705 Gomphrena globosaCommon Names: globe amaranth, gomphrena, bachelor's buttons Family: Amaranthaceae (amaranth Family)
Globe amaranth is an annual bedding plant that grows 1-2 ft (0.3-0.6- m) tall with a spread of about 1 ft (0.3 m). The branched stems are erect and stiff and the plant has a bushy appearance. The leaves are opposite, oblong, 4-6 in (10-15 cm) long, and wooly-white when young, becoming sparsely white-hairy as they age. Cloverlike flowerheads, 1.5 in (3.8 cm) long, are borne on upright spikes from summer until frost. The individual flowers within the flowerheads are inconspicuous, but the stiff, papery bracts that form the bulk of the structure are colorful and showy and come in shades of white, pink and purple.
'Buddy' is smaller, to 9 in (23 cm) high, and has bright intensely purple flowerheads. 'Cissy' also is smaller and has white flowerheads. Gomphrena 'Strawberry Fields' is a hybrid with bright red flowerheads to 2 in (5 cm) long.
Globe amaranth, Gomphrena globosa, is native to Panama and Guatemala in Central America.
CulturePinch back the tips of young plants to encourage branching. Globe amaranth benefits from mulching in hot, dry weather. Light: Full sun. Moisture: Globe amaranth will survive drought, but performs best with regular watering, especially during hot weather. Hardiness: USDA Zones 4 - 11. Globe amaranth is an annual grown as a summer bedding plant. It cannot tolerate frost, but it is quite tolerant of summer heat. Propagation: Plant globe amaranth seeds in spring after all danger of frost has past. Many gardeners set out 6-8 week old seedlings for a head start on the season. Seeds should be soaked in water for a day or two before planting and will take about a week or two to germinate at 70ºF (21 ºC).
Gomphrenas are used in annual beds and borders. In masses, the round flowerheads produce an interesting texture, and their bright colors last late into the season. Their low stature makes them well suited for edging around taller plantings. Globe amaranth is often grown in containers on the porch or deck. The conelike flowerheads are beautiful in dried arrangements and will hold their shape and color indefinitely. To grow gomphrena for cut flowers or dried arrangements, plant closely together to force longer stems. Cut the stems just as the heads are beginning to open and hang upside down in a warm, dark place to dry.
Gomphrena is an old fashioned bedding plant that just isn't used enough these days. It tolerates poor soils, heat and drought, and was once a favorite in British gardens. It is a true "everlasting" and one of the best flowers you can grow for dried arrangements. As an added bonus, it attracts butterflies.
Steve Christman 6/19/00; updated 9/25/03, 3/22/05