Gomphrena globosa is native to Brazil, Panama and Guatemala but is cultivated in many countries around the world. It is prized in Hawaii for making leis, in Nepal for making garlands to celebrate ‘Brother’s Day’ and in Trinidad the flowers are valued as much as for decorative purposes as they are for making a tea to treat gripe in babies.
Globe amaranth is relatively low growing, anywhere from 15cm to a metre tall. It is therefore a useful plant for front or middle of a border, especially in cottage garden schemes. Pinching out the first new growth in spring will help to make it bushy and bear more flowers although this isn’t strictly necessary. It can also be used as a specimen plant or grown in a container. Globe amaranth loves full sun; partial shade may result in fewer flowers and straggly growth. It also needs good drainage.
The blue-green leaves and stems are covered with fine white hairs, especially on new growth, and the flower heads are made up of tiny florets grouped together and resembling those of clover. They come in a range of colours from white and yellow to pink, red and lavender and do not need deadheading as they will continue to flower as long as conditions are right.
Globe amaranth makes an excellent cut flower and stems may start to root in the vase. It also can be dried easily. The flowers should be picked just as they are opening and hung upside down in bunches, in a cool, airy place. They will keep their colour for many months.
Besides bringing colour to a border or patio they also attract butterflies and other important pollinating insects. Globe amaranth is usually pest free but can sometimes develop mildew, especially if planted too close together. It is not drought or cold tolerant and will need to be watered regularly. The seed can be collected and sown in spring although the resulting plants may not have flowers the same colour as the parent. The seeds are poor germinators and sometimes soaking in water for a few hours before sowing will increase the germination rate.
Cultivars to look out for are G. globose ‘Bicolour rose’ which has pink and white flowers and ‘Strawberry fields’ which has large red flowers.