Native Plant of the Month: Amaranth

Growing in the desert is a challenging yet rewarding experience for those gardeners willing to undertake the task. Today's post focuses on one of the many wonderful plants native to our region of the world. While it may not be the first thing you think of when planning your spring garden, I encourage you to give it a try. Learning to appreciate and cultivate native plants is one of the most important things we can do for our delicate desert ecosystem. Amaranth is a truly ancient plant that has been cultivated by the Aztecs, Incas, and indigenous populations all over the southwestern U.S., Mexico, South America, and Asia for centuries. This hearty plant tolerates arid, hot climates very well - in fact thrives in them so well that once it flowers, it will continue to bloom until it is stopped by frost. Amaranth is usually grown as a cereal grain. It is high in protein, rich in vitamins A and C, and has been shown in studies to promote hearth health as well as oatmeal. It is a naturally gluten-free grain giving those with celiac disease (gluten intolerance) another option for making breads, pasta, deserts, etc. without compromising nutrition or flavor. It's easy to harvest and comes in over sixty varieties to try.

But if growing edibles isn't your thing, amaranth is a wonderful ornamental choice for your garden too. Amaranth is a particular favorite of hummingbirds; plant one of the many red, scarlet, or yellow hued varieties to draw hummingbirds to your home. Blonde, violet and purple hued amaranth add pops of color and foliage to your landscaping during hot summer months that are usually next to impossible to coax blooms from.

Sow amaranth seeds directly in well-drained soil once temperatures are consistently between 60 - 90 degrees F. Germination should happen is as little as three to four days. Amaranth wants full sun and little attention, making it a southwest gardeners dream come true! Many local nurseries and seed banks carry amaranth seeds. Support your local grower and a local plant by giving amaranth a try.

Have you grown amaranth? What was your experience? Leave a post in the comments section or contact me. I'd love to give you a complimentary consultation to help you incorporate native plants into your garden space. Check out La Fleur Plantscapes + Fresh Flora for more information.