How to Plant Grow and Care for Baby’s Breath

Whether you are looking to add whimsy to your garden or grow your own cut flowers, baby’s breath is a welcome addition to most gardens. It is a hardy, drought-tolerant perennial that does not require much maintenance. Let Master Gardener Laura Elsner walk you through how to grow and care for baby’s breath.

pink and white baby's breath in a bouquet.

Contents

Baby’s breath is an airy, whimsical flower that often appears as filler in cut flower bouquets. Its delicate flowers soften arrangements and break up the colors in a bouquet. 

It also makes a great garden plant. It provides all the same airy whimsy in a garden bed. It’s easy to grow and can be snipped for your own cut flower arrangements.

**Baby’s breath is considered invasive in some areas. You must check your local government or extension office webpage for a full list of plants that are invasive in your area. Sometimes, garden centers will sell these invasive species, so you must be vigilant about knowing what is invasive in your area.

Overview

A close-up reveals delicate white baby’s breath flowers resembling fluffy cotton balls, evoking a sense of purity and innocence. Green stems gracefully complement the blossoms, providing a striking contrast against the soft, cloud-like petals.
Plant Type Herbaceous perennial
Family Caryophyllaceae
Genus Gypsophila
Species paniculata
Native area Eastern and Central Europe, Asia
Hardiness Zone 3-9
Season Spring-fall
Exposure Full sun to partial shade
Plant Spacing 12”-36″
Planting Depth To the crown
Height 2′-3’
Watering requirements Low
Pests Aphids, spider mites, root knot nematode
Diseases Powdery mildew, crown and root rot, Botrytis, galls, aster yellows
Soil Type Sandy, well-drained

Plant History

A cluster of delicate white baby’s breath flowers stands out against a backdrop of lush green foliage. The slender stems of baby’s breath intertwine gracefully, forming a mesmerizing pattern that exudes elegance and natural beauty.
Baby’s breath became popular in North America in the 19th century as an ornamental flower.

Baby’s breath is native to Eastern Europe and Western Asia. It was brought over to North America in the 19th century as an ornamental flower.

It is now a mainstay in floral bouquets. Its light, airy texture looks great tucked in between carnations and roses. It’s especially popular in bridal bouquets.

Cultivation

A close-up of delicate white  flowers and their slender stems. Sunlight dances upon the pristine petals, casting a soft glow on their graceful form.
The plant comes in white and pink varieties, with florists often dyeing it for other colors.

There are different varieties available. They come in white and pink. Any other colors of baby’s breath are generally dyed by florists.

Propagation

Propagation is simple. It can be done easily through seeds and cuttings. Here are some tips for growing new baby’s breath plants.

Purchase

A plant adorned with delicate purple blossoms sits gracefully, its slender stems reaching towards the heavens. Bathed in the warm embrace of sunlight, the flowers exude a serene beauty.
Obtaining blooming plants is easiest through garden centers or nurseries.

Purchasing from your garden center or nursery is the easiest way to obtain a plant that is already in bloom. You can usually purchase them in six-pack cells or a 6-inch basket stuffer size.

Cuttings 

Cottony white flowers bloom, delicate petals unfurling under sunlight, evoking a sense of purity and grace. Beside them, vibrant purple flowers also bloom, their rich hue contrasting beautifully with the soft white.
Propagation involves cutting healthy stems and dipping them in rooting hormone.

You can root and create new plants from cuttings. This can be done using flowers from a bouquet or already existing plants in your garden. It does take a while for them to root and start growing, so you will want to plan ahead.

You will want to choose a healthy-looking stem. Cut four to five inches of the stem just below a leaf node (a small node on a stem where a leaf or branch will grow). Strip all the leaves except for a few of the ones at the top. Dip the cut end into rooting hormone (this step is optional, but it does help your cutting root more successfully).

Have a prepared container with drainage holes cut into the bottoms ready to go. Fill it with evenly moist potting soil. It should feel like a wrung-out sponge. Place the cutting into the soil, deep enough so that the cutting can stand on its own.

I put a plastic cover on my cutting to keep the moisture in. You could also spray your cutting with a spray bottle periodically. Just don’t let it dry out. Place the cutting into an area with bright but indirect sunlight. It should begin to root in 3-4 weeks. Check it often. If it is thriving and growing, and there’s no give when you gently pull the stem upward, it is rooting. Take off the cover and move it into a sunny location for it to grow. You can transplant it into another pot or your garden.

