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Linda Naeve, Reiman Gardens, (515) 294-8946,
Jean McGuire, Continuing Education and Communication Services, (515) 294-7033,

Reiman's Pick For the week of Sept. 13, 2004

Grow Globe Amaranth for Lasting Beauty

By Linda Naeve
Reiman Gardens
Iowa State University Extension

Few things compare to the beauty or give as much delight as a vase full of fresh flowers. Unfortunately, that beauty is often fleeting as the petals fade and whither in a few short days. Although, as with most rules, there is an exception as globe amaranth is one of few annuals that weeks later, is as attractive as the day it was picked.

Known as "everlasting flowers," the unique bracts on these long-lasting cut flowers, such as globe amaranth, straw flowers and xeranthemums, have a stiff papery texture. These plants are great additions to dried arrangements because they retain their fresh look and original color for several months or even years.

Globe amaranth, Gomphrena globosa, is a member of the Amaranthaceae family, which includes colorful celosia and the common weed, red-root pigweed. Globe amaranth and many members of this family produce tiny, inconspicuous flowers that are surrounded by larger, colorful leaf-like bracts.

Just as the name indicates, the clover-like flower heads on globe amaranth, which are about an inch in diameter, are often round or nearly oval. Each plant produces dozens of these unusual flowers on strong, wiry stems. Globe amaranths bloom non-stop from early summer through fall in a wide range of colors including purple, lavender, rose, red, orange and white. Their abundant blooms and uniform plant height make them a good candidate for "carpet bedding" displays where masses of color create designs or patterns.

Depending on the variety, globe amaranth plants grow 6- to 30-inches tall. The 'Buddy' Series and 'Gnome' varieties are dwarf forms that grow 6- to 10-inches tall and bloom in shades of white, purple and rose. They are great as a border or edger in the garden and in containers. Tall varieties, such as 'All Around Purple,' 'Strawberry Fields' and the 'QIS' Series, grow two-feet tall and are recommended for drying and for cut flower gardens. Additionally, these tall varieties are attractive fillers for the middle of a border garden.

Globe amaranth is an easy annual flower to grow. The plant, typically started from seed and set out as transplants after the threat of frost, grows best in a well-drained, full-sun location. Globe amaranth is quite drought tolerant and will not survive in wet, poorly drained soil. The plants only require occasional dead-heading and are relatively pest-free.

Globe amaranth flowers are extremely simple to dry. Cut while the small yellow flowers are still fresh and leave as much stem attached as possible. Bundle 6 to 12 stems together with a rubber band and hang upside down in a dark, well-ventilated area.

Iowa State University's Reiman Gardens displays the versatility of globe amaranth as carpet bedding in this year's quilt pattern garden, and as a beautiful border plant at the entrance to the Marge Hunziker House in the Town and Country Garden. Globe amaranth and many of its relatives are also blooming in the Patty Jischke Children's Garden.

Plan to grow globe amaranth next summer for season-long color in your garden and extended beauty in your home.


Editors: A color photo, suitable for publication, is available at right. Click on the thumbnail photo to go to the fullsized photo. The picture's fullsize photo is 396K.

Caption: Globe amaranth is an unusual annual garden flower easily grown both in the garden and in containers. It blooms from early summer through fall and can be dried for use in floral arrangements to brighten your home during the winter months.

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