12 Popular Amaranthus Varieties

Which Amaranth to Grow for Flowers or Edibles

Colorful amaranth varieties

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Of the more than 70 species of the Amaranthus genus worldwide, only about a dozen are cultivated, either as ornamentals or as an edible for their grain or leaves. There are, however, many popular cultivars within those dozen.

The majority of the species are considered weeds and a far cry from the plants with attractive bronze or purple leaves and tassel-shaped large flowers in striking colors that make amaranth a favorite for bouquets and cut flowers.

The two purposes of growing amaranth are not mutually exclusive. The species grown for their large seed heads can be just as striking as those grown purely for their striking flowers.

The five most commonly cultivated amaranth species in North America are:

  • Red amaranth (Amaranthus cruentus), native to Guatemala, Mexico
  • Foxtail amaranth or love-lies-bleeding (Amaranthus caudatus), native to Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador 
  • Slim amaranth (Amaranthus hybridus), native to Eastern North America, Mexico, Central America, northern South America
  • Prince of Wales feather (Amaranthus hypochondriacus), native to Mexico
  • Joseph’s coat (Amaranthus tricolor), native to Tropical Asia

Amaranth is a warm-weather plant that needs full sun. It can be grown as an annual in as low as in zone 2 (USA). However, in cool climates, summers are too short for amaranth seeds to reach full maturity. Most varieties take about 65 to 75 days to flower and then another 30 days or longer for the seeds to mature. If you are counting on both the flowers and the seeds, you need to be located in zone 5 or warmer.

The ten popular Amaranthus plants outlined below are all cultivars of the above species.

  • 01 of 10

    Amaranthus caudatus ‘Coral Fountain’

    Amaranthus caudatus

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    The wooly flowers cascade down like a waterfall. An heirloom Amaranthus variety, it blooms from mid- to late summer until the first frost. It is a favorite for bouquets. The seeds are edible.

    • Height: 3 to 5 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • USDA Growing Zone: 2 to 11
    • Flower Color: Pink, blush
  • 02 of 10

    Amaranthus caudatus ‘Dreadlocks’

    Amaranthus caudatus ‘Dreadlocks’

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    This is one of the shorter amaranth varieties. It has sturdy stems. From late summer to fall, it displays eye-catching knotted flower clusters.

    • Height: 3 to 4 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • USDA Growing Zone: 2 to 11
    • Flower Color: Magenta
  • 03 of 10

    Amaranthus cruentus ‘Autumn’s Touch’

    Amaranthus Autumn's Touch

    Martha Bunim Moss / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

    This variety has dark green foliage and bicolored green and bronze flowers that appear in late summer and last on the plant into late fall. Despite the plumes being up to two feet large, the plant needs no staking because of its thick stalks. It makes a good cut flower.

    The plant attracts songbirds that feed on the seeds.

    • Height: 3.5 to 4 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • USDA Growing Zone: 3 to 11
    • Flower Color: Green and brown/bronze
  • 04 of 10

    Amaranthus cruentus ‘Copperhead’

    Amaranthus cruentus

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    The large, feathery flowerheads start to appear on this early-maturing variety in mid-summer. Once they turn into seeds, they get a copper or golden glow, which gave this variety its name.

    Its unusual color makes it a favorite for cut flowers and bouquets. Both the young leaves and the seeds are edible.

    • Height: 4 to 5 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • USDA Growing Zone: 3 to 11
    • Flower Color: Orange, tan
    Continue to 5 of 10 below.
  • 05 of 10

    Amaranthus cruentus ‘Hopi Red Dye’

    Amaranthus cruentus

    ClaireLucia / Getty Images

    The Hopi indigenous Americans used the seedlings of this amaranthus variety as a dye. The rich color of the flowers makes up for their size, which is smaller than in other amaranth varieties. It blooms from summer to fall. Both the young leaves and the seeds are edible.

    • Height: 4 to 5 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • USDA Growing Zone: 5 to 11
    • Flower Color: Magenta
  • 06 of 10

    Amaranthus cruentus ‘Hot Biscuits’

    Amaranthus 'Hot Biscuits'

    Gordon and Doris Strathy / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0

    This medium-size variety blooms from mid-summer to fall. As the plumes transition from flowers into seeds, they turn bronze, which makes them a favorite for autumn bouquets and dried flower arrangements. The seeds are edible.

    • Height: 3 to 4 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • USDA Growing Zone: 3 to 10
    • Flower Color: Orange, bronze
  • 07 of 10

    Amaranthus hybridus ‘Opopeo’

    Amaranth Opopeo

    Josephine St.John MacDonagh / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

    While this tall variety is often grown for its edible greens and seeds, its flowers, which appear on the plant from summer to fall, also make it an attractive addition in the back of flower beds.

    • Height: 4 to 6 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • USDA Growing Zone: 6 to 12
    • Flower Color: Magenta, purple
  • 08 of 10

    Amaranthus hypochondriacus ‘Green Thumb’

    Amaranthus 'Green Thumb'

    Dinesh Valke / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 2.0

    With its intense green flowers, this compact, bushy variety is attractive on its own or combined with other, more colorful amaranth varieties. It blooms all summer long and makes good cut flowers.

    • Height: 1 to 2 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • USDA Growing Zone: 3 to 10
    • Flower Color: Green
    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • 09 of 10

    Amaranthus hypochondriacus ‘Pygmy Torch’

    Amaranthus hypochondriacus
    Amaranthus hypochondriacus

    Erica Gomez / Getty Images

    This is one of the shortest amaranth varieties, which makes it suitable for borders, flower beds, containers, and hanging baskets. It blooms from summer to fall and makes an attractive cut flower or one for dry arrangements.

    Height: 1 to 2 feet

    Sun Exposure: Full sun

    USDA Growing Zone: 3 to 10

    Flower Color: Dark red, burgundy

  • 10 of 10

    Amaranthus tricolor ‘Perfecta’

    Amaranthus tricolor ‘Perfecta’
    Amaranthus tricolor ‘Perfecta’

    Karin de Mamiel / Getty Images

    Unlike other amaranth varieties, Amaranthus tricolor is grown for its foliage, not its flowers. And there is no doubt why this plant is also called Summer poinsettia—the bright bicolored red and yellow leaves look like a cousin of the popular holiday plant. This variety has a narrow growth habit and it looks best in mass plantings.

    • Height: 2 to 4 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • USDA Growing Zone: 3 to 10
    • Flower Color: Inconspicuous

Amaranthus as Weeds

The undesirable amaranth species are also known as pigweed. When it pops up in your yard, it is most likely common or redroot amaranth (Amaranthus retroflexus) or Palmer amaranth (Amaranthus palmeri). These weeds can get very tall and have a deep taproot. Permanently eradicating them is challenging, especially Palmer amaranth, whose resistance to the herbicide glyphosate has earned it the reputation of being a superweed.