Tulip bulbs – never too late for tulips!

collection of coloured tulips in a field

There are so many varieties of tulip from which to choose
Image: paula french/Shutterstock

Think it’s too late to plant tulip bulbs? Fear not. The best time to plant these enduringly popular spring bulbs begins in October. At Thompson & Morgan, we’re always on the lookout for special and unique plants. So which tulips do we love the most?

Here are our top tulip picks, along with other favourites to grow for scent, colour, size and indoor vases…

When to plant tulips

bulb planter from T&M

Plant tulip bulbs in late autumn to a depth of 2-3 times the bulb’s height (8-15cm)
Image: Bulb planter from T&M

Garden centres often try to sell tulip bulbs from late summer but the best time to plant tulips is much later than many people imagine. In fact, you shouldn’t put your early bulbs in the ground before October or November when the soil has had time to cool down.

Colder conditions kill some of the soil-borne pests and diseases that can attack tulip bulbs. Later planting also means your flowers will bloom at the optimum time – mid to late spring. This slightly later display provides a vital splash of colour that perfectly bridges the period between spring-flowering daffodils and the first summer-flowering perennials.

Our three favourite tulips

Tulip 'Florist's Treat Mixed' from T&M

This mix contains voluptuous doubles, fringed petals and a magnificent array of colours
Image: Tulip ‘Florist’s Treat Mixed’ from T&M

Rather than the usual tulips available in supermarkets, why not grow your own colourful bouquets with ‘Florist’s Treat Mixed’ (featured above)? We love this selection of vibrant, peony-flowered tulips for their unashamed flamboyance.

Also in our top three, ‘Red Impression’ is a classic red tulip. A fantastic perennial, this will come back year after year with a strong display every season. Our top tip? Be bold and grow them nice and close for maximum impact.

Last but not least, our third choice is the classic Tulip ‘Blueberry Ripple’ which combines the looks of a heritage tulip with modern vigour and a tough attitude! Each petal looks almost hand-painted in the most divine lilac-blue shade. Try giving it pride of place in a container on its own – pack the bulbs in and max out your display.

Best three tulips for fragrance

Double Sugar Tulip from T&M

These frothy sweet-scented blooms beautifully herald the arrival of spring
Image: Tulip ‘Double Sugar’ from T&M

Tulips are usually selected for spring colour rather than scent, but there are several varieties that offer both. For a truly angelic fragrance, choose Tulip ‘Angelique’. Growing up to 50cm tall, it boasts beautiful pink rosettes replete with elegant petals. The perfect spring bulb, grow it in a sunny position that’s sheltered from high winds.

Tulip ‘Double Sugar’ (featured above) takes its name from the delightful sugar-sweet scent of its large ruff-like blooms. Why not give this opulent tulip pride of place in borders and patio containers? Blooming from March through to May, it’s sure to get your summer display off to a vibrant start.

Looking for scent and drama? Tulip ‘Blenda-Flame’ makes a great addition to spring gardens. Featuring dazzling white blooms with stunning cerise variegation – this tulip is perfect for mass planting in beds and borders and offers a pleasingly subtle perfume.

Best three miniature tulips

Tulip Ground Cover Mix from T&M

Growing to just 25cm high, these mixed tulips are a clever way to suppress weeds
Image: Tulip ‘Ground Cover’ Mix from T&M

Miniature tulips look fabulous at the front of borders and around the edges of your container displays. Coming in a fantastic array of colours and shapes, they’re also less likely to be battered by wind or spring showers.

Tulip ‘Red Riding Hood’ offers lovely mottled and striped foliage which gives way to striking and long-lasting red blooms. Growing to 20cm in height, this miniature tulip will thrive in your rockery, and makes a good cut flower too.

If you’re looking for spring ground cover to provide a dazzling display and discourage weed growth, you’ll love our Tulip ‘Ground Cover’ Mix (featured above). An ensemble of varieties, this low-growing mix includes the ever-popular butter-yellow ‘Tulip Tarda’.

Another top ground-cover selection, Tulip ‘Murillo Mixed’ offers early colour, and excellent longevity, ensuring your borders are filled with action until the first of your summer blooms kicks in.

