The amaranth plant is an annual vine that features purple flowers. It is known for being edible, a popular crop for pickled, or smoked fish recipes. It grows best in alkaline soil with a pH of 6.5 to 7.5. While amaranth is mostly shade tolerant, it does need a bit of shade during the cooler months of the year. Flowering typically takes place in the summer.
Many varieties of this perennial plant are available. The most common ones are curly amaranthus (also called curly amaranth) and the tall variety (or ‘umbrella’) which can be found growing in fields. They both do well in cool, shade-tolerant soil that has been slightly fertilized. They are fairly hardy plants, with a high tolerance to freezing and thawing weather. It is not uncommon to find varieties with white, pink or even blue flowers. The flowers are usually large, bell-like, and appear to be on a stem that grows upright.
Amaranthus need only a moderate amount of water, and thrive in full sunlight. They do not need to have their soil fertilized, but it is advisable to give them a light application every two weeks throughout the growing season. In the warmer months, they prefer a slightly wetter soil. Amaranthus produces the beautiful purple flowers that have earned it the name “purple crocus.” Growing and harvesting these plants is usually a rewarding experience, but can be quite a hassle due to their somewhat limited root system.
The most common method of planting amaranthus is to plant them in a single layer, six to eight inches deep, with two to four inches between each row. Each plant should receive one to two inches of watering during the day, as well as an hour of direct sunlight. Since they are annuals, care must be taken not to over water the plants. If this happens, the flowers will be distorted or even killed.
Some people prefer to plant their amaranthus in a window box, which is a container that sits atop a pair of open kitchen windows. Other people like to use a screen, box, or hanging basket that sits atop a raised platform, such as a patio table. Whichever method of planting amaranthus is used, the primary difference is the location. Window boxes and pots sit on the ground, whereas pots and screen stands are hung in the window.
If using a screen, it is important to remember that the amaranthus will need to be weeded before planting, especially if it will be planted in the ground. Weeding can be done by hand or with an herbicide. However, it may be desirable to have the soil tested to determine the level of chemicals needed. There are many brands of herbicides on the market, so testing the soil is easy and affordable.
One of the things to consider when learning how to grow amaranth is the type of plant that is chosen. They are available in three basic varieties: tall fescue, dwarf fescue, and Kentucky bluegrass. Although taller fescues tend to be the best for indoor plants, both varieties can be used outdoors; however, some will grow better in containers than on the ground. The final choice should be based on the type of soil, sunlight, and other factors, but the best option for most people is to choose the variety that is most suited to the area and home they live in.
Growing amaranthus requires a bit of patience, but once the seeds are sowed into the right environment, it does not take long for them to begin producing flowers and leaves. It takes approximately four months to get new growth from seeds and approximately six months for the foliage to fully develop. Although this plant is not widely used as an ornamental plant, its attractive purple blooms and seed pods make it an interesting choice for any garden.