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BETA vulgaris ssp. cicla

Image of Beta vulgaris ssp. cicla

James H. Schutte

Family

Chenopodiaceae

Botanical Name

BETA vulgaris ssp. cicla

Plant Common Name

Swiss Chard

General Description

Swiss chard is planted for its big crinkled leaves that can be eaten in salads, soups or simply steamed or sautéed. Usually grown as an annual, it is a true biennial. Unlike its cousin the beet, chard is not grown for its fleshy roots but for its large leaves with fleshy edible stems that can be harvested all season. If not harvested in the first year it will produce spikes of unimpressive flowers the second year.

This is an easy vegetable to grow. It prefers full sun and fertile, slightly alkaline garden soil. It is quite heat tolerant but flourishes in cooler seasons. In fact, the leaves may become bitter in extremely hot weather. Plants may be directly seeded or transplanted into the vegetable garden. Sow chard a few weeks before the last frost date in temperate zones and in the winter in warm, frost-free areas. Feed with a balanced fertilizer and water regularly.

Harvest can begin 50 to 60 days after seeding. Leaves should be gathered by cutting the oldest outer stems close to the ground. These have a short shelf life, so eat them quickly.

Standard chard has dark glossy green leaves and white stems and veins. Today there are many colorful varieties available. The award-winning mix ‘Bright Lights’ is the most popular because the stems come in an array of colors such as yellow, red, orange, pink and apricot. Chard also has ornamental value and can be incorporated into container plantings and mixed borders.

Characteristics

  • AHS Heat Zone

    12 - 1

  • USDA Hardiness Zone

    6 - 10

  • Sunset Zone

    A1, A2, A3, H1, H2, 1a, 1b, 2a, 2b, 3a, 3b, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24

  • Plant Type

    Vegetable

  • Sun Exposure

    Full Sun

  • Height

    1'-2' / 0.3m - 0.6m

  • Width

    12"-24" / 30.5cm - 61.0cm

  • Bloom Time

    Late Spring, Early Summer, Summer

  • Native To

    Europe

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Neutral, Alkaline

  • Soil Drainage

    Well Drained

  • Soil type

    Loam, Sand

  • Tolerances

    Salt

  • Growth Rate

    Fast

  • Water Requirements

    Average Water

  • Habit

    Clump-Forming

  • Seasonal Interest

    Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    Insignificant

  • Flower Color

    Red, Green

  • Fruit Color

    Tan

  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    White, Yellow, Red, Green, Orange, Dark Green

  • Foliage Color (Spring) Modifier

    Variegated

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    White, Yellow, Red, Green, Orange, Dark Green

  • Foliage Color (Summer) Modifier

    Variegated

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    White, Yellow, Red, Green, Orange, Dark Green

  • Foliage Color (Fall) Modifier

    Variegated

  • Fragrant Flowers

    No

  • Fragrant Fruit

    No

  • Fragrant Foliage

    No

  • Bark or Stem Fragrant

    No

  • Repeat Bloomer

    No

  • Showy Fruit

    No

  • Edible Fruit

    No

  • Showy Foliage

    Yes

  • Foliage Texture

    Coarse

  • Foliage Sheen

    Glossy

  • Evergreen

    No

  • Showy Bark

    No

Special Characteristics

  • Usage

    Bedding Plant, Container, Edible, Herb / Vegetable, Mixed Border

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    No

  • Invasive

    No

  • Self-Sowing

    Yes