Does Kale Regrow After the Winter Is Over?

With the advent of kale becoming widely accepted in kitchens everywhere, more and more gardeners have begun to grow their own, making available to themselves their own supply of this superfood. But growing something new raises questions, and many gardeners wonder whether your kale will regrow after the winter is over.

Most varieties of kale will regrow after their first winter. If the winter is particularly hard, the plant may not survive it. However, kale is cold-hardy, so a large swath of first-year kale in the United States will regrow after the winter.

This article looks at kale’s life cycle, its ability to tolerate cold winters, and how to maximize its output in your garden.

Wintering Kale

Kale will return after that first year, and since it’s such a hardy plant, you probably won’t need to do much to it after its first growing season has wrapped up.

That season, however, wraps up a lot later than that of other plants. Kale likes the cold, growing through the early winter months, and if you live in warmer areas, you might even have it grow through the entire winter.

If you’re in a cold enough place, though, your kale will eventually stop producing. One great thing about kale? You won’t need to do anything maintenance-related to it in preparation for winter. For that matter, you don’t have to do much to it during the winter, either. 

The ground will be cold, if not frozen, so watering your dormant plant isn’t necessary. Along those same lines, there won’t be any weeds springing up, and the cold will also keep insect pests at bay. We’re talking about a no-maintenance plant in the cold.

Extreme Cold

In spite of what we just said, you may need to take some protective action if you live in a place with tough winters. 

An excellent tool to have for your winter gardening is a cold frame. It’s a box with no bottom that you set down on your plants. The top and sides of the box are framed with wood or plastic, and the walls and roof (the box’s lid) are plastic or glass.

A cold frame helps keep the temperatures around your plants warmer than the outside air, allowing some of the ground’s heat to collect in the cold frame.

You have several options here. On one end, you can get something like a portable greenhouse. These are a little pricey, though there are much more expensive cold frames that do the same job.

On the less expensive end, you can get a mini garden greenhouse. It’s a cloche, meaning it’s a little greenhouse, and it will afford your plants. A cold frame boasts lightweight steel construction with a flexible plastic body and allows aid, sunlight, and moisture to get to your plants while still keeping them relatively warm.

Finally, you have the option of building a cold frame. Construction is relatively simple, and you can find plans for building your own on most agricultural college websites, like this one from North Carolina State University.

Building your own cold frame allows you to build it to the dimensions you need and lets you make all the material decisions. Plus, it’s fun to build stuff.

Does Kale Come Back Every Year?

Kale comes back after the first winter. Kale is biennial, which means it lives for two seasons. It blooms during the second season, but its leaves become bitter.

Many gardeners know about perennials and annuals, and some of those gardeners prefer one over the other. Maybe it’s personal taste, or maybe it’s just the kind of garden they grow. Most flowers in, for instance, a butterfly garden are annuals. If you want that type of garden, annuals are what you’ll be working with.

But what does “annual” mean, and what does it have to do with growing kale?

  • Annual plants are those that live for one season. They generally bloom longer than perennials do. They will drop seeds if you let them, so sometimes people mistake them for being perennials because they seem to come back the following year. What’s growing, though, are volunteer plants resulting from those dropped seeds.
  • Perennial plants go dormant at the end of the season and sprout new growth each spring. We refer to them as perennials because they stay alive year after year (in reality, most of them last about three seasons). They don’t bloom as long as annuals, so gardeners wanting lots of flowers for much of the growing season will mix and match both types of plants.

A Third Category

Unbeknownst to many, there’s a third type: biennial plants. Biennials live for two seasons, only flowering—to facilitate reproduction—the second year. Gardeners who plan well can get blooms each year by alternating biennial plants.

Kale is one of these plants. But since the kale plant’s blooms aren’t what we’re after, but rather its leaves for our dinner plates, we mainly care about that first season.

When to Harvest Kale

We’ve established that, technically, your kale will come back after its first winter due to its biennial nature. However, what we have not covered is what the plant does in its second year.

Since this is the period in the plant’s lifecycle where it concerns itself with reproduction, it puts its efforts into flowering so it can produce seeds for the genesis of the next generation.

Why should you care? Because second-year kale is all but inedible. It won’t poison you or anything if you eat it, but it will taste bitter. We eat the kale leaves, but the kale plant doesn’t put much effort into growing those in its second year, so the ones it has will be leftover from last year or new, puny ones.

With this in mind, understand that while you’ll get that second season out of your kale plant, don’t plan on depending on it for food that year.

Instead, as we’ve mentioned earlier, plant new kale each year to have an annual supply. Either gather the seeds from that second-season kale you already have or grow some new ones from cuttings.

Either way, you’ll ensure that you have kale every year and that your garden is self-sufficient. You can buy new kale from the nursery each spring, but it’s not necessary.

Maximizing Your Kale’s Output

You need your kale to be strong enough to deal with the cold weather it will encounter with its long harvesting season. To ensure that, plant on time. You can plant kale as soon as the last frost has passed and harvest it in late spring. But if you want kale in the fall and possibly winter, you’ll need to plant it in July or August.

If you wait to plant until September, especially if you’re growing from seeds, the resulting plants won’t be strong enough to make it through the winter. Plant on time!

You can also ensure your harvesting period lasts as long as possible by harvesting the leaves correctly.

A mature, harvest-ready kale leaf is about the size of your hand, so do your best not to pick anything smaller than that. Harvest from the bottom of the plant and work up. You’ll be sure to get the older leaves (because that’s where they live), leaving the younger ones to grow a bit more.

Also, pick the whole stem. If you just tear the leaf from the stem, you’ll inhibit additional growth.

Following these tips can help ensure a long harvesting season. One of the draws to kale is that it grows late into the year so that you can rely on it for fresh produce, even in colder months. Don’t undermine that by picking it too early or incorrectly.


Kale is a superfood that brings nutrient-rich produce to your table even during the winter months. It will regrow after its first winter, but its leaves will not have the crisp taste and texture of first-year kale leaves during that second season.

To allow for the most growth in the colder weather that kale plants love, protect it from the extreme cold with a cold frame and be sure you harvest it correctly.

Alexander Picot

Alexander Picot is the principal creator of, a website dedicated to gardening tips. Inspired by his mother’s love of gardening, Alex has a passion for taking care of plants and turning backyards into feel-good places and loves to share his experience with the rest of the world.

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