Gomphrena globosa: Globe amaranth

Family: Amaranthaceae
Common name: Globe amaranth, Makhmali, Bachelor’s buttons, Vadamalli

It’s difficult not to fall in love with these gumball like magenta flowers, and the sturdy little plants producing them. Globe amaranth flowers are very commonly seen in gardens, nurseries, parks and playgrounds.

Globe amaranth plants grow to a height of about 2 feet with a thin reddish-green stem, that’s covered with white hairs in young plants. Once mature, the plants produce an abundance of purple inflorescences, which are bracts, not true flowers.

The actual flowers are tiny, white of yellow, and almost hidden inside the colorful bracts. These bright, fluffy balls attract bees, butterflies and insects that help pollinate them. Once the flowers mature, the lower portion becomes brown and elongated until finally the flower is almost fully brown, with a small tuft of magenta on top.

Globe amaranth is an annual plant with an erect stem, that might need support once it blooms. Leaves are oval in shape, opposite, about 2-6 inches long. The inflorescences make them a garden favorite, along with their capability to withstand heat and drought.

The plants are non-fussy, and will even reseed by themselves without too much care and attention. The most common color is magenta; but there are variants with white, pink, red, orange and lilac flowers as well.

The flowers are ideal for use as cut flowers, dry flowers and potpourri since they dry beautifully, retaining its shape. Once mature, the flowers can be cut and hung in bunches to dry, before being used in cut flower arrangements. Flowers are also used in making garlands and leis since they last for a long time.

These plants are edible and has some medicinal properties, being used in treatment of cough, asthma, chest congestion, whooping cough, gripe, diabetes, reproductive problems, jaundice, urinary ailments and kidney diseases. The plants and flowers are used as food and livestock fodder.

Globe amaranth plants do well as border plants, or in combination with shorter plants like Lantanas and marigolds. They bloom almost through the year, but mostly in summer and spring. Though these plants are drought-tolerant, they do well in bright sunlight and well-drained soil.

There are many new variants like ‘Bicolor rose’ having white and pink colored blossoms; ‘Gnome series’ which are shorter plants in a variety of colors; ‘Buddy purple’ with dark purple flowers; ‘Strawberry fields’ producing dark red flowers.

Propagation is through seeds.

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