Best three tulips for cut flowers

Tulip ‘Black Satin’ from T&M

Gorgeous in bouquets with pale pinks or sizzling reds
Image: Tulip ‘Black Satin’ from T&M

Tulips are guaranteed to add extravagance to your spring cut flower displays, enriching your home and bringing their delightful early season scent indoors.

Looking for a professional colour matched cut-flower display? Try our gorgeous ‘Tulip Magic Lavender’ and ‘Mango Charm’ collection. Blooming simultaneously, flamboyant deep mauve and complementary soft yellow-pink combine to bring harmony to your borders and vases.

For a cut flower display which really packs a punch, you can’t beat Tulip ‘Striped Mix’. Combining three varieties; Tulip ‘Slawa’, Tulip ‘Gavota’ and Tulip ‘Havran’, it guarantees spring vases with the ‘wow’ factor.

And for something really unique, add a stunning contrast to your cut flower arrangements with Tulip ‘Black Satin’ (featured above). This deep maroon-black flower contrasts perfectly with soft pink. Alternatively, try combining it with rich reds for sultry bouquets that ooze gothic sensuality.

Whichever tulips you choose for your borders, containers and cut flower displays, do remember to plant your tulip bulbs later in the autumn after the soil has had time to cool. That way, you’ll give your tulips the best chance of producing a warm and vibrant spring display.

Gift guide: Houseplants to celebrate the spirit of Christmas

Red azalea hoop from T&M

Adorn your mantlepiece with stunning Christmas gifts from Thompson & Morgan
Image source: Thompson & Morgan

Christmas is a time to be thankful and show people you care – whether it’s through the exchange of thoughtful gifts, spending time together, or taking a moment to catch up on news. 

And what better way to spread goodwill than with the surprise delivery of a festive houseplant? These eco-friendly gifts can be easily ordered from home, and will continue to give pleasure long after the tinsel has been returned to the loft. Here are five cracking choices from T&M’s Christmas gift selection

Spider Azalea ‘Winter Beauty’

Spider Azalea 'Winter Beauty' from T&M

‘Winter Beauty’ costs £22.99

Reminiscent of a little Christmas tree frosted with snow, the bright and starry blooms of this Spider Azalea burst into life during December and last for several months. For the rest of the year, a shapely cone of dark, glossy, evergreen foliage lends an exotic feel to your conservatory or patio. A special gift that radiates cool Scandi style.

Azalea Hoop ‘Red’

Azalea Hoop 'Red' from T&M

Azalea Hoop ‘Red’ costs £34.99

Trained to form a beautiful floral wreath, this striking Azalea Hoop looks magnificent on a mantelpiece over the festive season. Traditionally, azalea flowers were sent to remind loved ones to take care of themselves, while in Chinese culture they symbolise happy times spent at home. The perfect gift for those you hold near and dear.

Lit Hyacinth Bowl

Lit Hyacinth Bowl from T&M

Lit Hyacinth Bowl costs £22.99

Exquisitely perfumed, this elegant glass bowl filled with gleaming White Hyacinths makes a beautiful Christmas table centrepiece or window display to welcome family home. Lit by a delicate string of fairy lights, the sparkling simplicity of this popular flower brings a real touch of class to any room. Ideal for anyone who loves a white Christmas.

Clivia Miniata in Zinc Pot

Lit Hyacinth Bowl from T&M

Clivia Miniatia costs £19.99

Originating from South Africa, this spectacular tropical houseplant will delight green-fingered friends and family. Prized for its bright orange flowers with delicate yellow throats, the Clivia Miniata is just as impressive when not in bloom with sculptural evergreen leaves that grow up to 60cm long. A gift that will bring joy for many years to come.

Poinsettia ‘Golden Glo’

Lit Hyacinth Bowl from T&M

‘Golden Glo’ costs £22.99

For a sensational twist on a seasonal favourite, Golden Glo is the guiding star of poinsettias. Deep green, heart-shaped leaves contrast with luxurious golden bracts to striking effect. Not sure how poinsettias came to be associated with Christmas? Legend has it that, long ago, a Mexican child’s religious offering of weeds were turned to poinsettia ‘flowers’ as part of a Christmas miracle. However it came about, this glorious plant remains the perfect way to convey your message of love and goodwill.

