Amaranthus

Amaranthus caudatus flowers

A group of robust ornamental plants, that can be grown as hardy annuals in warmer regions or as half-hardy elsewhere. Grown for their brightly coloured foliage and long trailing flower tassels.

Family: Amaranthaceae (amaranth family)
Botanical Name: Amaranthus
Common Names: Love-lies-bleeding, careless, cat tail, tassel flower, prince's feather.

Foliage: Large, long pointed, elliptic or ovate leaves. Pale green or multi coloured (depending on variety).

Flowers: Tiny flowers, borne on upright plumes or long trailing catkin-like tassels. Available in shades of crimson or green.

Flowering Period: Mid-summer into autumn.

Soil: Moist but well-drained, humus-rich soil (chalk, clay, sand or loam). Any pH.

Conditions: Best in full sun but will tollerate some shade. Best grown in west or south facing aspect, in a sheltered position.

Habit: Bushy.

Type: Hardy and half-hardy Annuals.

Origin: Asia and Africa

Hardiness: Half-hardy in the UK. Protect from frost.

Planting and Growing Amaranthus

Grow in a warm sunny position, in a rich, moist but well drained soil. Tolerant of poor soils.

Ideal for sunny beds or borders. Often grown as a centrepiece in a formal bedding.

Popular with flower arrangers. The flowers are long-lasting and can be dried for winter decoration.

Taking Care of Amaranthus

Keep weeded and water freely during dry weather.

To improve flowering, apply an all-purpose flowering plant food (slightly higher in phosphorus and potassium) every few weeks, or use a slow release form. Do not over fertilize.

Pruning

Deadhead regularly to extend the flowering period. Pull up and discard plants in autumn.

Birds love the seed heads, so leave a few spent flowers for them to enjoy.

Pests and Diseases

Susceptible to attack by Aphids. Generally disease free.

Propagating Amaranthus

Sow seed under glass in early spring and keep at a temperature of 15°C (59°F). Prick out, pot on, and harden off before planting out in late spring.

The seed can also be direct-sown in late spring. Sow in a prepared seed bed where the plants are to flower. Thin out as necessary.

Popular Varieties of Amaranthus

Amaranthus caudatus (love-lies-bleeding) a popular garden species producing 18in (45cm) long tassels of blood-red flowers. Height 3 to 4ft (90cm-120cm). Seeds available at Crocus. Varieties include:

  • 'Fat Spike' with erect tapering spikes in deep purplish red. Height: 3-4ft (90-100cm). Seeds available at Thompson & Morgan.
  • 'Viridis' with pale green tassels.
  • 'Pigmy Torch' with deep maroon, upright flower spikes. Height to around 2ft (60cm).
  • 'Pony Tails Mixed' with long, decorative tassels in red and green shades. Height: 3-5ft (90-120cm). Seeds available at Thompson & Morgan.

Amaranthus paniculatus (A. hypochondriachus, A. cruentus) (prince's feather, red amaranth) usually available with bronze-tinted or red leaves, bearing erect plumes of bright red or green flowers. Height 4 to 5ft (120cm - 150cm). Good varieties include:

  • 'Green Thumb' a shorter form with vivid green spikes. Height to 2ft (60cm).
  • 'Marvel Bronze' a striking variety with purple leaves and upright flower spikes. Seed for sale at Thompson & Morgan.
  • 'Red Fox' rich maroon leaves topped with tall maroon spikes.
  • 'Velvet Curtains' has velvety red leaves and large flower plumes that retain their colour for a long period. RHS Award of Garden Merit. Seed for sale at Crocus.

Amaranthus tricolor (Joseph's coat, tampala) has spectacular scarlet oval-shaped leaf clusters, appearing above the normal green leaves. Height from 2 to 3ft (60-90cm). Good varieties include:

  • 'Flaming Fountain' with crimson, willow-like leaves.
  • 'Illumination' with scarlet, orange, yellow, green and bronze leaves, all on the same plant.
  • 'Molten Fire' has deep-crimson leaves strongly variegated with purple and bronze.