An unusual genus comprising about sixty temperate and tropical natives, Amaranthus, commonly known as amaranth, bears its signature chenillelike or velvety spires and attractive foliage from late summer through frost. Plus, these annuals or short-lived perennials are easy to grow from seed: Simply direct-sow right after the last frost in a sunny spot with humus-rich soil. The varieties featured today, which range from 2 to 8 feet tall, were specially grown for Martha Stewart Living by Susan Ziorbran of Hillsdale, New York. Look for amaranth at your local florist; to grow it from seed, try a seed catalog such as Johnny’s Selected Seeds, Park Seed, Burpee, or Thompson & Morgan.
Also known as “love-lies-bleeding,” “velvet flower,” and “tassel flower,” this bushy, erect variety bears tassel-like, terminal, and axillary panicles of long, crimson-purple flowers from summer through fall. The most common Amaranthus variety, it is a bold plant that grows to 2 feet, is excellent in areas with long hot summers, and holds its color well, making it perfect for drying.
This cultivar bears unusual masses of long, thick chartreuse flowers with velvety florets on thick columnar spikes. Growing from 3 to 5 feet tall, ‘Towers Green’ blooms from midsummer through fall.
Ideal for borders and in arrangements, this cultivar bears highly attractive, fat, erect spikes of deep-purplish-red flowers, tapering from about 3 inches to 1 inch thick.
With its giant cinnamon-colored plumes, this cultivar is ideal for adding warm, autumnal hues to the garden. It can grow from 5 to 6 feet tall and blooms from summer through late fall.
Named for the Mexican village from which the original seed for this cultivar hailed, ‘Opopeo’ produces colorful spikes of flowers resembling a jester’s hat, as well as striking bronze foliage. It grows from 4 to 6 feet tall.
Native to Mexico, India, and China, A. hypochondiracus varieties are commonly known as “prince’s feather.” With its upright spikes of yellow-green flowers, ‘Green Thumb’ is fantastic in arrangements.
A dwarf variety that reaches 20 to 24 inches, this cultivar bears 8- to 10-inch burgundy plumes and is ideal for the fronts of borders.
Available at local florists
To grow Amaranthus from seed, try the following catalogs: