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ATRIPLEX hortensis var. rubra

Image of Atriplex hortensis var. rubra

TL

Family

Chenopodiaceae

Botanical Name

ATRIPLEX hortensis var. rubra

Plant Common Name

Red Butterleaves, Red Cultivated Orache

General Description

A cool-season annual originating in Asia but naturalized throughout much of the rest of the world, orache has long been cultivated for its nutritious, tasty, and attractive leaves. The variety rubra is known for its stunning red or purple leaves and stems. It has given rise to numerous showy-leaved cultivars.

Heart-shaped or arrow-shaped leaves with smooth or toothed margins line the upright unbranched stems. The leaves and stems have a luminous sheen when young. In hot weather stems "bolt," elongating to produce numerous spike-like clusters of inconspicuous purplish-green flowers. Although the feathery flower heads are attractive, bolting causes plants to decline in flavor. Orache bolts less readily than spinach, making it a better choice as a summer vegetable. If not deadheaded plants will self-sow, often coming true from seed.

This easy to grow crop may be started indoors or sown directly in the garden. It prefers full sun and moist, fertile, well-drained soil. It tolerates poor soils and saline conditions. Orache will withstand light frost. Sow in late fall or early spring in temperate zones and in winter in frost-free climates. Feed with a balanced fertilizer once plants begin to leaf out. Orache grows best when watered regularly.

Although well suited to the vegetable garden, red orache also makes an outstanding ornamental plant. Harvest a few leaves per plant starting about 40 days after sowing. Best flavor comes from young, vigorously growing plants. Cook orache as you would spinach, or toss it raw in salads; the colorful leaves provide a visual punch to any meal. Most red-leaved forms do not lose their color when cooked.

Characteristics

  • AHS Heat Zone

    9 - 1

  • Plant Type

    Vegetable

  • Sun Exposure

    Full Sun

  • Height

    1'-4' / 0.3m - 1.2m

  • Width

    9"-12" / 22.9cm - 30.5cm

  • Bloom Time

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

  • Native To

    Asia

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Acidic, Neutral, Alkaline

  • Soil Drainage

    Average

  • Soil type

    Loam, Sand

  • Tolerances

    Salt

  • Growth Rate

    Fast

  • Water Requirements

    Average Water

  • Habit

    Upright/Erect

  • Seasonal Interest

    Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    Insignificant

  • Flower Color

    Red, Green

  • Fruit Color

    Tan, Brown

  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    Red, Purple

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    Yellow, Red, Green, Purple

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    Red, Purple

  • Foliage Color (Winter)

    Red, Purple

  • Fragrant Flowers

    No

  • Fragrant Fruit

    No

  • Fragrant Foliage

    No

  • Bark or Stem Fragrant

    No

  • Repeat Bloomer

    No

  • Showy Fruit

    No

  • Edible Fruit

    No

  • Showy Foliage

    Yes

  • Foliage Texture

    Medium

  • Foliage Sheen

    Matte

  • Evergreen

    No

  • Showy Bark

    No

Special Characteristics

  • Usage

    Bedding Plant, Container, Edible, Herb / Vegetable, Mixed Border

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    No

  • Invasive

    Sometimes

  • Self-Sowing

    Yes