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Cascading beauties: Ornamental amaranths as cut flowers

The rope-like tassels in coral, lime-green, bronze, and red of cascading amaranths sure make a statement in my arrangements. Receiving numerous inquiries whenever I showcase them in my Instagram posts, I’ve made the decision to write a dedicated blog post about them, from growing to harvesting and styling them.

When it comes to creating stunning floral arrangements that exude natural beauty and charm, the choice of flowers is crucial. While traditional blooms have their own allure, consider adding a touch of uniqueness and vibrancy to your arrangements with ornamental amaranths.

The unique smplicity of cascading amaranths

The show-stopping inflorescences of cascading amaranths (Amaranthus caudatus cv.) effortlessly add a bold splash of color to any floral arrangement. Elongated, tassel-like cascading flower heads boast rich shades of coral, lime-green, bronze, and red, making their addition a focal point in any bouquet or centerpiece, popular choices for both modern and traditional floral designs.

In the past I have grown the following cultivars: ‘Coral Fountain’, ‘Mira’, ‘Green Cascade’ and ‘Red Cascade’ but there are many more varieties available commercially. For instance, ‘Green Tassels’ is very similar to ‘Green Cascade’ and ‘Love-Lies-Bleeding’ compares well to ‘Red Cascade’.

To those seeking a subtle yet equally captivating addition to their floral creations I will admit that ‘Green Cascade’ amaranth (also known as Amaranthus caudatus ‘Viridis’) is still my favorite. The soft, delicate appearance of this amaranth complements various flower types and colors, providing a harmonious backdrop that enhances the overall aesthetics of the arrangement. The soft green tones act as a neutral base that effortlessly blends with other flowers, allowing them to shine while adding texture.

Growing annual amaranths

The journey of creating breathtaking floral arrangements starts long before the flowers grace your vases and centerpieces. It begins with the careful nurturing of seeds into vibrant plants that will ultimately become the stars of your designs. If you’re looking to embark on this rewarding journey, here’s a guide on how to grow ornamental amaranths from seeds, allowing you to cultivate them right from your own cut flower garden or in a mixed border.

Choosing the right seeds

Before you dive into the world of growing amaranths, it’s important to source high-quality seeds from reputable suppliers. Look for seeds that are fresh, untreated, and ideally suited to your growing region and climate. With the right seeds in hand, you’re already on your way to a successful and fruitful gardening experience.

Preparing the soil

Amaranths thrive in well-draining soil with a slightly acidic to neutral pH. Begin by preparing the planting area by loosening the soil and incorporating organic matter, such as compost or well-rotted manure. This not only provides essential nutrients but also improves soil structure, promoting healthy root development.

Sowing the Seeds

The best time to sow amaranth seeds is after the last frost has passed and the soil has warmed up. Depending on your location, this could be in early spring or early summer. Follow these steps to sow your seeds. You may also consider sowing them in containers indoor or early spring protected from frost.

  1. Choose a sunny spot: Select a location in your garden that receives full sun or at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight per day.
  2. Sow seeds: Sow the amaranth seeds directly into the prepared soil. Gently press the seeds into the soil, but avoid burying them too deep.
  3. Spacing: Space the seeds according to the recommendations on the seed packet. For amaranths that cascade, such as ‘Red Cascade’ and ‘Green Cascade’, consider giving them a bit more space to allow their graceful plumes to develop fully.
  4. Watering: Water the newly sown seeds gently but thoroughly to ensure good seed-to-soil contact. Keep the soil consistently moist but not waterlogged.

Caring for your amaranths

As your amaranth plants begin to grow, it’s important to provide them with the care they need to flourish:

  1. Watering: Maintain regular watering to keep the soil consistently moist. Be mindful of not overwatering, as amaranths can be susceptible to root rot in waterlogged soil.
  2. Fertilization: Feed your amaranths with a balanced fertilizer every few weeks to provide them with the nutrients they require for healthy growth and vibrant blooms.
  3. Support: As the plants grow, you may want to provide some support to prevent bending or breaking of the stems, especially for cascading varieties.
  4. Thinning: If your seedlings are overcrowded, thin them out to ensure proper air circulation and prevent diseases.

Harvesting and enjoying cascading amaranths

As your Red Cascade and Green Cascade Amaranths mature, they will reward you with their stunning plumes that are perfect for cut flowers and arrangements. When the flowers are at their peak, carefully snip the stems for use in your floral designs. Pair them with other complementary flowers, foliage, and decorative elements to create arrangements that reflect your artistic vision.

Growing Red Cascade and Green Cascade Amaranth from seeds is a gratifying experience that allows you to witness the transformation from tiny seeds to magnificent blooms. With proper care, attention, and a touch of creativity, you’ll be able to showcase the beauty of these captivating amaranths in your own unique floral masterpieces.

Understanding self-sowing behavior and potential invasiveness concerns

Cascading amaranths, like all other ornamental amaranths, are notorious for their ability to self-sow, meaning they can produce abundant seeds that readily germinate and grow in the same or nearby areas. This natural propagation mechanism can be a double-edged sword. On one hand, it can lead to the establishment of vibrant, flourishing patches of amaranths. On the other hand, without proper management, this self-sowing behavior can lead to these plants spreading uncontrollably and potentially outcompeting native species.

