RHS Growing Guides

How to grow pak choi

Our detailed growing guide will help you with each step in successfully growing Pak choi.

  1. Getting Started
  2. Choosing
  3. Sowing
  4. Planting
  5. Plant Care
  6. Harvesting
  7. Problems

Getting Started

Getting Started
Section 1 of 7

Pak choi is a fast-growing and delicious oriental brassica that can be used as baby leaves in salads or grown to form a larger rosette for cooking – lightly steam, sauté or stir-fry so the stems retain their succulent crunch.

Pak choi (or bok choy) is an oriental brassica – a member of the cabbage family. It’s a tasty and attractive crop – mature plants form tight upright rosettes with broad white or pale green stems and large lush leaves in shades of green or dark purple, depending on the variety.

Pak choi is quick and easy to grow as cut and come again salad leaves in as little as five weeks, for repeated harvests of baby leaves. Purple-leaved varieties are particularly attractive. Growing it to semi-mature or full-sized heads takes eight to ten weeks, but plants do have a tendency to bolt (flower) in summer. Early and late sowing can help to avoid this.

Seeds germinate readily and grow quickly, so it’s worth sowing small batches regularly for continuous harvests. Pak choi likes cool, damp conditions, so keep plants well watered and in light shade, especially in summer.

Other oriental brassicas that are grown in a similar way include tatsoi, Chinese cabbage, Chinese broccoli, choy sum, komatsuna, mizuna and mibuna. They all do particularly well from late summer onwards.

Month by Month



There are several varieties of pak choi available as seeds, with either bright white or pale green stems and dark green, lime-green or rich purple leaves.

Some varieties are better harvested as baby salad leaves, others as full-sized rosettes, but most are dual purpose. Some make larger plants, others are more compact and ideal for small spaces and containers.

It is best to choose bolt-resistant varieties if growing as full-sized plants, especially in summer.Look in particular for varieties with an RHS Award of Garden Merit (AGM), which shows they performed well in trials – see our list of AGM fruit and veg for recommended varieties of pak choi and many other crops.

For more veg-growing inspiration, visit the RHS gardens, which all grow a wide range of vegetables, including oriental brassicas and other leafy crops.

What and where to buy 

Pak choi seeds are readily available from many gardening retailers. You can buy single varieties or mixed packets of several colourful types. Pak choi is also often included in seed mixes of oriental greens or salad leaves, for harvesting when young.

Young plants may be available in spring and early summer from garden centres and online retailers, if you don’t have the time or space to grow your own from seed. The choice of varieties may be quite limited though.

Recommended Varieties

Showing 3 out of 5 varieties


Pak choi is easy to sow indoors or outside, in the ground and in large containers. Seeds should germinate in about a week and seedlings should grow quickly. Sow small batches of seeds every few weeks for continuous harvests.

Pak choi is a cool-season crop, growing best in mild, damp weather in spring/early summer and late summer/autumn. Hot or cold temperatures and dry conditions can trigger premature flowering (bolting), especially when growing plants to full size. Use cloches or fleece to protect seedlings in spring if temperatures drop. When growing for young salad leaves or in cooler locations, seeds can be sown in summer too.

Related RHS Guides
Successional sowing

Preparing the ground

Pak choi likes fertile soil that doesn’t dry out, so dig in two bucketfuls of well-rotted manure or garden compost per square metre/yard, to help retain moisture. Choose a warm, sheltered position, in sun for early and late sowings, in light shade for summer crops.

Weed the site thoroughly, then rake the soil surface to a fine texture, removing any large stones.

You can also grow pak choi in containers and growing bags, especially as baby leaves. Pots should be at least 30cm (1ft) wide, as smaller containers dry out too rapidly. Use multi-purpose or soil-based compost, and position in a warm, sheltered spot, in sun or in light shade in warm weather.

Sowing indoors

You can sow pak choi indoors from spring onwards, into modular trays filled with seed compost. Sow one or two seeds per module, then thin out to the strongest seedling if necessary. See our step-by-step guide to sowing indoors.

Young plants can be moved outside once temperatures have warmed up, from late spring onwards – see Planting, below.

