Gomphrena (also known as globe amaranth) is the most adorable small flowered plant you’ve ever seen. Flowering gumdrop-like flowers on long, straight stalks make for a unique and delightful plant in both a garden and an arrangement of flowers.
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Gomphrena may not be as tall as its cousin amaranthus or as large or formed as its cousin celosia, but that doesn’t take away from its many positive qualities. There are many ways to incorporate this plant into your landscape, from the front of the border to the back of the garden, depending on your own preference. A cut flower, it is virtually indestructible in the vase and goes well with a wide range of materials, too.
Additionally, Gomphrena is a very easy plant to grow from seed; it is incredibly drought-resistant, hardy, and enjoys the heat and humidity.
SELECT YOUR VARIETY
Gomphrena can be divided into two distinct species, each with its own unique appearance.
Gomphrena globosa is the first. It’s a lovely tiny plant with a branching stem and several clover-like flowers at the ends of each stalk. I find that it’s not the most ideal flower for cutting because of its short stems and its fragile nature, which makes harvesting and working with it a bit more difficult because it tends to shatter. There are many varieties of the G. globosa species, such as “Fireworks,” “Audray,” “Bicolor Rose,” “Ping Pong Mix,” and “Fireworks,” which features chive-like pink blooms.
It’s more difficult to work with in designs that call for a more organic, flowing shape, but I prefer the G. haageana kinds because of their longer stems and overall strength and sturdiness, which I find appealing (I find G. globosa extremely fragile to work with). The ‘QIS’ series, the ‘Strawberry Fields’ variety, and the ‘Las Vegas’ mix are all G. haageana cultivars that have been developed over time.
Which one should I plant?
Both G. globosa and G. haageana are excellent landscaping plants, with G. globosa and G. haageana producing an abundance of attractive button-shaped flowers throughout the year. The best place to use them in the garden is in the front of the border, with the exception of G. globosa ‘Fireworks,’ which is a bit taller and less bushy than the rest of the variety.
Amaranthus ‘Hot Biscuits’ and Gomphrena ‘Strawberry Fields’ all planted in swaths together for an array of bronze, mauve, scarlet, and deep green that is the epitome of summer in the garden are excellent companions for Gomphrena. Celosia and zinnia are also good choices, as are amaranthus and gomphrena.
When it comes to cutting flowers for market bouquets and small posies, I would recommend G. haageana, especially ‘Strawberry Fields’ with its bright fire-engine red blooms that are ideal for market bouquets and little posies (and interestingly enough, when dried ‘Strawberry Fields’ turns a lovely blush-pink color).
G. globosa and the ‘Audray’ white-colored gomphrena are my preferred choices if you’re looking for a more subdued pattern. Flowers like these can be used as either a little accent or a pseudo-filler in a bouquet or arrangement, depending on how many bushy stems you pack into the design. If used with other white/pale colored flowers like Cosmos ‘Purity’ or Dahlia ‘Bride to Be,’ this flower is ideal because of its versatility in bridal art.
STARTING GOMPHRENA FROM SEED
This plant, like other members of the Amarantheaceae family like amaranthus or celosia, is quite easy to grow from seed if you provide it with adequate heat and light.
The seed should be placed on top of the soil (to help it receive light) and then watered in well if you’re beginning gomphrena in cells or soil blocks. With a heat mat, you can keep the soil around 70 degrees Fahrenheit to speed things up and ensure consistent germination, or you can even start them in the sun if it’s warm enough outside.
Make a small trench (about 1/2″ deep) and space your gomphrena seeds around every 6″ or so — that way, they’ll form a dense planting and force each other to grow upwards for the best stems for cutting. The seeds should be lightly pressed into the soil and watered in. At least 50 degrees Fahrenheit is needed to ensure that seeds germinate and do not get eaten or begin to decay.
Within days of seed germination, Gomphrena plants will be sprouting with their own unique fuzzy leaves. They will quickly fill a cell or soil block if they are given heat.
To get the best results, gomphrena should be planted in full sun and the temperature rises.
Most of their needs can be met with a little bit of maintenance, such as providing them with an occasional misting and a small amount of fertilizer every now and then. We rarely require stakes because our plants are so compact that they can stand on their own.
As they grow, you’ll see that the plant is becoming more lanky and spreading out, which is a good sign because those are flower stalks emerging! It is at this point that the stalks will continue to grow in length and branch until they begin to create little flower buds at the end of the stalks, which signals that they are ready to be harvested for cutting flowers.
For me, harvesting gomphrena is a lot of joy because the blooms are very hardy! As a dry, papery bract-like bloom – like strawflower or winged everlasting – they are quite hardy and can be picked in hot weather without their stems wilting.
Gomphrena harvesting can be difficult due to the large number of stems, and cutting individual stems can be a great pain. In lieu of going all the way to the plant’s base, simply cut the entire branch or stem at the base. This saves time and ensures that you get a nice long stem as well as nice long stems in the future (you always cut to the plant’s base when you cut flowers to ensure that the plant sends out nice long stems from the base in the future).
In order to avoid having to deal with any unnecessary cutting, you should remove the plant from the stem and begin trimming and slicing the stem as needed.