Invasive ornamental plants have the ability to outcompete and displace native species, leading to imbalances in local ecosystems. While cascading amaranths are not typically considered highly invasive like some other plant species, they can still become problematic under certain conditions. In a garden setting, unchecked self-sowing can lead to overcrowding and chaos, detracting from the intended design and aesthetic. If amaranths self-sow prolifically and establish large populations, they may outcompete both garden and native plants for resources such as sunlight, water, and nutrients, potentially reducing the diversity of plant species in the area.

Keep a watchful eye on your amaranth plants and their seedlings. Regularly remove any seedlings that appear in unwanted areas to prevent them from establishing large colonies. To limit seed production, deadhead (remove spent flowers) before they have a chance to produce seeds. This can help control the number of seeds that are dispersed in your garden. Finally, instead of allowing the plants to disperse their seeds naturally, consider collecting the seeds for future planting or sharing with others.

Harvesting and keeping cascading amaranths

Keeping cascading amaranths as cut flowers requires some care and attention to ensure their beauty and freshness are preserved. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you make the most of these stunning blooms in your floral arrangements:

  1. Harvest at the right time: When selecting cascading amaranth stems for cutting, choose those that are in their prime. Look for flowers that have fully opened and are showing vibrant color, although I like playing with different stages of maturity, thickness and length. Avoid stems with wilted or damaged flowers. You may also prune the plant top while the rest will be available to pick at a later date. My amaranths blooms in mid-summer until frost. This is why they are appropriate to mix with zmy dahlias.
  2. Cut at an angle: Trim the stems at a 45-degree angle just above a node or leaf junction. This helps create a larger surface area for water absorption.
  3. Immediate watering: Place the cut stems in a bucket of lukewarm water immediately after harvesting. This prevents air bubbles from forming in the stem’s vascular system, which can hinder water uptake.
  4. Remove lower leaves: Strip the leaves from the lower part of the stems that will be submerged in water. This helps prevent decay and keeps the water clean. I usually remove most leaves as they interfere with showcasing the inflorescences and they tend to fade quite fast.
  5. Preservative solution: Although I do not use one, you may use a commercial flower preservative or make your own by mixing water with a small amount of sugar and a few drops of bleach or lemon juice. The preservative should provide nutrients and helps prevent bacterial growth.
  6. Change the water: If possible, replace the water in the vase and trim the stems slightly every two days. At least, add water daily. This refreshes the water supply and ensures optimal hydration for the flowers.
  7. Avoid direct sunlight: Place the vase of cascading amaranths in a cool, shaded area away from direct sunlight, drafts, and sources of heat. This helps extend their vase life.
  8. Check for wilting: Regularly inspect the flowers for signs of wilting or decay. Remove any wilted blooms to prevent the spread of bacteria to healthy flowers.
  9. Recut and revitalize: If the flowers start to droop or wilt prematurely, you can try recutting the stems underwater. Submerge the stem in a container of water and make a fresh diagonal cut. This can help revive the flower’s water uptake.
  10. Combine with other flowers: Choose companions that have similar care requirements to ensure longevity.
  11. Drying option: If you wish to preserve the cascading amaranths’ beauty beyond their fresh state, you can also hang them upside down in a dry, well-ventilated area. As they naturally dry, they will retain their shape and color, making them suitable for long-lasting dried arrangements. I have never done that but intend to.

By following these tips, you can enjoy the captivating beauty of cascading amaranths in your cut flower arrangements for an extended period, adding an elegant touch to your floral displays.

Styling with cascading amaranths

  1. Monochromatic magic: Create a stunning impact by pairing ‘Red Cascade’ with flowers in varying shades of pink, red and burgundy. This monochromatic approach enhances the intensity of the color, delivering a cohesive and visually striking arrangement.
  2. Color contrast: Combine cascading amaranths with flowers in complementary colors, such as white, cream, or pale pink, to create a vibrant and eye-catching contrast that captures attention.
  3. Whimsical elegance: Utilize ‘Green Cascade’ amaranth to infuse a touch of whimsy and lightness into your arrangements. Combine it with pastel flowers and delicate foliage for a romantic and ethereal look.
  4. Texture play: Experiment with different textures by incorporating both Red and Green Cascade Amaranth into a single arrangement or even the plume-like amarants such as ‘Velvet Curtains’. The contrasting textures and colors will result in a visually captivating display.
  5. Length and positioning: While short inflorescences can be integrated among other flowers, the cascading elements are best positioned at the sides of arrangements, allowing them to fall gracefully below the vase onto the table.

Cascading amaranths bring a fresh and captivating dimension to cut flower arrangements and designs. Their unique forms, vibrant colors, and versatile nature make them valuable additions to any floral enthusiast’s repertoire. Whether you’re aiming for a dramatic centerpiece or an understated elegance, these amaranths are sure to elevate your arrangements to new heights, making them stand out and leave a lasting impression. Embrace the allure these amaranths and embark on a journey of artistic expression through horticulture’s bountiful beauty.

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