How to Plant, Grow, and Care for Love-Lies-Bleeding Amaranth

Amaranthus caudatus is a tall annual known for its cascading tassels of red inflorescences. They make excellent flowers as a focal point or in the back of a flower bed. Despite its common name, Loves-lies-bleeding is anything but a hopeless love plant; it is instead an impressive ornamental plant that is also edible. In this article, gardening expert Wendy Moulton explores this fascinating plant, its attributes, and how to grow it.

Vivid crimson love-lies-bleeding amaranth blooms dangle gracefully, resembling cascading tears of passion against a backdrop of lush green leaves. Each petal tells a tale of love's intensity, evoking emotions that spill over in vibrant hues.


A food source for humans and animals and known for its medicinal value, Amaranthus caudatus is a beneficial plant to grow. Known in South America as Kiwicha, the grain collected from the seeds of the plants is considered a superfood.

This ancient grain has origins as far back as the 12 century Incas. Today, it is planted for its edible and striking ornamental properties. Let’s learn all about growing love-lies-bleeding amaranth!


In a sea of foliage, a love-lies-bleeding amaranth flourishes, its tender pink petals shimmering. Encircled by verdant leaves, it exudes an aura of elegance and tranquility in its natural habitat.
Amaranthus caudatus belongs to the genus Amaranthus and the family Amaranthaceae.
Genus Amaranthus
Species Amaranthus caudatus
Family Amaranthaceae
Native Area Northwest Argentina, Ecuador, Bolivia, and Peru
Height and Spread 3-5 feet high
Maintenance Cut back after flowering
Hardiness Zones 2-11
Exposure Full sun to partial shade
Watering needs Medium and drought-tolerant
Pests and diseases Fungal diseases, aster yellows, and aphids
Soil Type Rich, well-draining
Flowering time Summer

What Is It?

This tall-growing annual shrub is known as pendant amaranth, tassel, velvet, foxtail amaranth, quilete, and more. It is known for its tassels of flowers, in this case in vibrant red.

Amaranthus comes from the Greek word amarantos, which means ‘unfading,’ which refers to long-lasting flowers in their bright colors. Caudatus is Latin for ‘tailed’ for the apparent reason assigned to this plant. Some other types of amaranths have more upright flowers.

Native Area

A vibrant amaranth plant, displaying striking red-violet flowers that gracefully contrast against its lush, green leaves. The harmonious blend of colors creates a captivating sight, evoking a sense of natural beauty and tranquility in the garden.
Amaranthus caudatus is a versatile plant native to South America.

Amaranthus caudatus is native to Argentina, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia but is considered an introduced species to most other continents, especially in the subtropical zones of the world.

Amaranth is used to high altitudes and will thrive in areas between 4600 – 8000 feet, which covers a wide range of heights, making it easy to grow almost anywhere.


A detailed close-up reveals vibrant purple amaranth flowers, each petal delicately defined against the backdrop. The blurred background elegantly showcases a tapestry of muted green leaves, enhancing the captivating allure of the focal blooms.
This grows up to 8 feet tall with leaves in various hues.

One of the common names for Amaranthus caudatus is love-lies-bleeding, of which the origins are uncertain. Still, we can surmise that flowers like these were often a symbol of hopeless love, particularly prevalent in the Victorian era, and the flowing strings of red certainly fit the story.

The tall plants can grow up to 5 feet tall and have leaves in shades of green, purple, red, and yellow. It has a bushy upright growth. Gather the leaves when they are young, and cook as you would spinach or kale.

The inflorescences that form from the main stem can reach up to three feet long. The panicles contain male and female flowers, which makes it a self-pollinating plant, usually by the wind. The red color is due to a high betacyanin content, which is the red you would find in beetroot. In some countries, the red in amaranth is used as a natural die, although it’s not as effective as the synthetic alternatives.

