Gomphrena pulchella ‘Fireworks’ is a tough and elegant annual for the summer garden.
The first time I saw Gomphrena ‘Fireworks’ I thought it was Verbena bonariensis. It was early evening in the Atlanta Botanical Garden and as I strolled closer I realized this was no verbena at all. It was, I came to learn, Gomphrena pulchella ‘Fireworks’, a cultivar of globe amaranth, a plant I normally have little affection for. Most ornamental varieties you may be familiar with are cultivars of Gomphrena globosa, whereas ‘Fireworks’ is Gomphrena pulchella. Both species are native to Latin America.
I love the length and sturdiness of the stems and the color of its flowers, which somehow manage to be both show-stopping and elegant. It is rare to find such a dazzling outrageous flower color that can also be described as refined.
Gomphrena ‘Fireworks’ made its debut in 2009, yet I have been blissfully unaware of its presence in American gardens for almost a decade, so focused am I on perennials and design. Gomphrena pulchella ‘Fireworks’ is an annual. I normally have no interest in plants I have to re-plant every year only for the reward of a stifling sameness in their presence month after month.
Surely California poppies deserve inclusion in almost every garden and I’d say the same for Gomphrena ‘Fireworks’.
The stems are long and sturdy and as mentioned, reminiscent of Verbena bonariensis. Tall verbena is one of my favorite plants because you don’t need to stake it and it is great as a ‘see-through’ plant. Even though Verbena bonariensis can grow to almost six feet tall, you can plant it at the front of borders.
‘Fireworks’ globe amaranth only grows to three or maybe four feet, which in my mind is a better height still. Like tall verbena, you can plant ‘Fireworks’ anywhere you like. We can always use more vertical elements in the garden and this cultivar is especially suitable. We have a terrible time with powdery mildew attacking verbena in the Deep South and I am hopeful globe amaranth ‘Fireworks’ will be a sturdy alternative.
My only real fear with this plant is that it will become ubiquitous in the landscape. I’ve not seen it widely grown but often tough, distinctive plant species are over-used to the point where they might as well be a fire hydrant. Lantana and Stella de Oro daylilies spring to mind in this regard. It’s not that I’m a plant snob. Most of us want some uniqueness in our gardens and I am no different.
For now, Gomphrena ‘Fireworks’ is fairly rare in the landscape.
Apparently, you don’t even have to deadhead ‘Fireworks’ globe amaranth.
I say ‘apparently’ because I’ve not yet grown Gomphrena ‘Fireworks’ in my garden. It’s a rarity for me to write about plants I don’t have direct experience with, but I’ve done some research and it seems like people are pretty excited about this cultivar.
Gomphrena ‘Fireworks’ was introduced by Ball Horticulture, located in Chicago and in operation since 1905. It is attractive to wildlife and easy to grow. Sow seed 1/4″ deep in spring after danger of frost has passed. It prefers full sun and is drought tolerant once established.
Butterflies and other pollinators love it. Plant in mass for best effect.
Native to South America.
|Genus/species||Gomphrena pulchella ‘Fireworks’|
|Common name(s)||globe amaranth ‘Fireworks’, bachelor’s button|
|Of note||Globe amaranth is an annual – easy to grow from seed – bees love it – extremely long season of bloom|
|Suggested use(s)||cottage gardens, meadows|
|Deciduous or evergreen||deciduous|