Gorgeous Gomphrena

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA If I had to choose one annual flower for a Best Of award this year gomphrena would be the hands down winner. Everyone who has entered my rear garden since June, when gomphrena (Gomphrena globosa) began blooming, until now, in October when it is in its glory, has commented on  gomphrena’s striking, fresh charm.

These plants, started inside from seed back in mid-March, withstood my Connecticut garden’s wet spring and early summer, dry July, wet August, the winds and salty rain of hurricane/tropical storm Irene, and torrential downpours in September. Gomphrena not only survived, it thrived. The photo below shows how gomphrena looks this morning, October 11.

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Gomphrena is in the Amaranth family. Also known as Globe Amaranth, it is native to Central and South America and grows as an annual in areas that experience frost. You will often find it listed as an everlasting in seed catalogues since the papery, globe-shaped blooms dry beautifully and hold their color well.

Gomphrena plants generally grow up to two-feet tall, though mine have reached nearly three feet in height thanks to this year’s rain. Each plant produces masses of one-inch globe shaped blooms.I planted a mixed color seed packet which blossomed in dark pink and white flowers. In past years, mixed packets also produced pale pink and lavender flowers. I’ve also previously grown the Strawberry Fields variety but their bright orange-red blooms don’t fit the colors in my gardens. I have not yet tried Bicolor Rose but I expect it will grow just as well.

A Cornell University growing guide lists gomphrena as an easy-to-grow, full-sun annual that is heat tolerant and non-invasive. The guide also says gomphrena is deer-resistant and butterfly-attracting but I cannot support these claims. Deer visiting my Connecticut gardens have found gomphrena mighty tasty so I now plant it in the gardens deer cannot reach. I have also not seen butterflies particularly attracted to the masses of gomphrena blossoms. Butterflies seem to prefer the nearby phlox.

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My gomphrena planting nicely hid the browning leaves of iris and day lily but, because I tend to plant a bit closer than seed packets suggest the gomphrena engulfed nearby plants. The ageratum seen below in a photo from mid-September are now, a month later, nearly hidden by gomphrena. A photo above shows lavender, pepper plants, and basil nearly hidden by gomphrena.

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Still, this is one annual worth considering for constant, striking late-summer-to-fall color. It will continue to bloom until frost. A side benefit comes from gomphrena’s everlasting qualities. Simply cutting the stems and hanging them upside down to dry will extend gomphrena’s color well into winter months.

Gomphrena will remain on my annuals-to-start-from-seed list but next year I will give them a bit more space. The blossoms have no scent, but for long-lasting color and ease-of-growth, gomphrena are certainly worth the effort.

Find gomphrena or globe amaranth seeds at Pinetree Garden Seeds, Johnny’s Selected Seeds, Seed Savers Exchange, Renee’s Garden or, for other sources, just Google gomphrena.

Garden thoughtfully.

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7 comments for “Gorgeous Gomphrena

  1. October 11, 2011 at 2:39 pm

    Joene, I love that shade of purple. When Scott, Kathy and I visted White Flower Farms, Gomphrena seemed to be in almost every bed. We were all commenting on how well it played wit hall the other flowers and how fresh it looked while many other annuals were already fading. It’s too bad they deer find it equally appetizing.

    • joenesgarden
      October 11, 2011 at 4:37 pm

      Debbie, So glad to hear you’ve noticed gomphrena’s attributes elsewhere. I think it will do well in containers for those who have deer issues but still want to grow gomphrena … out of the reach of munching deer.

  2. October 12, 2011 at 3:25 pm

    These are so lovely. The color is so rich and divine. I have a friend who dries these. They are on my wish list.

  3. joenesgarden
    October 14, 2011 at 9:38 pm

    Gomphrena are easy to grow, Sage Butterfly. I’ve dried them also and they hold thier color for a long time.

  4. October 14, 2011 at 10:53 pm

    I bought three little gomphrena plants in spring, put them in the garden and watched them shrivel. They were red, and I got a spindly bloom from one, a little six inch nub of basal foliage, and that was it. The deer pruned them pretty severely and they never recovered, so they were not a success for me.

    I love the little globes and the look of them massed on a full plant — maybe I could grow them in pots next year and keep them on the patio away from the deer?

    Would they be good pot plants? Yours are gorgeous !

    • joenesgarden
      October 14, 2011 at 11:53 pm

      Thanks, Laurrie. I’ve not tried them in pots, but I think they will do well based on they way they grow. In my experience, gomphrena stay relatively small until mid-summer then they take off. I think this year’s rain caused mine to grow taller than they normally would, but they’ve offered such constant late-season color that I’ll definitely grow them again. They are quite easy to grow from seed.

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