Amaranthus Flower – Botanical Description, Health Benefits and Plant Care
The plant Amaranthus belongs to a genus in the Amaranth family that is widely distributed in the wild in the Americas, India, and China. In East Asia, tricolored Amaranthus is grown as a vegetable crop, although the same species, like Amaranthus-tailed and sadder Amaranthus, are often used as ornamental plants. Eight thousand years ago, Amaranthus became, along with maize and beans, one of the main cereal crops of the Inca and Aztec peoples of Mexico and South America.
Some species of Amaranthus, such as Amaranthus ponytail and Amaranthus panicle, are still grown as cereal crops today. Still, some species are considered weeds – such as the blue Amaranthus grass. In East Asian countries, tricolored Amaranthus is grown as a vegetable crop. The flower was introduced to Europe by Spanish sailors as an ornament for flowerbeds, and since the 18th century, it has been cultivated as a forage or cereal crop.
Amaranthus stems may be simple or branched; leaves are alternate, entire, lanceolate, ovate, or diamond-shaped, the base of the lamina extending into a petiole, the leaf apex notched and slightly cusped. The flowers are glaucous, red, green, or purple, while the apical ones form spike-like panicles. The fruit of the Amaranthus is a capsule with tiny seeds. Its color is green, purple, or violet, sometimes combining them in a single plant. Amaranthus can grow to 30 cm or up to three meters, depending on the species.
Growing Amaranth From Seed
Amaranthus cultivation is relatively easy. In areas where by the end of April, the soil at a depth of 4-5 cm has already warmed by the sun to 10 º C, you can sow the flowers seeds directly into the ground, but before that should prepare the site – to make each square meter under the digging of 30 grams of a mineral mixture or compound fertilizer by the instructions. But do not overdo it: Amaranthus tends to convert nitrogen into dangerous nitrates, so do not overdo the nitrogen component. If you sow the Amaranthus in good time, it will grow quickly, and you won't have to fight the weeds.
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So, at the end of April, the seeds are planted one by one into furrows in moist soil and are embedded to a depth of 1.5 cm. For convenience, you can mix fine seeds with sand or sawdust in a 1:20 ratio – so it is easier to sow. A distance of 45 cm is observed between the rows, and there should be about 7-10 cm between the specimens, so experienced flower growers prefer to agitate the sowing but do not mix the seeds with sand but spread them out one by one. After 8-10 days, you will see seedlings, which should be thinned if necessary and the soil loosened between them. If you planted the Amaranthus later, in May, you would also have to fight the weeds. When the Amaranthus reaches 20 cm in height, fertilize it with nitrogen fertilizer, but the nitrogen concentration should be half what the grower recommends. Whether growing vegetable Amaranthus or ornamental Amaranthus makes no difference – it will be fully mature in three to three and a half months from sowing.
Care of the Seedlings
Amaranthus can be cultivated as a seedling without any problems. The seeds should be sown in seedlings at the end of March. Plastic containers or ordinary pots up to 10 cm high will do for the seedlings. Sow the seeds in 1.5-2 cm of moist soil, then place the pots in a warm, light place. Water the seeds with a sprinkler; the optimum germination temperature is around 22ºC. If all these conditions are met, the germination will appear in less than a week. When the Amaranthus have sprouted, thin them out by removing the weaker shoots, and when the seedlings have three leaves each, divide them into individual pots of 12 cm in diameter.
When the soil in the garden warms up well, and there is no risk of frost returns, the seedlings can be planted outdoors. This is usually done in mid or late-May. The growing area should be well-light and drained, and the soil should be light and nutritious, with plenty of lime. By and large, amaranthus is completely undemanding, but what it cannot tolerate is low temperatures and too much moisture in the soil.
How to Plant
Depending on the variety and species, amaranthus should be planted at a distance of 10 to 30cm and 45 to 70 cm between the rows. Until the seedlings take root and begin to grow, they need regular watering. And be prepared to cover the amaranthus plot if cold weather returns.
Care of Amaranthus
Amaranthus care is needed only until the plant starts to grow, but the first-month amaranthus seedlings develop very slowly, so they need watering, weeding, and loosening the soil. But afterward, amaranthus plants produce more quickly, and there is no more room for weeds. Sometimes a specimen of amaranthus can grow seven centimeters in a day!
Regular watering is also important for amaranthus – only during the first month in the open ground the root penetrates deep into the ground, and watering becomes unnecessary unless it is a dry summer without rain amaranthus will need watering just like any other plant.
Amaranthus After Flowering
If you want to harvest amaranthus seeds, choose a few of the strongest plants, and don't cut the leaves off. Once the lower leaves on the amaranthus have turned red, withered, and fallen off, and the stem is whitish, choose a dry day, cut the inflorescences from the picked specimens, starting at the bottom of the stem, and place them to dry out in a well-ventilated dry room. After a couple of weeks, when you rub the dried panicles with your hands, the mature seeds will easily fall out of the capsules, after which you only have to sift them with a fine sieve and put them in a box or a paper bag for storage. Amaranthus seeds retain their germination for about five years.
