Amaranthus caudatus | ‘Dreadlocks’ Pendant Amaranth
Amaranthus caudatus, known as Love Lies Bleeding, Pendant Amaranth, Ornamental Amaranth, Foxtail Amaranth, Velvet Flower, Tassel Flower, and Quilete, was once almost as widely dispersed throughout the Americas as corn, and was a staple grain of the Incas, Aztecs, and other pre-Columbian people that grew it as a prized health-food source. The name comes from the Greek amarantos- the “one that does not wither”, or the never-fading flower, and comes in many different forms.
Love-Lies-Bleeding, or Ornamental amaranth, is closely related to several common weeds, which hints to the easy cultivation and growth of this warm-weather annual. Amaranth is drought tolerant, and thrives on heat. They require full sun, are happy in well draining soil, and don’t like excessive irrigation. They don’t require any fertilization, and too much nitrogen can cause the plant to produce more leaves than flowers. Tall varieties may need staking, especially late in the season when the seed-filled flower heads are fully developed.
Amaranthus caudatus is the showiest of all Amaranth types, with very large heads of drooping or erect (usually) burgundy flowers, with the older varieties growing to a surprisingly tall height for being an annual, and make great specimens for the back of the border. Amaranth ‘Dreadlocks’ however, is a shorter form, seldom exceeding 3 ft, and is a black-seeded vegetable amaranth, not a grain amaranth (like ‘Giant Orange’, which has blonde seeds). It’s easy to grow from seed indoors, and can self-seed prolifically outdoor. Plants seem to grow larger when direct-seeded in the spring garden.
Love-Lies-Bleeding type plants have great ornamental value in the garden landscape because of the different shapes and texture they provide. ‘Dreadlocks’ sports a fountain of eye-catching magenta-burgundy weeping flower heads, sometimes reaching down to the ground.
Many parts of the plant are edible, including the leaves, young shoots, and of course the seeds, which are gluten-free and have more protein, vitamins and minerals than most other grains. Amaranth also has twice the calcium of milk, the leaves are high in vitamin A content and have a protein content greater than 27% which. Fresh leaves also contain higher quantities of both calcium and phosphorus than cabbage does, and compared to spinach Amaranthus species have greater protein, calcium, phosphorus, and iron levels! The young leaves can be prepared like spinach. When the seed heads mature you may explore the possibility of milling this ancient grain. Or may decide to share the bounty with your backyard birds or to your domestic poultry.
Sun exposure: Full sun
Mature height: 3-5 ft
Mature width: 2-3 ft
Hardiness zones: 9-11. Annual in all others.