Plant Spotlight: Gomphrena

It’s time to give another plant the spotlight, sing its praises, and discuss its drawbacks. This week I chose gomphrena, or globe amaranth, as it is also known. You may remember that I included gomphrena as one of my favorite cut flowers in my Playing Favorites post in August, and I thought it was time to dive deeper into why this wonderful plant made the list. So, let’s dig in and discover what there is to love about these beautiful flowers.

It’s Time to Turn the Spotlight on Gomphrena
Gomphrena Is One of My Favorite Cut Flowers

A member of the Amaranthaceae family, these clover look-alikes have been gracing cutting gardens since the early 1700s. Their papery petals are bundles of bracts or modified leaves supporting tiny flowers. The globe shape is reminiscent of gumballs perched atop stems in the garden, and one can imagine that Willy Wonka would have enjoyed these. Gomphrena can be split into two species with different growth habits: Gomphrena globosa, which tends to have shorter, branching stems, and Gomphrena haageana, with its longer, stronger stems.

Gomphrena Are Clover Look-Alikes
The Papery Petals Are Bundles of Bracts or Modified Leaves
Gomphrena Blooming in the Garden

These flowers are considered annuals in all zones other than 9 and 10, although they can self-sow in the garden if given a chance. They are sun lovers who prefer to be planted in full sun (at least six hours per day) and are drought-tolerant once established. Gomphrena is also deer and rabbit resistant (although if hungry enough, no plant is genuinely resistant). Relatively easy to germinate, grow, and maintain, these flowers are a gardener’s dream.

These Flowers Are a Gardener’s Dream Being Easy to Germinate, Grow, and Maintain (Photo Taken at the Local YMCA Community Garden)

I was first introduced to gomphrena in 2020 when a chance encounter at the local nursery landed them in my cart. The variety was a new introduction called Truffula Pink, and I was enthralled with the bubblegum pink color. I also admit that the name, nostalgic of a childhood favorite, Dr. Seuss’s book ‘The Lorax,’ played a factor in the plants finding their way into my garden. That first year these flowers bloomed prolifically along my walkway all season long. Never have I seen so many pollinators, all flocking to feast on these pretty pink flowers. Pollinator magnets, these flowers attract butterflies, moths, bees, and hummingbirds. I started seeing pollinator species I’d never seen before in my garden, and after that, I was hooked on these plants.

Truffula Pink Was the First Gomphrena I Grew
Pollinator Magnets, These Flowers Attract Butterflies, Moths, Bees, and Hummingbirds
After Growing Gomphrena for the First Time, I Was Hooked

Fast forward to 2022, when I started my cut flower business, and I knew that gomphrena needed to be a part of my planting plan. These flowers make excellent cuts for bouquets, adding a whimsical textural element to any arrangement. They come in various colors, including shades of pink, orange, red, purple, and white, and have an excellent vase life. Gomphrena is a powerhouse in the cutting garden, being relatively low maintenance and pest and disease-free (powdery mildew can occasionally pop up) while cranking out the flowers all season long. The more you cut, the more they bloom, and their lengthy bloom window gives you flowers all summer through frost. An excellent filler flower, gomphrena adds something special to arrangements.

Gomphrena Are Excellent Cut Flowers and Add Whimsy and Texture to Bouquets
A Great Filler Flower Option, Gomphrena Also Has a Long Vase Life
Flowers Bloom All Summer Long until Frost

I trialed several varieties in our beds last season, including Strawberry Fields, Audray White, Raspberry Cream, QIS Pink, and QIS Carmine. I loved them all, but the QIS pink performed the best for me, pumping out loads of blooms all season long. And their pale pink color paired beautifully with the many pastel-toned flowers I used in bouquets. Strawberry Fields also performed well, but I found the color slightly more challenging to pair with the color palette I was growing. So this season, I will adjust my growing list to consider that.

Several Varieties of Gomphrena Blooming Alongside Scabiosa
The Stunning Ruby Red ‘Strawberry Fields’ Variety

I didn’t find too many drawbacks in growing gomphrena. It was easy to grow, low maintenance, virtually pest and disease free, and bloomed all season long. While not necessary, I did find that using netting to keep my plants upright helped at harvest time. Harvesting was a bit challenging at times due to some of the branching stem varieties. But these can be trimmed of leaves and side branches to achieve longer stems. If you are looking for long, single stems, you can choose to grow more of the Gomphrena haageana varieties.  

I Didn’t Find Too Many Drawbacks in Growing Gomphrena

As with most cut flowers, it is best to cut gomphrena early in the morning or late evening when the temperatures are cooler and the stems are most hydrated. For best results, harvest those flowers that have color but are not fully open with stiff stems. Make sure to cut gomphrena regularly to ensure more blooms and prevent the flowers from going to seed. The more you cut, the more blooms you’ll get!

An Early Morning Flower Harvest Including Gomphrena

Another reason to love these flowers is that they hold up exceptionally well in the vase and make excellent dried flowers. The stiff, papery bracts hold their color and form throughout the drying process. Towards the end of the season, I experimented with drying some flowers, and gomphrena was at the top of my list. I gathered the stems, stripped the leaves, and formed them into bunches held together with a rubber band. I then hung the bunches upside down in a cool, dry place with good airflow and left them to dry. They dried beautifully and were my favorite dried flower to work with in fall arrangements.

Late-Season Gomphrena Stems before Being Prepared for Drying
A Beautiful Bunch of QIS Pink Gomphrena Harvested for Drying
These Fall Decorative Pumpkins Are Adorned with Dried Gomphrena and Other Dried Blooms

So, there you have it, the many reasons to love gomphrena! Have I convinced you to give it a grow this season? I hope so! I will certainly plant more of this versatile flower in the upcoming season here on the farm. Besides the varieties mentioned above, I’m excited to try the stunning tangerine-hued variety, Mandarin Orange. I think it will be a stunner in bouquets and dried fall arrangements. So, as you plan your garden for the upcoming season, don’t forget to save a spot for gomphrena. You’ll be happy that you did!

4 Replies to “Plant Spotlight: Gomphrena”

  1. Of course, Qis Orange is the one gomphrena that I grow always for my own gardens and decor use, but this year I am returning the mixed colors and Strawberry Fields to the list but only small rows of each. I find gomphrena too time consuming to harvest overall compared to most other flowers. But, they are such a valuable dried flower that I’m growing them again. Love your photos.

    Liked by 1 person

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