We hope we’ve persuaded you to go green this Christmas. With free personalised gift cards and just one delivery charge regardless of how many Christmas Gifts you send, T&M has you covered.

 

Best plants and flowers for winter colour

Garden in the winter with cornus and other winter-flowering plants and shrubs

There’s a huge choice of plants to bring your winter garden to life
Image: Andrew Fletcher/shutterstock

Create a garden full of colour, scent and interest this winter! Here’s our pick of the flowers, climbers and shrubs to help you to enjoy an all-year-round display and raise your spirits through the colder months. Looking for a little drama once the leaves have dropped? Here’s what to plant for a bright and colourful winter wonderland…

Best winter flowers

Winter pansies

Purple pansy flowering in the winter

Pansies continue flowering even in the depths of winter!
Image: Botamochy/Shutterstock

Pansies are a staple of the winter garden and they thrive in cold, icy weather. Pansy ‘Matrix™ Mixed’ is easy-to-grow – and extra strong. Specially bred for their branching habit and super-size flowers, the compact, sturdy stems hold their flower heads high, whatever the temperature. Plant them in hanging baskets, window boxes, containers and borders to ensure your garden is filled with vibrant colour throughout the coldest months.

Primroses

Primrose 'Husky' Mixed from T&M

Primrose ‘Husky’ Mixed provide a welcome riot of colour in winter
Image: T&M

Primroses are another ‘toughie’ for winter and spring colour, and will even push their brightly coloured blooms through coverings of snow. Primrose ‘Husky’ Mixed offers a vibrant rainbow of flowers that brighten the gloomiest of winter days.

While primroses feature single bloom stems, polyanthus produces a cluster of 15 or more flowers at the tip of a stem. Polyanthus ‘Firecracker’ is an eye-catching plant bearing yellow blooms edged with a fiery orange-red. Or try Polyanthus ‘Most Scented Mix’ for a bright and fragrant addition to your winter beds.

Cyclamen

Purple, pink and white cyclamen

Cyclamen hederifolium is striking planted on masse
Image: Konmac/Shutterstock

Cyclamen are the perfect ground cover plant for rockeries and woodland gardens and provide a stunning winter display. Cyclamen hederifolium will self-seed freely to create carpets of foliage and flowers from autumn to spring, before the foliage dies back in summer.

Hellebores

Hellebore 'Winterbells' from T&M

Hellebore ‘Winterbells’ flowers from December to April
Image: T&M

Winter-flowering perennials like hellebores, prized for their elegant, cup-shaped flowers, brighten up tricky shady corners and winter containers from December right through to the first signs of early spring. They’re also a popular choice for evergreen ground cover beneath deciduous trees and shrubs. Hellebore x hybridus ‘Mixed’ brings welcome shades of white, red, pink and purple to the garden. Meanwhile, the new ‘Winterbells’ variety – a unique hybrid of H. niger x H. foetidus that was once thought impossible – has a delicate pale green bloom with a pink flush.

Snowdrops

Closeup of snowdrops flowering

Delicate snowdrops flower in February and March
Image: T&M

With a gentle nod, snowdrops usher in the first signs of spring into your garden. A lover of dappled shade, these winter bulbs add colour in the most unexpected places. They’re also happy in containers and window boxes, should you want to get closer to the delicate honey scent of these cheerful little blooms.

Best winter climbers

Clematis

Clematis 'Winter Beauty' from T&M

Clematis ‘Winter Beauty’ flowers from December until February
Image: T&M 

For winter climbers, nothing beats a clematis. Evergreen, winter varieties will appreciate a sheltered site which offers protection from wind. Plant them against a warm house wall so you can appreciate their winter flowers from your window. Clematis urophylla ‘Winter Beauty’ is a beautiful, evergreen clematis with lush foliage and delicate, white, waxy, bell-shaped flowers that bloom from December to March.

Or try Clematis ‘Advent Bells’, a winter-flowering climber that has dainty blooms from November to the end of January. Its nodding, cup-shaped flowers are creamy-white outside, with showy, red-speckled markings inside and a prominent cluster of stamens. It will happily tolerate temperatures down to -10°C.

