Gypsophila

Gypsophila

A small genus of annuals and herbaceous perennials that produce abundant airy sprays of tiny white flowers. The herbaceous forms are favoured by florists and flower arrangers as a background foil.

Family: Caryophyllaceae (pink family)
Botanical Name: Gypsophila
Common Names: Baby's breath, chalk plant

Foliage: Deciduous or semi-evergreen. Narrow, grey-green leaves.

Flowers: Large sprays of tiny blooms on branching stems, in shades of white or light pink. Single, double and semi-double forms are available.

Flowering Period: June to September.

Soil: Moist but well-drained, deep fertile soil (chalk, sand or loam). Alkaline or neutral pH. Dislikes heavy or waterlogged conditions. Ideal for dry gardens.

Conditions: Best in full sun.

Habit: Bushy, erect.

Type: Hardy perennials and half-hardy annuals.

Origin: Europe and western Asia

Hardiness: Half-hardy (protect from frost) to fully hardy (depending on variety).

Gypsophila

Planting and Growing Gypsophila

The annual forms are fast growers and if open-sown around April should flower from June onwards. Perennial forms are deep-rooted, long-lived plants, that need plenty of sun and space to spread.

Gypsophila can be grown in an east, west or south facing aspect, in an exposed or sheltered possition. Best on free-draining soil. They prefer lime or chalk, but will thrive in most good soils that are not acidic. Ideal for dry gardens.

A good gap filler in the border, it is suitable for mixed flower beds, borders, pots and containers. Ideal for cottage gardens, rockeries and gravel gardens. They can be used to great impact if grown in drifts.

Alpine and miniature forms are useful for the rock garden, troughs or edging borders. They are particularly attractive when allowed to cascade down a steep bank or dry wall.

Tall varieties are excellent for cut flowers and flower arrangements.

Taking Care of Gypsophila

Support taller plants in windy situations with thin twiggy sticks as they grow. Feed every few weeks with a general liquid fertilizer.

Protect perennial forms from winter wet.

Pruning

Cutting down the flower stems after flowering will often produce a second flush of flowers in late autumn.

Pests and Diseases

Prone to stem rot in wet conditions. Generally disease free.

Propagating Gypsophila

Sow seeds of annual species where they are to flower in April or September. Take basal cuttings of perennials.
Mat forming alpines can be divided in March.

Popular Varieties of Gypsophila

Available in the UK as annuals, herbaceous perennials and rockery plants.

Annuals

Gypsophila elegans is an excellent annual for the border, producing a delicate mass of tiny blooms and foliage from early summer. Available in white or pink forms. Height to 18in (45cm). Good cultivars include 'Covent Garden' Available from Thompson & Morgan.

Gypsophila muralis is a good annual form, producing compact mounds, covered with semi to fully-double pink flowers in summer. Good for hanging baskets and containers. Height: 8-10in (20-25cm), spread: 2in (50cm). Good cultivars include 'Gypsy' Available from Thompson & Morgan.

Perennials

Gypsophila paniculata is a popular border perennial loved for its billowing clouds of tiny blooms. Flowers all summer long. Height to 3ft (90cm). Available from Thompson & Morgan. Good cultivars include 'Bristol Fairy' with fully double, white flowers and 'Rosy Veil' with double, soft pink flowers.

Rockery Gypsophila

Gypsophila cerastioides (Mouse Eared Gypsophila) is a tough, drought resistant, dwarf Perennial. It produces delicate mounds of green-grey, hairy leaves, covered with masses of white flowers from spring to summer. Height: 2in (5cm), Spread: 6in (15cm). Available from Thompson & Morgan.

Gypsophila repens is the most popular rockery species. A prostrate mat-forming perennial with wiry stems and narrow, grey-green leaves. White to soft pink flowers appear from July to September. Ideal for trailing over rocks or down a wall. Prefers an alkaline soil. Height 4-6in (10-15cm ), spread to 2ft (60cm). The variety 'dubia' has a good spreading habit with bright pink flowers. 'Fratensis' is fine compact trailing form with a good show of pink flowers.