The grain from this plant has many nutritional benefits. It includes 15-18% protein, vitamins A and B, and is high in iron, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, and zinc. Amaranth is also high in fiber and gluten-free, making it a great alternative to wheat when ground into flour. Many call it a pseudo-cereal, an alternative to oats, barley, and corn. In 4-6 months, the plants are mature. Harvest the seeds for use as a grain. 

For instance, it’s a more helpful plant than quinoa because it doesn’t contain any bitter compounds like saponins, which are toxic to humans and animals and need to be eliminated by rinsing in water several times.


This plant can be grown in various hardiness zones across America, from zones 2 to 11. However, take note of the lighting requirements for zones in warmer and cooler climates. They are trouble-free to grow with the proper guidelines.


Plant Amaranthus by first preA close-up of delicate purple amaranth blooms, showcasing intricate details of the petals. Encircling the blossom, verdant leaves create a natural frame, enhancing the beauty of the central bloom.paring the soil and then spacing the seedlings 18 inches apart.
Plant Amaranthus by first preparing the soil and then spacing the seedlings 18 inches apart.

Growing from seedlings purchased at the nursery is one of the ways to get Amaranthus into garden beds. Prepare the soil well before planting by breaking down the ground, removing any stones and weeds, and adding plenty of compost before planting.

Space the plants 18 inches apart and grow at the same depth they came in the nursery bags or trays. Press in and water well.

Growing from Seed

A vibrant amaranth plant displays lush green leaves and delicate purple flowers, symbolizing resilience and vitality. In the background, a blur of foliage accentuates the profusion of leaves and blooming amaranth flowers.
Start seeds of Amaranthus caudatus outdoors after the last frost.

Amaranthus caudatus is often grown from seed outdoors 1-2 weeks after the last average frost date. It can also be started indoors in seed trays 6-8 weeks before the last average frost date. It’s best to sow in biodegradable pots planted straight into the ground when the seedlings are big enough.

Sow in groups of 3 seeds 18-24 inches apart in rills at 1/8 inch deep. Cover with soil and water well. In 7-14 days, the little seeds will germinate. When they are 1-2 inches tall, thin out the group of three to just the one strongest seedling to continue growing.

They will freely seed themselves once established. If you prefer not to have them self-seed, cut them back before the flowers turn to seed. Collect the seeds by hanging them upside down with a brown paper bag tied over them to collect them. Then, label and date them for planting the following season.

How to Grow

Amaranthus is a plant that adapts to many different environments. It multiplies and requires very little maintenance, but if you want it to grow well, consider its ideal conditions below.


In a lush garden, an amaranth plant thrives with vibrant green leaves and cascading purple flowers, adding a pop of color. In the backdrop stands a quaint gray house, providing a serene contrast to the lively flora.
Optimal sunlight duration enhances flower color vibrancy in love-lies-bleeding amaranth plants.

In cooler climates, they prefer full sun with a minimum of six hours of sunlight daily. They like a little afternoon sun in warmer temperatures but with a minimum of two hours of direct sunlight daily.

The more sunlight they get, the more vibrant the flower colors.


A close-up of purple amaranth flowers and green leaves glistening with delicate water droplets, creating a mesmerizing scene of nature's beauty. The intricate details of the flowers and leaves are highlighted, showcasing the elegance of this botanical marvel.
Watering frequency for amaranths varies with growth stage and climate.

They prefer plenty of water but are drought-tolerant once established. They require more water in warmer climates. When they first grow, they need plenty of water to establish themselves. They will then require watering once or twice a week. Once they are mature, they only need watering in arid times.


A gardening fork and trowel, featuring wooden handles, rest atop nutrient-rich, dark soil, promising a day of cultivation. Nestled between the tools, a potted amaranth seedling emerges, a vibrant promise of future blooms.
Ideal soil conditions for amaranth include rich, humus-dense soil.

Rich, fertile, humus-dense soil is best, with pH levels between 6-8.5. They can adapt quickly to other soil types, like sandy soil with high organic content, as long as it is well-draining.