Winter jasmine

Winter flowering jasmine

Canary yellow jasmine flowers brighten up the darkest months
Image: T&M 

Unscented, canary yellow blooms smother the bare stems of Jasmine nudiflorum from February onwards – a sure sign that spring is on its way. This vigorous winter jasmine has a loose sprawling habit that can be trained with wires, but is equally happy to scramble over walls in a cascade of stiff, bright green stems. Fantastically hardy and easy to grow, this versatile climber requires little aftercare – but does benefit from regular pruning.

Winter honeysuckle

Winter honeysuckle flowers

Winter honeysuckle can produce tiny red berries as well as pretty white blooms.
Image: T&M

Wonderfully seasonal, creamy white flowers and red berries vie for attention on Lonicera fragrantissima (winter honeysuckle). But, as with many honeysuckle varieties, it’s the heady fragrance that’s the real heavy hitter. Whether you’d prefer it as a climber or a shrub, make sure to plant it somewhere you can get up close (even if it’s in semi-shade) to really appreciate its scent.

Best winter plants and shrubs

Sweet box

Sarcocca sweetbox from T&M

Discover the heady, honey fragrance of Christmas box!
Image: T&M

For winter fragrance, plant Sarcococca confusa, an easy to grow shrub also known as sweet box – or, even more seasonally, Christmas box! Its creamy white flowers might be inconspicuous, hidden beneath leathery foliage – but you won’t miss their powerful, honey-like fragrance. The flowers are followed by red, purple or black berries, which may last into the following winter.

Ornamental grass

Ornamental Grasses from T&M

‘Nigrescens’ adds drama and colour to the winter garden.
Image: T&M

For many gardens, flowers are in short supply during the winter, which is why it’s important to make the most of structure and texture. Enter: Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’, a hardy, herbaceous perennial. It adds fantastically black, grass-like foliage – a bold choice that leans into the darkness of the season – and graceful bell-shaped blooms to the space. For the most dramatic impact, interplant it with snowdrops.

Dogwood

Cornus sanguinea ‘Winter Flame’ from T&M

Create a fiery winter display with Cornus sanguinea ‘Winter Flame’
Image: T&M

Who needs foliage when you have the ‘Winter Flame’? One of the best shrubs for winter colour, Cornus Sanguinea (also known as dogwood) lights up cold, grey gardens with a shock of fiery red, orange, and yellow stems in the autumn and winter. This deciduous shrub is a year-round showstopper, with the warmer months seeing it produce tiny white flowers, glossy black berries and verdant green leaves.

Viburnum

Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’ from T&M

Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’ flowers from October to April
Image: T&M

A great addition to borders or wildlife gardens, Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’ adds both colour and fragrance to the winter garden. Beautiful by any measure, the flowers bud in the darkest days, offering dark pink blooms on bare stems. While the flowers are remarkably tolerant of frost (and last longer than other winter flowers), should you want to cut a few stems for some indoor colour – go ahead! ‘Dawn’ is pretty prolific so you won’t see any ill effects.

Top tip from our horticulturist Peter Freeman: plant it next to your front door so you can enjoy the sweet, rich fragrance as you pass by.

Mahonia

Mahonia Collection from T&M

Bright yellow flower spikes brighten even the darkest corners of your winter garden
Image: T&M

Commonly known as Oregon Grape, Mahonia x media is a superb hardy shrub for tricky shaded spots. The large yellow flower spikes bloom from November through to March, bringing colour and fragrance to your garden during the cold winter months. As the flowers fade, they’re replaced by bunches of purple berries, and the holly shaped, evergreen leaves look great all year round.

Wintersweet

Wintersweet collection from T&M

Cut a few sprigs of wintersweet to enjoy the exquisite fragrance in your home
Image: T&M

Chimonanthus praecox, or wintersweet, is an elegant, fragrant winter flowering shrub. Grow it in borders, or against a house wall, where you can enjoy its exquisite perfume every time you step into the garden. It bursts into life in the dead of winter, its bare woody stems dripping with pendulous, sulphur-yellow blooms. On the darkest of winter days, Chimonanthus flowers can be seen in full bloom while most other plants lie dormant.