Amaranthus in Winter
Amaranthus does not tolerate warm winters, so it is grown as an annual plant. At the end of the growing season, the crop residues of amaranthus are collected and disposed of. If you are sure that your amaranthus is not infested with pests or diseases, place its haulm in a compost pit – it makes a good fertilizer. The top part of amaranthus can also be used as animal feed, e.g., for pigs and poultry, as it contains protein, lots of carotenes and vitamin C, and high-quality protein.
Types and Varieties
- Amaranthus cruentus
Most often used for flower beds, bouquets, and winter bouquets. An annual plant grows 75 to 150 cm tall with long, ovate, reddish-brown leaves with a sharp, elongated apex. The small red flowers are arranged in upright inflorescences. It blooms in June and lasts until cold. Cultivated since 1798, with several forms: nana, a low-growing form up to 50 cm tall.
- Amaranthus hypochondriacus
A branching species up to 1.5 m tall with oblong-lanceolate acuminate leaves in purple or purplish-green color and upright spike-like panicles with inflorescences in various colors, but usually in dark red. In cultivation since 1548. There is a blood-red form with drooping inflorescences.
- Amaranthus tricolor
An ornamental deciduous plant, 70 cm to 1.5 m tall with erect stems, forms a pyramidal shrub. The leaves of Amaranthus tricolor are elongated, ovate, or narrow, sometimes wavy, and colored in combinations of yellow, green, and red – the young leaves are unusually bright and beautiful. They flower from June until frost and are of several varieties: narrow, bronze-green, wavy leaves up to 20 cm long and half a centimeter wide; ruby-purple leaves with green spots; rubber with blood-red leaves and dark green leaves with brown spots.
- Amaranthus caudatus
Found in tropical Africa, Asia, and South America. The stems are strong, erect, and up to one and a half meters tall. Leaves are large, elongate-ovate, green to purple-green. The small, dark red, yellowish green, or crimson flowers form spherical balls, which form, in turn, long, dangling paniculate inflorescences. This species blooms from June to October and has been cultivated since 1568. It has several forms: white-flowered – with greenish-white flowers; green – this form with pale green inflorescences is favored by florists; and bead-like – the flowers of this form are gathered in whorls and resembles long beads strung on a stem.
Scientists believe amaranthus is a plant of the XXI century, able to feed and cure all mankind. This may be an exaggeration, but this statement has some truth. All parts of amaranthus are edible, nutritious, and useful, but the most valuable product is amaranth seeds. Amaranthus is useful because it contains a whole complex of fatty acids necessary for a man – stearic, oleic, linoleic, and palmitic acids. This amaranthus property allows it to be used for dietary products.
Amaranthus also contains squalene, vitamins B, C, D, P, and E, rutin, carotene, steroids, bile, pantothenic acids, and many other necessary substances for human health. Amaranthus protein contains the essential human amino acid lysine, almost the same amount as soy, but amaranth protein is much easier to digest than soy, wheat, or corn. The Japanese compare amaranthus greens to squid meat and believe that daily consumption of amaranthus restores vitality and rejuvenates the human body.
Amaranthus oil is the most valuable of the plant oils, with twice the therapeutic benefits of sea buckthorn oil. Amaranthus oil-based creams and masks rejuvenate the skin, tone it and provide antibacterial protection. Sprouted amaranthus seeds have the same value in their composition as mother's milk. They are often used in cooking.
Useful properties of amaranthus are used for the treatment of obesity, atherosclerosis, neurosis, and dysbacteriosis with tea made of its leaves. Amaranthus leaves and grains effectively heal the liver and kidneys and treat adenoma, cardiovascular disease, and urinary system inflammation. The properties of amaranth, when constantly eaten, help to cope even with malignant tumors, as well as strengthen the human immune system. Adding amaranthus leaves to summer salads prolongs your life and improves your health. Amaranthus seed flour added to wheat flour enhances the taste of baked goods and slows down the process of hardening muffins. Toasted amaranthus seeds are delicious, resemble nuts, and are suitable for sprinkling on buns and breading meat. A single amaranthus leaf added to a three-liter jar will keep your cucumbers crisp and firm until spring.
Which type of amaranthus is the healthiest?
Although any variety of amaranthus is useful, the newest self-pollinated types have more beneficial substances than others. Pinstripe Oeschberg, Tri-coloured Early Gorgeous, Tailed Emerald, and Tailed Red are some of them.
What does the amaranthus flower mean?
Amaranthus symbolizes immortality, faith, fidelity, and constancy in love. In Europe, it was dedicated to Amaranthus, the priest of Artemis, ruler of the city, and lord of the hunt. In Greco-Roman culture, amaranthus was used to exalt heroes' graves, symbolizing healing and the afterlife.
What are the benefits of the amaranthus flower?
Amaranthus leaves are rich in peptides that slow inflammatory reactions and prevent cellular mutations. The plant improves digestion, normalizes cholesterol levels, and provides the body with building material to help repair damaged tissues and form new ones.