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Close up of bok choy plantation.
Bok choy is a popular Asian leafy green that’s easy to grow and is ready to harvest in as little as six to eight weeks. It’s suitable for all garden sizes, from plots to pots, and can be successively sown for a continuous supply.

What you need to know about bok choy

Name: bok choy, buk choy, bok choi, pak choy, pak choi, Chinese cabbage, Brassica rapa subsp. chinensis.

Height: up to 30cm.

Plant type: annual leafy vegetable.

Climate: all zones.

Soil: moist, well drained, and enriched with compost.

Position: full sun to part shade.

Flowering: small yellow flowers.

Foliage: fleshy, spoon-shaped, dark green leaves with prominent white veins. Bok choy has white stems. Shanghai bok choy has pale-green stems.

Feeding: liquid feed regularly throughout the growing season.

Watering: water regularly.

Appearance and characteristics of bok choy

Bok choy is a fast-growing leafy vegetable with deep green leaves and small yellow flowers. It’s a type of Chinese cabbage but does not form a head like traditional cabbage. Instead, the spoon-shaped leaves with thick, crisp stems are arranged in a loose rosette.

It’s a small vegetable that’s easy to grow in either garden beds or pots. The outer leaves are harvested as needed (like cut-and-come-again lettuce), or the entire plant can be cut.

Close up of bok choy with white roots and stems and large green leaves, packed in a carton.

Bok choy versus pak choy

There is no difference between bok choy and pak choy. It is the same vegetable with different spelling. The name is derived from its Cantonese name, which translates to ‘white vegetable’.

Uses for bok choy

There are various ways to enjoy this leafy vegie. It’s great steamed, braised, boiled, or stir-fried. Bok choy has a subtle cabbage flavour but is versatile enough to be paired with a wide variety of aromatics or sauces, like oyster or XO sauce. Its leaves wilt quickly but the stems keep a good crunch.

How to grow bok choy

Bok choy can be grown in all climates but does best in mild temperatures. Summer heat, especially in warm temperate, arid, or warm subtropical zones can cause it to bolt and go to flower and seed, making the plant bitter, tough, and inedible. During hot weather, you can help reduce the likelihood of it bolting by erecting a shade cloth to provide protection from the heat.

Choose a sunny or partly shaded spot with well-drained soil and dig in some compost and aged manure. Sow seed directly in garden beds or in trays filled with seed-raising mix. Transplant the seedlings when they are 5-7cm tall. Water regularly to keep the soil moist.

Caring for bok choy

Bok choy is an easy vegetable to grow but needs regular watering and applications of fertiliser for healthy growth. Pick as needed and sow successive crops to extend the harvest.

Overhead shot of three bunches of bok choy with large green leaves on a wooden background.

How often should you water and feed bok choy?

Water regularly to keep the soil moist. Spread an organic mulch, like pea straw or lucerne, around plants to help conserve soil moisture.

Apply a liquid fertiliser once a fortnight to support and boost plant growth.

How and when to harvest bok choy

The plant is ready to harvest as soon as it has grown leaves large enough to be eaten. Harvest the outer leaves using a sharp knife, cutting the stems at the base of the plant. Snip as required to encourage more leafy growth. Alternatively, cut the entire plant.

Diseases and pests that affect bok choy

The larvae, or caterpillars, of the cabbage white butterfly and cabbage moth (diamondback moth) chew on the foliage. If left untreated, they can ruin the plants. Control caterpillars with a suitable organic spray, vegetable dust or bio-insecticide, or simply pick them off the leaves.

Snails and slugs often find young plants attractive but can be controlled with traps, organic snail or slug pellets, as well as copper tape.

How to propagate bok choy

Grow from seed or seedlings.

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Start planting today

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Photo credit: Getty Images

Health & Safety

Please make sure you use all equipment appropriately and safely when following the advice in these D.I.Y. videos. You need to be familiar with how to use equipment safely and follow the instructions that came with the equipment. If you are unsure, you may feel it is safest to consult an expert, such as the manufacturer or an expert Bunnings Team Member.

Grave health hazards are linked to asbestos, which may be in homes built up to 1990. Health hazards may result from exposure to lead-based paints in older materials and copper chromium arsenic (CCA) treated timber. For information on the dangers of asbestos, lead-based paint and CCA treated timber and tips for dealing with these materials contact your local council's Environmental Health Officer. You can also use a simple test kit from Bunnings to indicate the presence of lead-based paint.