Witch hazel

Witch Hazel from T&M

Enjoy vibrant bursts of yellow through January and February
Image: T&M

There’s nothing like a splash of bright yellow to cheer up a wintry day and Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Arnold Promise’ – the recipient of a well-deserved RHS Award of Garden Merit – delivers. The little flowers burst open on the craggy stems, offering up a sweet scent, as well as vibrant colour. Position it somewhere in full sun or semi-shade, and get it in place in time for autumn so you can enjoy the show as its leaves turn brilliant orange and red before January arrives and the bare stems explode into bloom.

Daphne

Winter-flowering daphne shrub

The winter-flowering daphne is scented, compact and evergreen
Image: T&M

Another RHS Award of Garden Merit winner, Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’ is an evergreen shrub that adds structure to the garden all year long. But it really comes into its own in late winter, thanks to the blooming of its highly-scented pink flowers. Daphne plants appreciate a little acclimatisation to the outdoors before taking up their final positions; a process that’s made easier by the fact that this plant is perfect for patio containers.

Coronilla

Yellow Coronilla plant

Coronilla can be grown as a shrub or trained up a wall as a striking feature
Image: T&M

There’s nothing dull about a December day if you have Coronilla valentina subsp. glauca ‘Citrina’ in your garden. Its lemon-yellow flowers can appear throughout the year, but it reaches its peak in the winter months with blooms from December to April. With a bit of shelter and sun, this compact evergreen with small blue-green foliage does well even in harsh coastal conditions. For added winter drama, why not train it as a wall shrub for a bit of vertical interest?

Gardens don’t have to be dull in the dark, winter months. With these flowers and plants, you really can have all year round colour and interest. Get planning and planting now, and you’ll reap the rewards in the changing seasons to come. What are your favourite winter plants? Let us know over on our Facebook page.

Growing vertically

Living wall full of greenery

Transform any vertical space into a growing opportunity
Image: CoolKengzz/Shutterstock

Is your garden overflowing with plants, flowers and shrubs, leaving no room to squeeze in exciting new specimens? Perhaps you have limited outside space? The solution is one and the same – go vertical! With a little ingenuity, you can create an interesting, colourful and productive garden where there wasn’t one before.

What is vertical gardening?

Living wall surrounding windows

This eco-friendly “living wall” is vertical gardening on a dramatic scale
Image source: Evannovostro/Shutterstock

Vertical gardening simply means growing plants on a vertical plane, like up a fence or wall. It could be as straightforward as training climbers up a trellis, or as elaborate as engineering eco-friendly “living walls”, like those with integrated irrigation systems seen on eco-friendly homes and office buildings. Whatever your style, space, or budget, a vertical garden is a fun and creative way to make the most of your outdoor space.

What are the benefits of vertical gardening?

Balcony full of handing baskets and a table

Make the most of small spaces with shelves, hanging baskets, and window boxes
Image: Isa Long/Shutterstock

Adding height and interest, a vertical garden is, in a word, beautiful. But vertical gardens don’t just look good – they do good! They improve the air quality, boost biodiversity, and even reduce ambient noise and temperature. Not to mention boosting mental wellbeing.

These are particularly welcome benefits for space-challenged urbanites for whom a vertical garden is the only way to add a bit of green to the city’s grey. Vertical gardens can grow on balconies, patios, or even just a fence, if that’s what you have.

For those with more traditional gardens, growing “up” lets you make the most of your garden real estate, while giving you the chance to highlight particular areas or disguise unsightly ones.

Happily, it also makes gardening much more accessible. Tasks can be tailored to any height and level of intensity, which is ideal for gardeners with mobility issues. It also makes vertical gardening a fun project for the whole family.

What can I use as vertical planters?

Vertical pallets that have been turned into planters

Upcycled pallets make a great frame for a vertical garden
Image: lulu and isabelle/Shutterstock

Garden walls and fences are a blank canvas. Let your creativity loose!

