By Allen Owings, LSU AgCenter horticulturist
A tough plant that will keep blooming through summer and into fall, gomphrena likes really high temperatures. Sometimes called globe amaranth, legend has it that the original planting was at the gates of Hades.
Known botanically as Gomphrena globosa, this plant has relatively few pest problems.
Gomphrena produce flowers from early summer until the first frost. The flowers look a lot like clover, seem to last forever and have a straw-like texture. The flower heads are actually bracts, which are leaves resembling petals. The small, inconspicuous flowers are noticeable only when the yellow stamens poke out. Flower colors range from white to purple and red.
Gomphrena varieties are ever-increasing in abundance. Series available include Qis, All Around, Audray, Las Vegas, Buddy and Gnome.
All Around Purple gomphrena was named a Mississippi Medallion plant in 2008. This 2-foot-tall plant attracts loads of butterflies to its purple flowers all summer long. We have had good performance with this variety in LSU AgCenter landscape trials.
Another gomphrena, Fireworks was a Mississippi Medallion selection in 2010. It is a large plant that can reach 4 feet tall. Its iridescent pink bracts feature yellow stamens resembling tiny firecrackers exploding. This variety is incredibly impressive. It blooms non-stop in Louisiana from spring planting through fall. Nothing slows it down, and butterflies swarm the plant almost constantly.
The new Audray series gomphrena did well last year at the Mississippi State University trial grounds at Crystal Springs and at the LSU AgCenter’s landscape trials at the Hammond Research Station.
The older and more dwarf series Buddy and Gnome come in several colors, as does the Las Vegas series from Benary.
Gomphrena can be big, flowering annuals in the landscape, although some gomphrena are suitable for smaller garden or patio spaces. The Gnome series are compact plants that grow 10 to 12 inches tall and have white, pink and purple flowers. This compact selection makes a fine container plant or border plant along a sunny path.
Gomphrena need full sun. They will sometimes tolerate a partial sun to partially shade location, especially into late summer. Flower production is best in full sun.
Plants need well-drained locations. Once established, they are somewhat drought-tolerant. Watering is only needed during one- to two-week periods with little rain.
Gomphrena make great cut flowers and have a long vase life. Cut stems early in the morning and pair them with other flowers from your garden.
Globe amaranth is an attractive plant, and the new varieties are “wow” factors in the landscape. Try some if you have not already. You can plant gomphrena through summer to enjoy nice blooms in your landscape this fall.
You can see more about work being done in landscape horticulture by viewing the LSU AgCenter’s Hammond Research Station website. Also, like us on Facebook. You can find an abundance of landscape information for both home gardeners and industry professionals.
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