Also commonly known as tassel flower, this annual is native to India, Africa, and Peru, and a member of the Amaranth family (Amaranthaceae), a diverse family that also includes beets, spinach, quinoa, and lamb’s quarters. The common form of Amaranthus caudatus has long red or green tassels that hang in clusters but ‘Fat Spike’ has thick erect spikes of flowers as the cultivar name suggests. The small petalless flowers are purplish red and the spike is twelve to eighteen inches long and up to three inches thick at the base tapering to one inch at the top. They appear in mid summer and continue until frost. The oval leaves are light green, up to six inches long, and are carried on branched yellow-green stems. Both the seeds and leaves are edible and the flowers are good in the vase and everlasting. The genus name, Amaranthus, comes from the Greek word, amarantos, meaning everlasting referring to the flowers. The specific epithet, caudatus, is the Latin word meaning, “having a tail”, and refers to the appearance of the tassels of flowers of the common form of the plant.
Bloom: Small purplish red flowers on thick erect spikes 12-18 inches long by 3’ thick from mid summer to frost
Size: 36” H x 18” W
Light: Full sun
Soil: Infertile, moist, well-drained
Hardiness: Not applicable
Care: Low maintenance
Pests and Diseases: None of significance but susceptible to aphids, root rot, aster yellows, fungal leaf spot.
Propagation: Seed sown in doors in mid spring
Companion Plants: Sunflower, dahlia, zinnia