Amaranthus, commonly known as Amaranth, is a large genus of annual or short-lived perennial plants. Noted for its showy foliage and flower spikes, it is an eye-catching presence in the garden.
Habit: Amaranth varies in size, from small, bushy plants to tall, upright growers that can reach 6 feet (1.8 meters) or more. Its leaves can be brilliant shades of red, orange, purple, green, or variegated, while its striking flower spikes appear in summer, bearing long-lasting, colorful flowers that can be red, pink, yellow, or green.
Cultivation: Adaptable, Amaranthus tolerates a wide range of conditions, including poor, dry soils and heat, making it an ideal choice for less-than-ideal garden sites. It thrives best in full sun and well-drained soil. Once established, it’s drought-resistant and needs little care.
Uses: Amaranthus plants are not just decorative. They also have several practical uses. For centuries, Amaranth has been cultivated as a grain crop and leafy vegetable by many cultures worldwide. The grain is high in protein and lysine, an essential amino acid lacking in many other plant-based protein sources. It’s also gluten-free, making it a suitable grain alternative for those with gluten intolerance. The leaves are nutritious, rich in vitamins A and C, calcium, iron, and other minerals, and can be used similarly to spinach or kale in cooking.
In addition to its culinary uses, Amaranth benefits wildlife in the garden. The flowers are attractive to pollinators, and the seeds are a favorite food for birds.
In summary, Amaranthus offers a unique blend of beauty, hardiness, and utility, making it a valuable addition to gardens and landscapes.