Also 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 oval leaves are light green, up to six inches long, and are carried on branched yellow-green stems. The small petalless flowers are green or red and are carried in long pendulous clusters twelve inches and longer from mid summer until frost. Both the seeds and leaves are edible and the flowers are excellent dried or in fresh arrangements with a vase life of seven to ten days. I have used these flowers in center pieces, a bridal bouquet and a corsage with great results. 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 as tail”, and refers to the appearance of the tassels of flowers of the common form of the plant.
Cutting: For fresh arrangements cut when three quarters of the flowers are open; for drying, cut when seeds begin to set and the flowers are firm to the touch. For both fresh flowers and dried, remove all leaves.
Conditioning: Place stems in very hot water for several hours.
Preserving: Remove all leaves and stand in shallow water until stems and flowers are dry. Do not hang upside down because the tassels will end up standing up unnaturally when you go to arrange the stems.
Size: 2-5’ H x 2’ W
Light: Full sun to partial shade
Soil: Average to lean, moist, well-drained
Hardiness: Not applicable (annual)
Care:Watch for aphids, root rot, aster yellows, fungal leaf spot, and viruses.