Height 60cm-1.5m (2-5ft)
Planting distance 30-90cm (1-3ft)
Flowers mid summer to mid autumn
These tall dramatic plants, some with long drooping crimson flower tassels and others with brilliantly coloured foliage, deserve to be grown as focal points in formal beds of annuals. They can also be grown as pot plants in the greenhouse. Theare long-lasting when cut and can also be dried.
Popular species and varieties
Amaranthus caudatus, commonly known as love-lies-bleeding, is the most popular species. Its 45cm (18in) long plumes of blood-red flowers appear from late summer to mid autumn on 90cm-1.2m (3-4ft) high plants. Space the plants 45cm (18in) apart. The variety ‘Pigmy Torch’ grows only to 60cm (2ft) and has deep maroon, upright flower spikes. ‘Viridis’ has pale green flowers, popular for flower arranging.
Amaranthus hypochondriachus, also known as prince’s feather, has erect plumes of bright red flowers 15cm (6in) long. These appear from mid summer to mid autumn. The plants reach 1.2-1.5m (4-5ft) high and have bronze-tinted leaves. Space the plants 90cm (3ft) apart. Varieties developed from this species include ‘Green Thumb’ (vivid green spikes on 60cm (2ft) tall plants) and ‘Red
Fox’ (tall maroon spikes). Amaranthus tricolor is chiefly grown for its spectacular foliage: scarlet oval-shaped leaves, overlaid with yellow, bronze and green. The plants reach 60-90cm (2-3ft) high and should be set 30-45cm (12-18in) apart. Varieties of this species include ‘Flaming Fountain’ (crimson, willow-like leaves), ‘Illumination’ (scarlet, orange, yellow, green and bronze leaves all on one plant), and ‘Joseph’s Coat’ (a vigorous variety with leaves similar to those of the species). All make good pot plants.
Sow seeds under glass in early spring and keep them at a temperature of 15°C (59°F). Prick out the seedlings into pots, and harden them off in a cold frame, before planting outdoors in late spring. Seeds can be sown directly in the flowering site in late spring, and then thinned out to the required planting distance (see individual species entries above).
A. caudatus and its varieties will tolerate poor soil but the other species and their varieties prefer soil enriched with manure. All need a sunny location.
Pests and diseases
Aphids sometimes infest the plants.