A close-up of vivid purple amaranth flowers gracefully bowing, their delicate petals radiating a royal hue. Green leaves, a verdant backdrop to the ethereal blooms, adding depth and contrast to the botanical portrait.
Amaranth tolerates temperatures from 30°F to 95°F (-1°C to 35°C), but flowers may perish below 30°F.

Love-lies-bleeding amaranth will tolerate a wide range of temperatures, even down to 30°F (-1°C), but the flowers may perish at this temperature. If you need the grain that develops from the flowers, this is a problem. Often, this wouldn’t be a problem as they flower in summer, but later on, towards autumn, they may be affected by frost.

On the high end of the scale, they can tolerate temperatures up to 95°F (35°C) but will not thrive under these conditions. They will do better under 80°F (27°C).


Clusters of purple amaranth flowers dangle delicately, their vibrant hues catching the eye. Surrounding them, leaves gently cascade, adding a graceful touch to the botanical scene with their verdant shades and trailing forms.
Optimal airflow discourages fungal diseases in high humidity.

It has no problem with low or high humidity. Just ensure enough airflow between plants in high humidity to discourage fungal diseases.


A close-up of dark fertile soil reveals its rich texture, teeming with life. Moisture glistens on the clumped earth, promising nourishment for burgeoning plants and a thriving ecosystem beneath the surface.
Toxicity risk in amaranth can arise from excessive nitrogen fertilizer.

These plants require little or no fertilizer. Ensure the soil is rich and well-draining at the planting stage for the best results. Adding too much high-nitrogen fertilizer may make them toxic, so it’s best not to feed them too often.


An amaranth plant stands tall, adorned with lush green leaves and delicate pink flowers. Surrounding it, the ground is blanketed with a scattering of dried leaves, hinting at the passage of time and changing seasons.
Proper care for love-lies-bleeding amaranth includes pruning dead parts and staking tall growth.

Prune away dead or dying leaves and stems, and cut back after flowering. Because they get very tall, staking may be necessary, especially in areas with high winds.


A close-up of red-violet amaranth flowers, showcasing intricate petals and delicate stamen. Sunlight filters through, casting a warm glow that accentuates the vivid hues, creating a captivating display of nature's beauty.
Harvest and process amaranth seeds by waiting for the tassels to turn brown.

For this plant, we need to talk about harvesting the edible parts for use in the kitchen. They need to turn brown to harvest the seed from the flower to use as a grain. Once the tassels start to lose color, keep an eye on them, as you might have to fight the birds for the grain.

Hold a brown paper bag under each tassel and gently rub the seeds so the ripe seeds fall into the bag. Later, you can remove the chaff and store the seeds in a cool, dry place.

If you plan on using the leaves for cooking, choose fresh leaves and harvest them just before using.


Amaranth leaves illuminated by sunlight, showcasing a stunning blend of green and red hues. The sunlight highlights the intricate veins, accentuating the leaves' lush texture and natural beauty in vivid detail.
This is a fast-growing plant that typically propagates easily from seed.

Amaranthus caudatus grows so well and quickly from seed that there is little need to propagate this plant in any other way. Sometimes, they can be invasive in the right conditions, and it is advisable to cut them back before they go to seed.

‘Coral Fountain’

Amaranthus ‘Coral Fountain’ produces coral-pink flowers attractive to pollinators.

A beautiful coral-pink flowering variety is available in seed form. The significant panicles droop in large clusters all summer long. They are good pollinator attractors, especially for birds that love the seed.  This substantial shrub may need staking in strong winds and heavy rain.

The flowers are perfect cut flowers and can be dried for flower arrangements.


A close-up of 'Dreadlocks' amaranth showcasing vibrant purple flowers blooming along a striking purple stem, adding a pop of color to the garden landscape. Green foliage surrounding the amaranth creates a captivating contrast.
This particular type of amaranth bears a resemblance to dreadlocks.

