Cultivating the Alyssum and the Amaranthus

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Firstly the Alyssum which are hardy annuals and perennials.

The annual species, Alyssum maritimum, is one of the most popular edging plants for summer bedding. The perennial kinds, of which Alyssum saxatile may be taken as a type, are useful in the rock garden and also as edgings in the perennial border.

When it comes to cultivation, the annual alyssum will grow in almost any soil and position, though it is seen to the best advantage in full sun and light but not over-rich ground. In heavily manured borders it is apt to lose its dwarf habit and produce a superabundance of leaves.

Seed may either be sown thinly during April where the plants are to flower, and the seedlings thinned out as soon as possible 6 inches apart, or else seed may be sown in boxes in a cold frame during March and the seedlings pricked out into deeper trays and hardened off ready for planting out in May.

All the rock garden species should be given a fully open and sunny position in light gritty soil. Like the annual alyssum, they become straggly and untidy if the soil is too rich. Alyssum saxatile is too vigorous 'to be planted in association with choice alpines, but is admirable for creating large drifts of bright colour on rock banks or other places where there is plenty of room for it to spread. Plants may be trimmed over after flowering if they are occupying too much space or becoming untidy. Good drainage is of particular importance, especially in town gardens, where the plants are rather apt to rot away during the winter from the effect of excessive moisture combined with soot and grime settling on the foliage.

For propagation of the seed of the perennial , it will germinate with ease if sown in a cold frame during March, or, alternatively, may be sown outdoors in a sheltered border during June. The double yellow alyssum and other selected forms may be increased by means of cuttings of firm young growth inserted during July or early August in very sandy soil in a cold frame. Riper shoots pulled off with a heel of older growth will often root quite freely outdoors in late August or September. A little silver sand should be scattered around the base of the cuttings when inserting.

Now we come to the Amaranthus, best described as half-hardy annuals.

Although a few of the amaranthuses are described as perfectly hardy, it is a wiser plan to regard them all as half hardy. Amaranthus caudatus, the well-known Love Lies Bleeding, with its long tassels of tiny crimson flowers, is the best known. It is an interesting plant, though not so showy as many of the species, whose decorative value lies chiefly in the vivid and striking tints of their leafage. These are valuable as foliage plants in either bed or border and are quite sub-tropical in effect.

The amaranthuses are vigorous growers and will thrive so long as they are planted in a sunny spot and given plenty of water during the growing season. They are not particular as to soil, providing it is rich enough to maintain their abundant vigour.

If you want to propagate the amaranthus then March is quite early enough to sow seed, and germination will be rapid if a temperature of about 65 degrees can be provided. As soon as the seedlings show their second leaves, pot them off singly into thumb pots and keep them fairly close and warm until they have fully recovered from the check of transplanting. Planting should not take place before the end of May or the first week in June. Before that time the plants must be thoroughly hardened by moving them to a cold frame and discarding the lights for at least six or seven days beforehand.

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Author: Ian SG Smith
Ian has a great interest in gardening and writes occasional articles. Come and visit his newest website at

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