  • Hook window boxes from fences or balconies, or suspend hanging baskets for interest, colour, and depth.
  • Use a climbing frame to encourage evergreen plants like clematis to thrive upwards.
  • If you have a craggy or dry stone wall, plant alpines or succulents directly in the gaps.
  • Try securely mounting flat-backed planters for a permanent feature wall.
  • Affix wire mesh to the wall or use a freestanding trellis for a more adaptable approach. You can then use a variety of removable containers; a great option for gardens with limited sun or if you plan on changing the plants with the season.

Whatever your approach, you’ll need to balance practicalities with aesthetics. Will the plant need regular pruning? Will it produce fruit that needs picking? Can you water it from that height? And some plants can be heavy, especially after watering, so make sure your support structure can take the load.

There are lots of ways to grow vertically – many of which you may already have, knocking around in cupboards or sheds. Upcycling is a great way to help your garden grow up – and save you money, as well as space. Old tin cans, plastic bottles, bookshelves, and pallets can all be used for creative effect. See what you can repurpose from around the house to suit your chosen plants.

What fruit and veg can I grow in a vertical garden?

Strawberries growing vertically

Ripe for the picking – strawberries adapt well to vertical gardens
Image: Luoxi/Shutterstock

Herbs, fruit, vegetables, annuals and perennials can all be grown in vertical gardens. In fact, away from the ground, they’re more likely to avoid pesky pests and diseases, so it’s a win-win.

An edible vertical garden offers a great return on investment. If you’ve got a decent amount of sun, strawberries are well-suited to container planting. Fast and strong growing, the unique “Mount Everest” climber variety is a knockout. It can be trained up a trellis or obelisk climbing frame, or cascade from window boxes and hanging baskets.

Cucamelons and kiwis are also climbers that are lovely to look at and eat, and they’re very happy in containers. Bush varieties of tomatoes like ‘Romello’ will also thrive vertically. Same goes for a huge variety of easy-to-grow salad leaves, as well as hardy, low maintenance herbs like thyme, parsley, and oregano.

What plants and flowers can I grow in a vertical garden?

Fence with greenery growing out of it

Break up a plain fence with some welcome greenery
Image: AMMARIN NANTASEN/shutterstock

Vertical gardens are an ideal way to add colour and structure to your outside space without sacrificing square footage on the ground. Sun-loving plants – best for south-facing vertical gardens with a bit of shelter – include fuchsia, salvia, and nasturtiums. And with their dense rosettes of foliage, evergreen succulents like sempervivum can grow to create a living carpet in wall crevices and troughs. They are also pretty drought resistant, making them a very low maintenance addition to any vertical garden.

For a longer term investment, try a climbing hydrangea like Moonlight. It’ll need training for the first few years of slow growth, but then it will use self-clinging aerial roots to cover entire walls with its creamy-white, lace cap flowers and silvery blue leaves.

Gardens with more shade, meanwhile, will benefit from plants like small ferns, pansies, and wallflowers. For more coverage for less effort, Virginia creeper is the way to go. A fast-growing and easy climber, its beautiful foliage turns flame-coloured in the autumn, making it a striking garden addition at any time of year.

Colourful, creative, and offering a whole suite of positive benefits, vertical gardening is a great option for amateur and seasoned gardeners alike.

 

Why you should grow amaranthus

Red amaranthus flower with green leaves

Amaranthus caudatus ‘Love Lies Bleeding is one of the most popular varieties
Image: pjhpix/shutterstock

‘Love Lies Bleeding’, the name most commonly used for Amaranthus caudatus, is a bushy, 5ft tall, half-hardy annual with distinctive flowers that cascade to the ground in dramatic, crimson tassels. In each of these fascinating tassels is a colony of tiny, tightly packed flowers that last for many weeks. 

From the Greek word ‘Amaranth’ meaning ‘the unfading flower’, the bright red blooms of Amaranthus generally retain their colour even after the flower has died. No surprise that they’re loved by gardeners and flower arrangers alike. Here’s how to grow Amaranthus in your garden.

