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Plant Profile: Baby’s Breath (Gypsophila paniculata)

Everybody who has ever seen a bouquet of flowers from a florist has probably seen baby’s breath because it is the number one filler flower for florists. It’s virtues, however, don’t stop there and it can be a very useful and attractive garden flower. The plant emerges from the soils as the spring flowers are blooming and then bursts into bloom as a huge frothy mound that covers the dying foliage of bulbs as well as plants like oriental poppies that go dormant in the summer. The highly branched stems of flowers provide a fine airy texture and acts like a filler in the garden just as it does in flower arrangements. The genus name Gypsophilia comes from the Greek words gypsos meaning chalk and philia meaning friendship which describe the plants’ fondness for soils with a high pH. The addition of lime to acidic soil is probably necessary for all the members of the genus to thrive.

Type: Herbaceous perennial

Bloom: Tiny white flowers are borne in large panicles in mid-summer

Foliage: Narrow, 4” gray-green leaves grow in rosettes.

Size: 3-4’ H x 3’ W

Light: Full sun

Soil: Average, medium dry, well-drained, basic (7.0-7.5)

Hardiness: Zones 3-9

Care: Cut back after first bloom to encourage rebloom in fall.

Pests and Diseases: None of significance; susceptible to botrytis and aster yellows

Propagation: Seed, division, terminal cuttings after flowering.

Companion plants: Liatris, Veronic spp., purple coneflowers; Plant with bulbs and spring blooming plants that go dormant in summer like bleeding heart and oriental poppy to cover yellowing foliage and fill empty spots.

Outstanding Selections:

‘Bristol Fairy’

      (double white flowers, 2’ tall)

‘Pink Fairy’

    (like ‘Bristol Fairy’ but with pink flowers)

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