Although love-lies-bleeding is a giant among annuals, its needs are few. It thrives on summer heat and asks little of your time. As these guidelines will suggest, once planted, it takes poor soil and dry conditions in stride. Read on to learn more.
Love-lies-bleeding in the landscape
With one of the most vivid names in the plant world, love-lies-bleeding (Amaranthus caudatus) boasts tiny blood-red flowers that dangle from arching, 60 centimetre (25 inch) ropey stems that droop from plants that are 1.2 metres (four feet) tall or taller. No doubt about it, this plant is no shrinking violet.
The flower colour is astonishing, the cascading tassels of flowers are difficult to ignore and the plant’s dimensions are practically larger than life. If you want to downplay the drama, tuck the plant into the back of the border behind shorter summer flowering plants, such as lavatera, gomphrena, marigolds or celosia.
For a bolder approach, plant it beside a gate, porch or front door. Love-lies-bleeding is equally striking in a container, as long as the scale is large.
Love-lies-bleeding and the other amaranths will grow in any soil, including heavy clay. Plants grown in full sun are stiffly upright, but you may need to stake those in partial shade. Love-lies-bleeding prefers warm temperatures, so there’s nothing to be gained from sowing seeds early.
- Sow seeds indoors six weeks before your last frost date.
- Barely cover the seeds with soil and keep the soil barely moist and at room temperature till seedlings have several sets of leaves.
- Transplant them into the garden when the weather is warm and settled. You may also seed directly into the garden in well-drained soil and full sun.
- Space plants 45 centimetres (18 inches) apart, and mulch between them to discourage weeds.
- There is no need to fertilize, and these drought-tolerant plants seldom need watering.
- The only significant insect foes of amaranths are tiny pear-shaped, sap-sucking aphids, which can be dispatched with a forceful spray of water or insecticidal soap. Deer, however, enjoy eating love-lies-bleeding.
- Discourage them by tying a bar of deodorant soap to a stake and tucking it among the plants. The only potential for disease is root rot, so plant in well-drained or dry soil.
The many shades of drama
If the typical red flowers and towering stature of love-lies-bleeding aren’t your heart’s desire, try a different amaranth. The variety known as ‘Green Thumb’ bears vivid green upright flower spikes on a demure plant that stands 30 to 60 centimetres (12 to 25 inches) tall. ‘Pygmy Torch’ is its garnet-flowered dwarf counterpart.
If you feel that big is beautiful but want toned-down flowers, try the 1.5- to 1.8-metre-tall (five- to six-foot-tall) A. cruentus ‘Hot Biscuits’, which is topped by huge, buff brown, upright plumes. A mid-sized compromise is A. giganticus, called the elephant head amaranth because of its immense, upright, blood-red plumes.
Flowers aren’t amaranthus’ only assets. The closely related plant called summer poinsettia (A. tricolour) stands 1.2 to 1.5 metres (four to five feet) tall and features a flowing crown of brilliantly coloured foliage. The uppermost leaves of ‘Aurora’ are sunshine yellow, while those of ‘Illumination’ are crimson.
These guidelines will help you properly plant these beautiful annuals.