Amaranth, an Old Fashioned Annual, Still Popular

Yesterday in the specialty foods section of a chain store I came across a 16 oz. package of Amaranth Grain, described as “Superfood from the Ancient Cultures of Latin America.”

That reminded me of course of the popular amaranth plant, which for us here in New England is an annual. Right now at the end of the summer the amaranth stands tall with its colorful foliage, adding a special quality to a border of annuals.

The amaranth, though a warm climate plant, enjoys a long history in American gardens.

Rochester, New York seedsman James Vick in his catalog of 1880 wrote, “The Amaranthus embraces a large class of plants, mainly valuable for their ornamental foliage, the leaves of most varieties being highly colorful, while in some the form as well as the color is desirable.”

He mentions the variety called ‘Love Lies Bleeding’ which is still available at local garden centers.

Prescott Park in Portsmouth, NH now features a new variety called ‘Early Splendor’. The local nursery The Pick of the Planet donated this plant and many other annuals for the front garden border at the main entrance to the Park on Marcy Street. [below]

The border of perennials at Prescott Park in Portsmouth, NH includes the red tipped amaranthus called 'XX'

The border of annuals at Prescott Park in Portsmouth, NH includes the red tipped amaranthus called ‘Early Splendor’ standing tall in the back

Though ‘Early Splendor’ is a new variety of amaranth, it still expresses the characterizes of an amaranth that make it such a beautiful addition to the summer garden.

In his book of 1806 called American Gardener Philadelphia seedsman Bernard McMahon wrote about the tri-color amaranth as an annual in the garden. He gave instructions to transplant annuals in June, including the amaranth. He said, “You may now transplant into the borders and other places where wanted, all the different kinds of annual flowers that succeed in that way…such as amaranthuses of various sorts.”

The amaranth, an old-fashioned annual, still remains popular.





  1. What a coincidence — I just posted about how I need to grow more annuals and want to try some more exotic ones, and amaranth was one I have been thinking about. I have tried direct sowing the green kind twice now, to no effect. I think I might try starting it inside next spring. Thanks for the look at this fascinating and exotic looking plant! _Beth

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