Love-Lies-Bleeding

For me, growing new things is a big part of the fun in gardening.  Each year, I like to try at least one new vegetable and one new flower.  Sometimes the new things work out and sometimes they don’t.  This year, one of my flower experiments has yielded a keeper: Love-Lies-Bleeding (Amaranthus caudatus).

Love-Lies-Bleeding flower heads just beginning to form

Love-Lies-Bleeding (and all amaranths for that matter) is easy to grow, tolerant of poor soils and incredible to look at.  In less than three months, mine have gone from seed to eye catching three foot tall plants covered in long red inflorescence that cascade almost down to the ground.  These plants have been grown for ornamental purposes for a very long time.  A. caudatus was included in a plant survey found in Colonial Williamsburg and it was very popular in Victorian English gardens.

Love-Lies-Bleeding is member of the amaranth family.  Amaranths are a diverse species with plants whose foliage and inflorescence range from yellow to red to deep purple.  In addition to producing very showy inflorescence, amaranths are edible.  Both the leaves and the seeds are harvested as food all over the world.  The leaves are used much like spinach and the seeds are used as grains.  However, since amaranths are not in the grass family, their seeds are gluten free.  Amaranth was a very important crop for both the Aztecs and the Inca.  To this day, the seeds are still “popped” like popcorn, mixed with honey, molasses or chocolate and sold as snacks on the streets of Mexico.

Up close on the developing flower head

The botanical name of Love-Lies-Bleeding derives from Greek and means “unfading flower”.  This is an accurate description as the flowers are very long lasting cut flowers and they can be easily dried  to extend the amount of time that you get to enjoy them.  For fresh flower arrangements, cut amaranths when ¾ of the flowers are open on the stem.  They will last 7-10 days in a vase.  If you want to dry them, harvest when the seed begin to set and the flowers are firm to the touch.  Cut and hang upside down for at least 10 days.  This is great for Texas as high heat during the drying process allows the flowers to better retain their color.

Love-Lies-Bleeding is easy to grow and extremely well suited for our hot Texas climate.  Plant seeds when the soil is around 70 degrees.  It is tolerant of both drought and poor soils.  In fact, too much nitrogen and the flowers will not be as bright.  Give it too much water and the plants may break.  Water deeply but infrequently.  It does not like wet feet.  Once it sprouts, thin to about 18” since it is not uncommon for these plants to reach five feet in height and spread to over two feet.

This is what the flower head looks like two weeks after the first picture was taken. Notice how the flower color has begun to fade. The soil in my potager has too much nitrogen for this plant that loves marginal soils.

Like all things that are easy to grow, Love-Lies-Bleeding does have its problems.  Since each plant can produce over 100,000 seeds, it can be a bit invasive (it is in the same family as pigweed).  However, when young, the plants have a shallow root system and are very easy to pull.  And, since I know I am going to have to pull weeds anyway, I might as well pull something that will grow into a beautiful plant if I miss it!

53 thoughts on “Love-Lies-Bleeding

    • Love Lies Bleeding takes 80 to 100 days to bloom. Figuring 90 days average to bloom that will be November 13. I live close to Houston so I could get another crop. If you live much further north than that you will be pushing it. Howeverer, love lies bleeding has lovely large foliage and it will grow very well until the freeze. So the answer I would say is, plant it. No matter where you live you are going to get a lot of beautiful foliage. And , if the weather cooperates, you might get the lovely long seed stalks that you are looking for.

  1. Great article! Can you tell me how often to water? I have new plants just sprouted a few days ago. I haven’t’ had any plants for years and used Miracle Grow soil, I seem to recall though that the ones I grew before were also in the same brand name soil. Hopefully they survive being in that soil. I live in hot sunny Southern California so know that they do thrive here as I had great success with them before.