Purple-red tassels form on this variety, forming little bobbles along the stems, looking precisely like dreadlocks. This plant has giant tassels, some even up to six feet long.

This variety is suitable for collecting grain as they produce many seeds, more than ever needed for saving and planting the following year.

‘Emerald Tassels’

'Emerald Tassels' amaranth, with vibrant green leaves, stretches towards the sun, absorbing its warmth and light. Its delicate white flowers cascade gracefully, adding a touch of elegance to the lush foliage.
Amaranth variety ‘Emerald Tassels’ features long emerald green tassels that fade to cream.

Just as the name suggests, this variety has long, emerald green tassels, which contrast the red types. The flowers fade to cream as they mature. These are a favorite for flower arrangers as they produce a more unusual color than other plant materials, and their cascading form is attractive in a vase.

This variety is often used as a centerpiece in a garden bed because of its height and pretty panicles.

‘Fat Spike’

Purple 'Fat Spike' amaranth flowers stand tall, their vibrant hue commanding attention. In the blurred background, lush green leaves and delicate yellow flowers provide a picturesque contrast, enhancing the floral composition's depth and beauty.
This amaranth stands out among its species with long-lasting blooms.

More of an upright flower spike on this variety makes it unusual in a purple-red color. ‘Fat Spike’ is quite different from other Amaranthus species because of the standout blooms in summer.

The plant is reliable to make a statement or to screen the back of a flower bed. The flowers will last right through to autumn.

Common Problems

Love-lies-bleeding amaranth is easy to grow with few problems; however, be on the lookout for pests and diseases.

Pests and Diseases

Diseased amaranth flowers, once vibrant, now hang limp and dried, their once vivid hues muted by wilting. Each petal, once resilient, now droops pathetically, succumbing to the ravages of disease, a poignant reminder of nature's delicate balance.
Control aphids and fungal diseases like Pythium using fungicides.

Some of the most common problems include the following:

  • Aphids sucking insects that enjoy growth tips.
  • Pythium – these are plant parasites that attack mainly newly germinated seeds by causing the root tips to rot and also can cause stem rot.
  • Fusarium wilt is a fungus that causes foliage to turn yellow and wilt, then turn brown and die off, causing the whole plant to die.
  • Sclerotinia is a fungal disease that causes stem and root rot.
  • Alternaria is a pathogen that causes large brown spots on the leaves. It is also called back spot and is a common problem in food crops like brassicas.
  • Diabrotica – larvae that tunnel inside the root system of plants and destroy them from the inside.
  • Aster yellows is a small bacterium that causes stunted, chlorotic growth on amaranth plants, and on plants in the aster family.

Keep the fungi under control with fungicides, and control the insect pests with diatomaceous earth. Always remove damaged foliage as it crops up to prevent the spread. Those plants with advanced infections and those with aster yellows should be removed to prevent further spread to nearby plants.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is amaranth used medicinally?

Scientific investigations have validated the use of this plant for various ailments, including diabetes, cancer, inflammation, bacterial infections, hepatic diseases, and cardiovascular problems, to name a few. However, it is always advisable to consult a doctor before relying on plant-based medical information.

Is amaranth toxic?

Although the seeds and leaves are edible, there are high levels of oxalic acids in the leaves, like in spinach, which may be toxic to some people. If the plants are subjected to high nitrogen fertilizers, they will absorb these nitrates, making them toxic.

What is amaranth flour used for?

Kiwicha flour, despite its gluten-free status, is often used to add to wheat flour to make bread because it adds more nutrients to the final product. In its gluten-free role, it is used in baking things like cookies and cakes, flatbreads, noodles, and pasta.

Final Thoughts

If you are growing an ornamental garden, the best flowers and plants to include are edible. Not only do they make a good design choice, but if you can eat them, what a bonus. There is no downside here, and this is a beautiful, striking plant that self-seeds and requires little maintenance or resources.

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