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AMARANTHUS caudatus

Image of Amaranthus caudatus

Russell Stafford

Family

Amaranthaceae

Botanical Name

AMARANTHUS caudatus

Plant Common Name

Love-Lies-Bleeding

General Description

Though grown in American gardens primarily for its curious tail-like clusters of colorful flowers, this large annual has long been a staple grain in the northern Andes, where it originated. Once more popular than corn, amaranth grain and greens fed the Incas for thousands of years, and are still a vital crop for peoples of the Andes. Two other species of amaranth are important grain (and ornamental) plants: Amaranthus cruentus and Amaranthus hypochondriacus.

This fast-growing, warm-season annual bears large, elliptic, bright green or reddish leaves on stout, upright, often purple- or red-tinged stems. Young leaves can be prepared and eaten like spinach. In summer and fall, fuzzy, deep red spikes containing thousands of tiny flowers droop from the stem tips and leaf axils, resembling velvet cords. Green- and purple-red-flowered cultivars also exist, as do short-spiked selections that are grown for their more easily harvested seed. Plants are monoecious, with both male and female flowers. Female flowers produce masses of small, round, edible seeds, as many as 100,000 per plant. The ivory, burgundy, or brown seeds are rich in proteins and essential amino acids.

Amaranths like it hot and perform best in full sun and average to poor, well-drained soil. A single plant will produce lots of volunteer seedlings. Just weed out the ones you don’t want. This ornamental is best sown in place in warm soil, but can also be started earlier in a warm greenhouse. Mature plants are drought tolerant but grow and flower better if watered during dry spells. This annual thrives in subtropical and tropical regions.

The amaranth seeds should be harvested when they fall easily from the dried flower heads. Use a sifter to separate the seed from the chaff. Store the seed in sealed containers in a cool dry place.

As an ornamental, love-lies-bleeding is ideal for old-fashioned beds and borders. Its large stature and curious inflorescences make it a good feature plant. The blooms are great for cutting, and will retain some of their red color (and shed their seeds) when dried.

Characteristics

  • AHS Heat Zone

    12 - 1

  • Sunset Zone

    H1, H2, 1a, 1b, 2a, 2b, 3a, 3b, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24

  • Plant Type

    Annual

  • Sun Exposure

    Full Sun, Partial Sun

  • Height

    3'-6' / 0.9m - 1.8m

  • Width

    18"-36" / 45.7cm - 91.4cm

  • Bloom Time

    Summer, Late Summer, Early Fall, Fall, Late Fall, Indeterminate

  • Native To

    South America

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Acidic, Neutral, Alkaline

  • Soil Drainage

    Well Drained

  • Soil type

    Loam, Sand

  • Tolerances

    Drought

  • Growth Rate

    Fast

  • Water Requirements

    Drought Tolerant, Average Water

  • Habit

    Upright/Erect

  • Seasonal Interest

    Spring, Summer, Fall

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    Showy

  • Flower Color

    Red, Yellow Green, Dark Red

  • Fruit Color

    Red, Brown, Ivory

  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    Red, Green, Light Green

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    Red, Green, Light Green

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    Red, Green

  • Fragrant Flowers

    No

  • Fragrant Fruit

    No

  • Fragrant Foliage

    No

  • Bark or Stem Fragrant

    No

  • Flower Petal Number

    Single

  • Repeat Bloomer

    No

  • Showy Fruit

    No

  • Edible Fruit

    Yes

  • Showy Foliage

    No

  • Foliage Texture

    Coarse

  • Foliage Sheen

    Matte

  • Evergreen

    No

  • Showy Bark

    No

Special Characteristics

  • Usage

    Bedding Plant, Cutflower, Dried Flower/Everlasting, Edible, Feature Plant, Herb / Vegetable, Mixed Border, Tropical, Wildflower

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    No

  • Invasive

    Sometimes

  • Attracts

    Birds

  • Self-Sowing

    Yes