find them. So, thanks for that info. you mentioned they have a mild taste. Is it similar to regular collards?

    • Daron says:

      Hello Bonnie,

      Yup they taste very similar to regular collards and I also use them to replace kale and chard. Thanks for the comment and I’m glad the post was helpful for you!

  • Max says:

    Hi Daron, since I am Dutch, I have to translate everything 😉 But can’t find a proper translation for “Purple tree collard”. Can you help me with the Latin word for it? Then it must be easy. Thanks and keep going on with your posts!

    • Daron says:

      Hello, I’m afraid the scientific name for purple tree collards won’t be much help but here it is: Brassica oleracea. The reason that may not help you is that it’s the same scientific name as broccoli, kale, cabbage and other common brassicas. All these plants are technically the same species with the same Latin name. But tree collards are within the a specific group of brassicas called the Acephala group. This group includes kale and collard greens. Not sure if this will help but good luck and thank you for your comment!

  • Coby Carl Tynsky says:

    hi daron, im so glad to join your party and look at your great site. i just ordered two tree collards from oikos tree crops. its a wonderful catalog with surprising perennial vegetable and edible flowers.

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