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AMARANTHUS cruentus

Image of Amaranthus cruentus

Gerald L. Klingaman

Family

Amaranthaceae

Botanical Name

AMARANTHUS cruentus

Plant Common Name

Mexican Grain Amaranthus, Prince's Feather, Purple Amaranthus

General Description

Nothing beats this tough, heat-loving annual for big, bold summer bedding displays. This Central American native has been grown since ancient times for its grain and greens, as have two other amaranths: Amaranthus hypochondriacus and A. caudatus. Purple amaranth was central to the Aztec culture, playing an important role in many of its religious rituals. Most contemporary gardeners cultivate it purely for its showy flower spikes, though it is increasingly grown as a grain and food crop in China, India, the United States, and other areas.

This fast-growing plant bears purple-red or green, oval to broadly lance-shaped leaves on tall upright stems. Young leaves can be prepared and eaten like spinach. Long, deep red to greenish-red spikes containing thousands of tiny flowers arch from the stem tips and leaf axils in summer and fall. They work wonderfully in fresh or dried flower arrangements. Plants are monoecious, with both male and female flowers. Female flowers produce round poppy-sized seeds, as many as 100,000 per plant. The ivory, white, or mahogany seeds are rich in proteins and essential amino acids. Fallen seed germinates in spring, making the purchase of additional seed unnecessary.

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.

Amarnathus cruentus has become naturalized in subtropical and tropical regions across the world and is considered invasive in some locations.

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

    2'-6' / 0.6m - 1.8m

  • Width

    2'-3' / 0.6m - 0.9m

  • Bloom Time

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

  • Native To

    Central 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

    Purple, Yellow Green, Dark Red

  • Fruit Color

    White, Red, Brown, Ivory

  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    Red, Green, Purple, Light Green

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    Red, Green, Purple, Light Green, Burgundy

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    Red, Green, Purple, Light 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

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    No

  • Invasive

    Sometimes

  • Attracts

    Birds

  • Self-Sowing

    Yes