ATRIPLEX hortensis var. rubra
Plant Common Name
Red Butterleaves, Red Cultivated Orache
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.
AHS Heat Zone
9 - 1
1'-4' / 0.3m - 1.2m
9"-12" / 22.9cm - 30.5cm
Late Spring, Early Summer, Summer, Late Summer, Early Fall
Acidic, Neutral, Alkaline
Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter
Bedding Plant, Container, Edible, Herb / Vegetable, Mixed Border
Sharp or Has Thorns