Sowing outdoors

Sow outdoors from spring onwards, once there is no risk of frost, in a warm, sunny or lightly shaded position in fertile soil. Prepare the ground or containers as detailed above. Protect early and late sowings with cloches or fleece.

Sow pak choi seeds thinly, 2cm (¾in) deep in rows at least 30cm (1ft) apart. See our guide to sowing outdoors.

Protect seedlings from slugs and snails.  

To prevent overcrowding, gradually thin out the seedlings, and use the thinnings in salads. The final spacings depend on what stage you’re going to harvest them:

  • 8–10cm (3–4in) apart for baby leaves

  • 20cm (8in) apart for semi-mature plants

  • 25–30cm (10–12in) apart for mature plants

To grow other similar crops, see our guide to growing mizuna and mibuna, and our quick and easy container-sowing advice.



Young plants, either grown from seed indoors or newly bought, can be planted outside from late spring, once they are at least 10cm (4in) tall. Harden them off carefully first, to acclimatise them to outdoor conditions and prevent any checks to their growth.

Plant them into prepared ground or large containers (see above), spacing them about 8cm (3in) apart for baby leaves and up to 30cm (12in) for full-sized plants. Water them in well, and continue watering regularly.

Related RHS Guides
Transplanting seedlings


Plant Care

Pak choi needs little upkeep, apart from regular watering in dry spells, especially if growing in containers.


Water pak choi seedlings and young plants regularly. Continue watering whenever the soil or potting compost starts to dry out. Pak choi likes damp conditions, and young plants can soon wilt in hot, dry spells.

The ideal time to water is early in the morning, so plants are well set up for the day and can grow steadily. Avoid watering in the evening if possible, as damp soil can attract slugs and snails overnight.


Spread a mulch of garden compost over the soil around the plants to help to hold in moisture and deter weed germination.

Related RHS Guides
Guide to mulching.


Weed the crop regularly, so young plants don’t have to compete for moisture or light, which can hinder their growth. Weeds can also provide hiding places for pests, such as snails.

Related RHS Guides
Tips on controlling weeds


Pak choi is susceptible to bolting (flowering prematurely), especially in hot, dry weather. So in summer, choose bolt-resistant varieties and keep plants well watered and shaded from midday sun.

If plants do start to send up flower stems, remove these and add to salads or stir-fries before the buds open. Harvest the rest of the plant straight away too, as it will only deteriorate. Any other plants sown at the same time are likely to start flowering soon, so harvest them promptly.

Related RHS Guides
Deterring bolting



Pak choi can be picked from early summer to autumn (and possibly later under cloches), depending on sowing times and the stage of maturity:

  • Baby leaves are ready to pick in as little as 30 days – snip off individual leaves, only taking a few from each plant along the row, as a cut and come again crop. Plants will continue to produce fresh leaves for repeated pickings until they start to flower. Use the young leaves raw in salads or add to stir-fries.

  • Semi-mature or full-sized pak choi should be ready harvest in 45–75 days, when still compact and firm. Cut through the base of the stem with a sharp knife. Cook the rosettes lightly to retain some crunchiness in the stems and the flavour in the leaves – sauté, steam or add them to stir-fries and all kinds of oriental dishes.

If plants start to flower, harvest them immediately, before they deteriorate. Young flower stalks and buds can be added to salads or lightly cooked too. Once one plant in a row begins to flower, the rest will probably follow suit, so try to use them all soon.

For the best flavoured leaves and crunchy, succulent stems, use pak choi as fresh as possible, straight after harvesting. Individual leaves and whole heads can also be stored in a plastic bag in the fridge for a week or so if necessary.



Guide Start
Section 7 of 7

Pak choi is liable to bolt (flower prematurely) in unfavourable growing conditions – usually when too dry and hot, although cold snaps can also trigger it. See our guide to deterring bolting for more tips.

Slugs and snails like to eat young pak choi seedlings – see our tips on deterring slugs and snails.

Being a member of the cabbage or brassica family, pak choi is susceptible to brassica pests such as cabbage root fly. However these shouldn’t be a problem when growing speedy young salad leaves.

Flea beetles make tiny holes in the leaves, but the damage is only cosmetic. A covering of fleece should prevent this, if you want pristine leaves.

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