Amaranthus caudatus

Amaranthus caudatus

A member of the Amaranthaceae plant family, this is a statuesque annual often known as love-lies-bleeding (ht 1-1.2 m), which can assume the dimensions of a small shrub in a couple of months. Its plush burgundy tasselled flowers arch from the top of the rhubarb-coloured stems like a floral fountain. It brings a dramatic, tropical effect to summer and autumn borders and looks stunning with dark-leaved companions such as Alternanthera or Canna, as well as rich purple or blue flowered Salvia. I have seen a photo of one trained as a standard and I would like to try that some day!

Amaranthus thrives in a sunny position and can cope with dry conditions. I don't give my plants any special treatment. Tip-pruning the plant when it is young gives a better branched specimen with more flowers. Sometimes strong winds may snap a stem, but in general they don't need staking. Sometimes grasshoppers will attack the foliage but no other pests seem interested. Be sure that you are in love with it before you plant a single, tiny seed: because once you introduce it to your garden, millions of seedlings will be there every summer! It is a matter of culling out the seedlings that really are in the wrong location and allowing a lucky few to grow to maturity in their chosen places. Seedlings should not be allowed to escape into bushland or pastures. I have seen it on display in the local florist, suggesting it may be useful in floral arrangements - strip away the foliage before you use the stems in a vase.

Flowers in January, February, March, April, May, June, December.

 Out now in my Sydney Garden.