Seeds

A close-up of baby’s breath seedlings peeking through rich, dark soil, basking in warm sunlight. Tiny green shoots signal new life, while leaves have yet to unfurl, promising future growth and delicate beauty in nature's embrace.
Grow from seed in the fall or early spring.

Baby’s breath can also be planted from seed. You can directly sow the seed in the fall. Plant them in a sunny location with well-drained soil. Water them in. You can also do this in the early spring.

To get an early start on flowers, you can start your seeds indoors. Purchase seeds from a reputable seed seller, or you can save the seeds from grown in previous seasons.

You will want to start your seeds 6-8 weeks before the last frost in your area. Plant the seeds in seed trays or small pots filled with a well-draining seed starting mix. Press the seeds gently into the soil, but don’t bury them too deep. I will place a plastic dome over them to help keep the moisture in. 

Place the seed trays or pots in a location with bright, indirect light. A sunny windowsill or under grow lights. Keep the soil evenly moist but not waterlogged. Use a misting spray or a gentle watering method to avoid displacing the seeds. 

Once the seedlings emerge, remove the dome cover and place them into a sunny window or under the grow lights. Keep them watered while they are growing.

Once the frost has passed in your area, it is fine to plant them outside. While this plant is frost tolerant, that is when it is fully mature. New seedlings will not handle the frost. Make sure to introduce your new plants to the outside slowly. This is a process known as hardening-off. It takes about a week, and it gives your plants that have never been exposed to the elements a chance to acclimate to outside weather.

Planting 

A serene field adorned with delicate baby’s breath, their slender stems gently swaying with the wind, while their white flowers create a tranquil atmosphere. Variety thrives as different species of plants flourish on each side.
Plant by digging a wide, deep hole and placing the crown at soil level.

Dig a hole two or three times as wide and deep as the plant. Remove your baby’s breath from its container and place it in the hole. You will want to line the crown of the plant (where the stem meets the roots) with the soil line. You might need to fill in the hole you dig a bit to get it to the right depth.

I recommend digging the hole deeper than it needs to be and then filling it up. This loosens the soil and will give the new plant a head start to put down roots.

Firmly press your plan into the soil and then water in well. Space your plants about 8-36” apart, depending on the variety and size of the plant (check the tag or seed pack for exact spacing).

How to Grow

Baby’s breath has no problem growing and spreading if it is planted in its ideal conditions. Let’s examine how to grow this delicate flower.

Sunlight Requirements

Delicate flowers with white petals and slender green stems bask in the warm sunlight, creating a serene and elegant scene. The blurred background hints at a serene garden filled with more of these ethereal blooms and verdant foliage.
The plant requires a minimum of 6 hours of sunlight daily to bloom abundantly.

Growth is best in full sun conditions. It needs at least 6 hours of sunlight per day. Less sun will lead to fewer blooms. It will also leave the plant more susceptible to diseases such as crown and root rot and powdery mildew.

Soil Requirements

A hand gently cradles brown soil, fingers delicately intertwined with its texture, hinting at nurturing care and growth. The sun's warm rays envelop the scene, casting soft shadows and illuminating the earthy richness.
Provide well-draining soil and avoid water-logged conditions.

Baby’s breath is not too fussy about soil. The only requirement is that it is well-draining. It will not tolerate being in soggy, water-logged soil

If you have soil with a high clay content, it will not drain as freely as loose sandy soil. You can take some soil in your hand and squeeze it. If it stays in a ball-like putty, it has a high clay content. Add lots of organic matter, coconut coir or peat, or even shredded leaves to loosen it. Do not add sand to clay soil. You will make cement. 

Water Requirements

A close-up captures a delicate baby's breath branch adorned with a pristine white flower. Tiny water droplets glisten, delicately clinging to the slender branch and the soft, ethereal petals, enhancing the flower's natural allure and freshness.
The plant requires infrequent watering, mainly during initial planting and prolonged heat.

This drought-tolerant plant has low water requirements. You will only need to water them when they are first planted, whether it’s seeds or young plants. Water them often throughout their first season. After that, you will only need to water them in periods of prolonged heat and drought.

Do not overwater your baby’s breath. They will turn yellow and die.

Climate and Temperature Requirements 

A cluster of delicate white flowers, their tiny blooms forming a lush arrangement. The pristine white petals stand out vividly against the verdant backdrop of the surrounding green branches, creating a striking visual contrast.
This perennial is hardy in zones 3 to 9.

Baby’s breath is hardy in zones 3-9, making it an accessible plant for many gardeners. 

