Try gomphrena for summer-long flowers in your yard

Richard Bogren, Huffstickler, Kyle, Gill, Daniel J., Owings, Allen D.  |  5/14/2011 1:21:16 AM

News Release Distributed 05/13/11

By LSU AgCenter Horticulturists
Dan Gill, Kyle Huffstickler and Allen Owings

If you’re looking for a tough plant that will keep blooming throughout summer and into fall, consider gomphrena. This very tough plant likes really high temperatures. Sometimes called globe amaranth, legend has it that the original planting was at the gates of Hades.

Known botanically as Gomphrena globosa, gomphrena has relatively few pest problems. It produces flowers from early summer to first frost. The flowers look like clover, seem to last forever and have a straw-like texture. The flower heads are actually bracts, which are leaves resembling petals. The small, inconspicuous flowers are noticeable only when the yellow stamens poke out. Flower colors range from white to purple and red.

All-Around Purple gomphrena was named a Mississippi Medallion plant in 2008. This 2-foot-tall plant attracts loads of butterflies to its purple flowers all summer long. We have had good performance with this variety in LSU AgCenter landscape trials.

In addition, Fireworks gomphrena was a Mississippi Medallion selection in 2010. It is a large plant that can reach 4 feet tall. Its iridescent pink bracts feature yellow stamens resembling tiny, exploding firecrackers. This variety is incredibly impressive. It blooms nonstop in Louisiana from spring planting through fall. Nothing slows it down, and butterflies swarm the plant constantly.

The new Audray series gomphrena were nice last year at the Mississippi State University trial grounds at Crystal Springs and at the LSU AgCenter’s landscape trials at the Hammond Research Station.

Gomphrena can be big, flowering annuals in the landscape. Some gomphrena are suitable for smaller garden or patio spaces. The Gnome series are compact plants that grow 10 to 12 inches tall and have white, pink and purple flowers. This compact selection makes a fine container plant or can be used as a border along a sunny path.

Gomphrena needs full sun. It sometimes will tolerate a partial-sun to partial-shade location, especially when we start getting into late summer. Flower production is best in full sun.

Plants need well-drained planting beds. Once established, they are somewhat drought-tolerant. Watering is needed only when they go one to two weeks with little rain.

Gomphrena makes a great cut flower and has a long vase life. Cut stems early in the morning and pair them with other flowers from your garden.

The new varieties are wow factors in the landscape. Try some if you have not already.

Visit LaHouse in Baton Rouge to see sustainable landscape practices in action. The home and landscape resource center is near the intersection of Burbank Drive and Nicholson Drive (Louisiana Highway 30) in Baton Rouge, across the street from the LSU baseball stadium. For more information, go to www.lsuagcenter.com/lahouse and www.lsuagcenter.com/lyn.

Rick Bogren

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