Gomphrena is best harvested in single bunches, which we rubber band and place in water before selling to local florists and farmers markets. Because the stems are so thin and numerous and can easily get trapped in other stems, we’ll collect them in a separate container or compartment if we plan to include them in our designs. Designing with gomphrena doesn’t require a hydration time like it does with other flowers, so you can get started right away.
Make sure you harvest gomphrena on a regular basis. Without it, the blooms will grow longer and their tips would look scorched. Your buyers may not enjoy the look of these dry arrangements, so be careful you cut the flowers when they are as round and fresh as possible.
You can expect Gomphrena to keep producing until the first frost, but they are not hardy, so you should be prepared to lose them when the weather turns cold.
DESIGNING WITH GOMPHRENA
Because of its tall, straight stems, bright colors, and linear structure, gomphrena can be a bit of a challenge to create with. With other brilliantly colored flowers, it’s less of a problem, but if you want to use it in weddings and more subtle designs, its strong personality as a flower may be an issue.
The more muted colors of QIS Carmine, Purple, Orange, and Strawberry Fields aren’t used as much in our wedding work in favor of Bicolor Rose and Audray.
Strawberry Fields and QIS purple are two of our go-to colors for market bouquets and CSA memberships because of the vibrant accents they add. If the stems are left exposed, they look uncomfortable and out of place in an arrangement. We bury the stems all the way up to the neck in order to produce more “mounded” arrangements.
Gomphrena’s straight stems can draw too much attention and detract from the design’s overall form, so use caution when using them. The ideal way to use it is to tuck it in and between other flowers, unless you’re going for a very contemporary or modern design.
It’s also important to us to preserve gomphrena for the winter, as they have a beautiful color and form and are ideal for dried arrangements and wreaths. While fuchsia and red fade to a blush-pink, orange to a salmon, and white to an ivory hue, their contrasting hues remain vibrant.
How to Grow Gomphrena
6–8 weeks before the last frost, sow gomphrena seeds in a pre-moistened seed-starting mix. A heat pad can speed up the germination of seedlings by 7–14 days on average.
Because they take a long time to get going, don’t get disheartened if you see the same set of leaves for the first few weeks (or months!). Seedlings should be grown under lights until they have at least two sets of genuine leaves and then begin hardening off.
Pinching gomphrena is unnecessary because the plant will naturally branch out. You should only direct seed outdoors if you live in a growth zone 9 or higher.
GROWING CONDITIONS FOR GOMPHRENA
A well-drained soil is essential for Gomphrena to thrive.
Ensure that the location you choose gets at least six hours of direct sunlight each day. If you want to keep the plants from being overcrowded, space them approximately 7 inches apart.
At full maturity, this plant can grow up to 24 inches tall and 8–10 inches wide. This is a plant that needs a lot of space, and that’s coming from someone with a little growing area who plants very closely (maybe even half the distance that the seed packages recommend). Gomphrena, on the other hand, does not need any supports, tethering, or corralling. There are no diseases or pests to worry about, but bees and butterflies will enjoy it. This is yet another low-maintenance bloom!
Gomphrena is a dormant plant during much of the spring and early summer in this part of Pennsylvania (zone 7a). Between 85 and 100 days is the usual time it takes for a plant to reach full maturity.
First-time growers and home gardeners have written off gomphrena because of its early-season underperformance, but the plant will burst into bloom once summer arrives and temperatures rise. As long as the temperature doesn’t go below 70 degrees, this flower will survive.
Drying Gomphrena Flowers
Just when you thought Gomphrena couldn’t get much better, it proves its worth even more as one of the few flowers that retains its vibrant color when it is dried.
Dried flowers from other species can appear lifeless, while gomphrena retains its vibrant appearance.
These little flowers can be used in dried bouquets, wreaths, or simply displayed in bunches. If desired, the flowers can be taken from the stalks and added to wreaths with hot glue.
Gomphrena should be harvested after the blooms are fully bloomed if you intend to dry it. Use twine or elastic bands to gather the velvety leaves into little bundles.
Rubber bands are easier to remove, but the blooms and stems will be more delicate after drying if you use string. For a few weeks, hang upside-down in a dry, well-ventilated space to improve circulation.
Gomphrena is a low-maintenance flower that rewards with flowers throughout the growing season and beyond, so make room in your farm plan for it.
GOMPHRENA ARE HAPPINESS EPITOMIZED IN A PLANT
With minimal care, gomphrena can be used in the garden, as a cut flower, or even dried into a wreath. We grow these cheerful little plants every year and love them since they are sturdy, drought-tolerant, minimal maintenance, and add a great splash of color.
Check out these additional growing guides if you want to grow more summer-loving cut flowers:
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- Celosia / Cockscomb for Cut Flowers: How to Grow It
- Cut Flower Sunflowers: A Guide for the Home Gardener
- Gomphrena (Globe Amaranth) Cutting Garden Instructions
If you want to grow cut flowers for the purpose of selling them to florists, farmers markets, CSAs, roadside stands, farmer’s markets, or for your personal design work, we have an eBook bundle just for you!