It’s easy to grow. Just make sure it is in a dry spot. It does not like being wet. In warmer climates, you might need to provide some afternoon shade.

Remember, baby’s breath is invasive in many areas of North America, especially in the northwest and midwest regions. These climates are ideal for the plant, but cause lots of problems for local ecosystems. Always check with your extension office before planting.

Fertilizer 

Dark, fertile worm manure rests in the palm of a hand, ready to enrich soil. Below, a substantial pile of nutrient-dense compost invites growth, fostering a thriving ecosystem for plants and organisms below the surface.
Too much fertilizer causes this plant to grow wildly instead of staying neat and compact.

Baby’s breath doesn’t need extra fertilizer. Adding organic matter like compost, aged manure, worm castings, or sea soil in the spring or fall is enough.

Over-fertilizing your plant will make it grow large and flop over. It can also spur growth that is hard for gardeners to maintain. They are much more neat and compact without the addition of extra nutrients.

Maintenance 

A profusion of white flowers contrasts beautifully with lush green leaves, creating a serene floral arrangement. Sunlight gently kisses the petals, casting a warm glow on the intricate details of the plant.
Maintenance includes pruning after initial flowering for a second bloom.

This is a fairly low-maintenance perennial. I like to prune mine back after the first flush of flowers has finished blooming. This allows for another flush of flowers to grow. I also cut it back in the fall and allow it to regrow in the spring.

Varieties 

There are many varieties of baby’s breath. They come in various sizes and colors

‘My Pink’

A blush-pink variety, ‘My Pink’ blooms throughout the summer.

‘My Pink’ is a pretty variety with blushing pink flowers. They bloom all summer long and make great cut flowers for bouquets.

‘Million Star’

a Million stars bouquet rests on a table next to a red watering can.
This variety brings whimsical charm to bouquets with its explosion of tiny white flowers.

‘Million Star’ is an explosion of tiny white flowers. It is compact and grows on sturdy stems. This is the variety you want for cut flowers. It has an airy quality that will add whimsy to all of your bouquets.

‘Snowflake’

A profusion of 'snowflake' flowers, creating a gentle, ethereal ambiance. Each tiny blossom, resembling miniature snowflakes, adds a touch of whimsy and elegance to the overall composition.
Perfect for bouquets, ‘Snowflake’ is a classic white variety with many tiny white flowers.

‘Snowflake’ is another classic white variety that is perfect for bouquets. It produces many tiny white flowers in sturdy stalks.

‘Flamingo’

A 'flamingo' plant thrives in a garden, showcasing delicate, airy stems and green foliage. Graceful purple flowers bloom on the 'flamingo' plant, creating a striking contrast against the green backdrop.
The ‘Flamingo’ variety offers bold pink flowers, ranging from pale to bright fuchsia.

‘Flamingo’ is a bold pink variety. The flowers come in various shades of pink. Some are more pale pink, while others are bright fuschia pink. They make excellent cut flowers that add bold color to your bouquets.

Design

A white pot cradles a bountiful arrangement of white flowers, exuding an air of purity and elegance. Adjacent to it, a black pot embraces a lush bunch of vivid purple flowers, adding a striking contrast of color.
Grow for garden decoration and cut flower arrangements.

This flower is grown for two reasons. First, as a perennial that adds texture and flowers to your garden. Second, it is grown to be used as a cut flower. 

This perennial looks great in garden borders, rock gardens, and meadow gardens. It softens the landscape with its sprays of tiny flowers. Plant it with roses, bachelor buttons, peonies, or coneflowers for a beautiful floral display.

It also looks great in containers. One of my favorite arrangements is just a pot filled with baby’s breath. It has a romantic cottage vibe.

You can plant your baby’s breath and use it for cut flowers straight from your garden. Or, you can mass plant them in rows or an out-of-the-way location if you use a lot of them. Since they are low maintenance, you can have them growing in a sunny but hardly seen area of your garden. Then, when you’re ready, you can clip them and put them in vases by themselves or with other flowers.

Pests and Diseases

Healthy baby’s breath will rarely have problems. If you are experiencing pests and diseases, examine their growing conditions and see if they are ideal. If they’re not, you will want to fix their conditions so they can thrive. Insect pests are often attracted to plants with higher sugar content, and this comes from excesses or lack of nutrients. Here are some pests and diseases your plant can encounter.

Powdery Mildew 

 A close-up reveals slender branches of baby’s breath adorned with delicate white flowers and dark buds. The intricate details showcase the powdery mildew that delicately dusts the flowers and branches.
Damp conditions can lead to powdery mildew.

