Bok choy, also known as pak choi or Chinese cabbage, is a leafy vegetable that is as delicious as it is nutritious. It is also extremely hardy, making it a fantastic choice for even cold regions when grown outside. Of course, even a tough veggie like this can’t handle icy winter temperatures, which may have you wondering how to grow bok choy indoors. Let’s take a look at what this tasty plant needs for year-round harvesting.
Bok Choy Overview
Bok choy is a native of China, though these days it’s found growing in gardens around the world. It is part of the Chinese brassicas family and is known for its thick white or green stems and large, light to dark green leaves.
Like some other leafy vegetables, this cruciferous plant is extremely nutritious. It contains vitamins A, C, and K, potassium, iron, calcium, fiber, folate, and several other nutrients and minerals. It is also low in calories, sugar, and carbohydrates, and contains no fat whatsoever.
Bok choy makes a great addition to soups, stir-fry, dumplings, and salads, making it a versatile addition to a large variety of meals. Best of all, it’s as simple to grow as it is to cook, so there’s no reason not to add it to a home garden.
For gardening, here are some tips to keep in mind when growing bok choy:
- Bok choy is a cool weather crop; keep it away from direct sunlight and warmer temperatures.
- Bok Choy likes good amounts of sun and needs to get about 6+ hours of indirect sunlight per day.
- Keep the soil moist but not overly soaked. Check the top inch before watering.
- Baby bok choy is a smaller variety that is a great choice for indoor growing.
- Younger plants tend to be sweeter in flavor. You can harvest either part of the leaves or the whole plant.
Bok choy needs plenty of space to grow, so you’ll need a container at least 10 inches wide for a single plant and twice this size if you want to add a few more in there. The container material doesn’t matter, though it will require drainage holes to release excess moisture. For the soil, a rich, lightweight, well-draining potting mix is best.
In terms of planting, you have a couple of good options. You can start with seeds, seedlings, or grow from cuttings. Let’s briefly look at each one and the differences in care needed to succeed.
Space the seeds about a half inch apart and half an inch deep in the soil. Then cover them and add a bit of water to settle them in place. Stick them in a sunny location that stays warm for optimal growth. As they grow, you can thin them out if needed to give them more room. Once they reach about 2” in height you can transplant them if desired.
If you’re using seedlings, leave at least 6 inches of space between each one to give the plants room to spread out. Plant them in your chosen container, and give them a fresh dose of water immediately after planting. Then, follow normal care for bok choy.
Your last option is to grow them from cuttings. To start, you’ll need an existing piece of bok choy, either from the store or another plant. Then, you’ll place your cutting into water until it begins to grow roots. At that point, you can move it to a normal container with soil.
We have a whole guide on growing bok choy from cuttings, so if you’re interested in that route check it out for a more in-depth look.
Though it can tolerate some shade, bok choy grows best in full sun. Placing them near a south-facing window is best to ensure they get a minimum of 6 hours of direct sunlight each day. During the hottest time of the day, you can add some sheer curtains to reduce the harshness of the rays, though this is likely only required during the highest summer temperatures.
If you’re having trouble hitting that amount, or growing in the low-light winter, try supplementing with a grow light. This is an easy way to add some extra light to your garden.
Bok choy doesn’t like to be dry but also hates overly damp conditions. It’s best to keep the soil moist but not wet for this leafy veggie to thrive. You may need to increase how often you water it during the hot summer months but don’t overdo it, or your plants will suffer. When watering, it’s best to avoid the leaves, keeping the moisture at the base of the plant instead.
When watering, check that the top inch or so of the soil is dry. This is generally the best time to water as the soil is starting to dry out, but isn’t completely so. Water until you see it begin to leak from the drainage holes of your container.
As for fertilizer, the best time for it is during planting to ensure these heavy feeders have the proper nutrients right from the start. You can use an organic, balanced fertilizer and a bit of compost when preparing the container before planting the seeds. The plants shouldn’t need anything more throughout their growing season.
Bok choy prefers cooler temperatures, which is why it thrives when grown outdoors in the spring and fall. Too much heat can cause bolting, though frost will also be harmful to the plant. Of course, neither of these should cause an issue when growing bok choy indoors. Keep the temperature between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit for lush, healthy plants.
Bok choy also doesn’t like overly dry conditions, though your home’s normal humidity level should be fine for this plant to thrive. It gets its moisture from the soil and doesn’t like wet leaves, so as long as you keep that soil damp, your plants should be just fine.
The only times humidity might be an issue is during dry winters. If you notice a bit of leaf droop, but the soil is still moist, try lightly misting the plant every couple of days. This adds extra humidity without the risk of overwatering the plant. You can also check out our humidity guide for more tips.
There are a few ways to harvest bok choy, depending on how much of it you need at any time. When you only need a small amount, you can simply cut off a few of the outer leaves and let the rest of the plant continue growing. The sweetest and most tender leaves come from immature plants, though the full-grown plants are still delicious. If you need more bok choy for larger meals, you can harvest the entire plant. Cut it off at soil level, leaving the rest in place. A few new leaves may sprout from the piece left in the ground which can be harvested again in the future. This second growth is likely to be smaller than the first, but the flavor is no less tasty.
How To Grow Bok Choy Indoors
Bok choy requires a fair bit of space to grow, which is why it is usually an outdoor plant. Of course, if you want a year-round supply of this tasty veggie and have the space for a decent-sized container, growing bok choy indoors is a relatively easy task. Doing so will ensure you have a regular supply to enjoy whenever you like.
What is Baby Bok Choy?
Baby bok choy is the dwarf version of regular bok choy. The heads are smaller, and it grows at a faster rate, taking only 30 to 40 days compared to the 45- to 60-day cycle of larger varieties. Baby bok choy also has smaller leaves with a sweeter flavor than full-size plants.
How Long Does Bok Choy Last After Harvest?
Bok choy doesn’t have a very long shelf life. After harvest, it can be kept in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days, though it won’t be good after this. Harvest only what you need and don’t wash it until you’re ready to use it to prolong its short lifespan in the fridge.
Can Bok Choy Be Planted in Summer?
When grown indoors, bok choy can be planted year-round. If you plant it outside, it’s best to seed in the spring and fall. High summer heat levels can trigger bolting, which is when the plant prematurely flowers and goes to seed. When this occurs, the plant stops producing new leaves and eventually dies.
Can You Harvest Bok Choy Multiple Times?
Yes, if you pick the leaves instead of harvesting the whole plant you’ll typically get a handful of harvests per plant per season.
How Long Does Bok Choy Take To Mature
It takes bok choy about 45 days to mature, although it may take a few longer when growing indoors.