Amazing amaranthus

Amaranthus tricolor 'Joseph's Coat' from T&M

The foliage of ‘Joseph’s Coat’ is just as prized as its flower
Image: Amaranthus tricolor ‘Joseph’s Coat’ from T&M

In addition to the popular weeping panicles of ‘Love Lies Bleeding’, there are many other different types of amaranth to bring interest to your borders. Amaranthus tricolor ‘Joseph’s Coat’ is coveted for its stunning variegated leaves, while Amaranthus paniculatus is loved for its tall, feathery spikes.

Amaranthus is a warm weather annual that prefers a sunny position and slightly acidic soil. It belongs to a genus of over 60 amaranth species that have an established presence in nearly every continent. They’re easy to cultivate, able to tolerate poor soil and don’t require a lot of watering. Amaranth will also self-sow, bringing more flowers every year.

How to grow amaranthus

Amaranthus paniculatus 'Marvel Bronze' from T&M

Amarathus look great dotted through borders, or planted en masse
Image: Amaranthus paniculatus ‘Marvel Bronze’ from T&M

Sow amaranthus seeds outside in late spring or early summer after the last frosts. The minimum germination temperature is around 13°C, but best results are seen at 15-18 degrees.

You can direct sow seeds every 15cm (6 inches), thinning to 45 cm (18 inches) as the plants become established. Amaranth can grow to 1.8m (6 feet), so tall varieties like Amaranthus caudatus ‘Fat Spike’ will need approximately 60cm (24 inches) between plants. Don’t worry that the extra seedlings will be wasted. Rather than throwing away these tender shoots, add them to salads or stir-fries instead.

Many people prefer to start their amaranthus seeds off indoors, to give them an early start. If you want to get them going a little sooner, sow your seeds in pots or trays of moist seed compost in February to March, and cover with a very fine sprinkling of compost or vermiculite. Keep them at a constant temperature of between 20-25C but allow the temperature to reduce at night. Keep the seeds somewhere bright, as light helps them to germinate. Germination usually takes 3-15 days. Transplant your seedlings into larger pots and harden them off for 10-15 days before planting out.

As amaranthus are generally large plants, they’re best grown at the back of a flower border where they make dramatic companion plants to other tall summer favourites such as sunflowers, Cleomes, Zinnias and Nicotiana. Smaller varieties, such as Amaranthus paniculatus ‘Marvel Bronze’, look fantastic grown en masse, providing a spectacular display!

Is amaranthus safe to eat?

Amaranthus caudatus ‘Pony Tails Mixed’ from T&M

Amaranthus leaves are slightly sweet and can be eaten like spinach
Image: Amaranthus caudatus ‘Pony Tails Mixed’ from T&M

Historically, amaranthus was revered by the Aztecs and Incas, who believed that it had supernatural powers as food and medicine, making it one of the world’s oldest crops. It’s also sometimes known as ‘Chinese spinach’ or ‘callaloo’ in Caribbean cooking.

Today Amarathus is gaining popularity as a superfood, and more and more people are choosing to grow it in the vegetable garden. The plant’s green leaves can be eaten raw in salads, added to soups and stir fries, or simmered in curries. Similar in taste to spinach, Amaranthus leaves contain almost twice the vitamin C and the same amount of iron, but unlike spinach, the plant doesn’t bolt.

Each Amaranthus plant also produces multiple seed heads, yielding up to 5,000 seeds that are a bit like quinoa. Mild and nutty, gluten-free and packed with protein and calcium, the mild peppery flavour is a great addition to breads and cereals.

How to harvest amaranthus seeds

Amaranthus caudatus ‘Fat Spike’ from T&M

Tall varieties look good at the back of borders
Image: Amaranthus caudatus ‘Fat Spike’ from T&M

While most people want to grow Amaranthus for its ornamental value, it’s worth knowing a little bit about harvesting the seeds. Perhaps also having some recipe ideas if you fancy growing amaranthus to add variety to your diet.

The seed heads mature from the bottom of the tassel and move upwards, so the simplest way to test if they’re ripe is to shake out the ripe seeds into a clean bucket. Alternatively cut the seed heads, cover them with a paper bag and hang them upside down in a well ventilated place to allow them to dry for a week or two.

Are you excited by the possibilities of amaranthus growing? Tag us in your photos and share your interesting new amaranth recipes over on Facebook or Twitter.

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