Baby’s breath can get powdery mildew. This is a white powder film that you will find covering your plants. It will stunt their growth and ruin their blooms.

Powdery mildew appears when conditions are too damp. This flower does not like overly damp conditions and is susceptible to powdery mildew if constantly wet. Provide full sun (6+ hours) conditions.

Overhead watering and wet foliage can cause powdery mildew. Bottom watering is always best. I use a soaker hose snaked through my garden that delivers water straight to the soil line without getting the foliage wet. If you are watering overhead, water early in the morning. This way, the sun can quickly dry the foliage of the plant.

If you are dealing with powdery mildew, you can’t spray with a fungicide as it’s not an effective treatment. Remove affected parts of the plant during the season. Cut down and dispose of the plant after the growing season to avoid recontamination. Sometimes, if the mildew is really bad, I’ll just cut it down and dispose of it.

Aphids

A close-up of a branch reveals a cluster of blue aphids, tiny insects congregating on its surface. Their activity poses a threat to the branch's health, potentially weakening its structure over time.
These small insects can be dealt with preventively by maintaining plant health.

Aphids are pests that frequently attack weakened plants. They are small, soft-bodied insects that will suck the sap and life out of your plants. You will find them tucked in and around the leaves and stems. They are sticky because they produce a substance known as honeydew.

The best method of dealing with aphids is prevention. Ensure your plants are healthy. They need full sun and moderate watering. They should never be left in standing, waterlogged soil.

Encourage ladybugs with plants. These feed on aphids, and they will devour them. Or spray them with the hose and scale them off. Lastly, you can spray them with an insecticidal soap. Make sure to dispose of the plants after the season has ended to prevent further breeding and nesting.

Crown and Root Rot

A close-up of fingers carefully grasping a stripped tree root, highlighting its intricate textures and natural patterns. The exposed root reveals signs of decay, indicating the presence of root rot, a common ailment affecting trees worldwide.
Watch for crown and root rot, a condition causing yellowing and mushiness.

Crown and root rot can be a problem. This is when the plant turns yellow and dies, or the plant will turn to mush at the crown. 

This plant hates sitting in wet soil. This is why well-draining, loose, and sandy soil is important. If you are growing in a container, make sure you have adequate drainage holes so excess water can run out.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for crown and root rot. The plant will die, and you will need to replant it. Make sure you are planting your in its ideal conditions (full sun, well-drained soil).

Less Common Pests and Diseases

Root-knot nematode disease close up
Baby’s breath is a root-knot nematode attractant.

Often, root-knot nematodes strike in areas where you’ve grown a plant for multiple seasons. These feed on roots, creating root knots, or little nodules in the root structure that prevent water and nutrients from reaching the plant.

The best way to prevent these is to plant your baby’s breath (and other root-knot nematode attractants) in different areas of your garden from season to season. Another option is to treat with beneficial nematodes. You must do this in temperate times. Two treatments should be applied about two weeks apart in mild fall or spring weather.

Botrytis and galls are fungal and bacterial diseases, respectively. Botrytis develops patches of grey mold on plant surfaces, eventually colonizing and killing the plant. Bacterial galls create small nodules at the base of the plant near the soil surface. Both of these diseases should be prevented with proper conditions. Remove affected plants.

The same goes for aster yellows. This disease causes distorted growth, and can easily spread to other aster plants. If you notice yellowing of buds, and strange growth in your baby’s breath, remove the plants and destroy them. Do not compost them.

FAQs

Q: Does baby’s breath come back every year?

A: Yes, it is a perennial in zones 3-9.

Q: How does baby’s breath reproduce?

A: It is a perennial, which means it will grow back yearly from the same roots. If it is planted in its ideal location, it should get larger every year. But they also reproduce from seed. It will produce a ton of seed and spread. You can clip the flowers (deadhead) before they go to seed to avoid this.

Q: Is baby’s breath invasive?

A: In some areas, it is considered invasive. Check your local government webpage to see if it is in your area.

Q: Is baby’s breath toxic?

A: Yes, this plant is considered toxic. Use caution when cultivating near children and pets. Mild skin irritation can occur with contact of the plant’s sap. Always wear gloves when performing maintenance.

Final Thoughts 

Baby’s breath is such a lovely little perennial. It adds an airy texture to gardens. It is also one of the most popular filler plants in bouquets. It’s easy to grow and maintain, making it a great choice for gardens.

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