Grow sultry amaranth flowers for rich, long-lasting bouquets in fall
Photo by Jeffery Cross; written by Johanna Silver
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Love-lies-bleeding (Amaranthus caudatus)
Autumn drama queens
Whether you call amaranths gaudy, exotic, or downright glamorous, these warm-season annuals always stop traffic in Sunset’s test garden. Their velvety flowers run the gamut from upright and dense to drooping tassels. Blooms come in richly saturated harvest hues, and they hold their colors and shapes even when dry (hence their name, from the Greek word for “unfading”). Snag some from your garden, florist, or local farmers’ market to add a dash of passion to an autumn bouquet.
Amaranths are both strikingly ornamental and practical. Leaves of some species (Amaranthus caudatus, A. tricolor, and A. cruentus) are edible spinach substitutes if picked young and tender. In Mexico, amaranth grain is puffed, drizzled with sugar, and eaten as a sweet treat called alegría. Here’s how to grow flowers for bouquets.
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'Candelabra' (A. caudatus)
Plant & tend
Sow seeds in full sun or part shade in early summer, once the soil has warmed up. Give plants room to grow, since sizes can range from 5 feet tall (‘Hot Biscuits’) to 8 feet tall (common love-lies-bleeding). Water regularly to keep soil evenly moist. Many varieties self-sow freely, so you may be blessed with volunteer seedlings next season.
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'Green amaranth' (A. viridis)
Plants bloom from midsummer into fall; pick when flowers are fully formed and show some color.
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'Hopi Red Dye' (A. hybrid)
Remove the bottom leaves from the stalks before plunging them in water. Use a tall vase—the large seed heads look best in a vessel with some height. Paired with flowers such as dahlias, amaranths’ long, dangling seed heads add drama as spillers. Bloom stalks last 7 to 10 days in a water-filled vase. Or hang bunches of seed heads upside down in a cool place to dry.