    • You are right, Love-Lies-Bleeding should do exceptionally well in your climate. Based on your statement “they are in Miracle Grow soil” I assume you have them in a pot? If so, Make sure that you keep the soil evenly moist until the plants are about 1′ tall. Depending on how hot and dry it is, you may need to water twice a day initially. A good test is to put your finger in the soil past the first joint. If the soil is totally dry and warm, then water. If you put your finger in the soil and it is cool or it sticks to your finger, you can wait to water.

      Once the plants get over a foot tall, you can water once a day. Especially as the temperature begins to cool off.

      Thanks for your question. Hope you enjoy the blog!

  2. Thank you kindly for your response. They are indeed in pots. Been so long since I grew any I forgot the basics as far as watering.

  3. I have a garden full of burgundy and green amaranth(love lies bleeding) that are about 4-7′ tall. I am wondering if I can harvest the plants and eat the grain? I did not buy the seeds for that purpose, but rather for their beauty. Last year I noticed that the birds loved eating the seeds after it froze.

    • As far as I know, no amaranth is poisonous. I have never tried to harvest the seeds for consumption so I am not 100% sure. However, i have read quite a bit about this plant family and never found any reference to any toxicity associated with it.

  4. Hi Jay I have 6 of the plants love-lies-bleeding and they have grown very tall and beautiful, I live in Ireland and the winter here can be very wet and frosty what can i do to protect my love-lies-bleeding can i bring it indoors? Thanks Caroline

    • I am afraid I don’t have a lot of good news. Amaranths are annuals. As such, they live out their entire life cycle in a single season. You can move it in and extend its life for its biological capacity but the plant will begin to fail soon. Once the seeds start to fall, the end is near. Here is the good news though. You can save the seeds and enjoy the plant again next year. Wish I had better news. BTW, my wife’s family is from County Mayo. Love your beautiful island! Thanks for the sending the question

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  6. I live in southern Arizona an have sprouted several love lies bleeding from seed that I started mid January. How big should the pots be per plant if I contine to keep them in containers, or would they be fine in the poor soil quality found out here? Also curious if they would act more like perrenials since our winters very rarely get below freezing.

    • I recommend a minimum of a 3 gallon pot for plants of any size. Love Lies Bleeding can grow in marginal soils. However, I stress marginal. The plant will need some nutrients. If you have any compost worked into the soil they should do ok for you. In fact, if they are in soil that has high nitrogen levels the red seed pods will turn out a light pinkish color. Amaranths are annuals. That means that they go through their entire life-cycle in a single year. While you may be able to keep it alive for 18 months to two years it is going to eventually die off. Thanks for the great questions. let me know how they work out for you.

      • Thank you for the info I am new to this particular flower and appreciate it. I have not been able to fully amend the soil yet… It is dense clay aka cliché. Although my chickens do help in the garden and I do compost alot of garden wast year round that goes back into my garden. The soil quality is still lacking for many of my plants. Any thoughts on growing berries in the desert? I’ll keep you posted.

        • I don’t think caliche will support Love Lie Bleeding. It will be fine in the pots, it just won’t get as big. Is there room in your garden for a few of them?

          About the berries, I would ask a local nursery. What we call the Texas Hill Country has soil very similar to what you mention. When they add enough compost they can grow just about anything. I think black berries will be your best bet. And again, you can grow them in a pot as well until you get your soil ready. The good thing about black berries is there overall toughness and ease of propagation. After they finish setting fruit they send up lots of suckers than can be nipped off and potted so you can increase your number of bushes each year.

          • My garden area is 32 feet and 36 feet long. It is positioned between my backyard fence line and my neighbors fence. I have had great luck with tomatoes, tomitillos, watermelon, cucumbers, radishes,carrots, sweetpeas, okra, and even corn a couple years ago. But once the roots hit about 2 feet down they don’t seen to be able to get throu the caliche (they look like they get rootbound when I dig them up at the end of the season). This would be my first time with flowers of any kind in my garden. I started to cultivate the area for a community garden for our area about 2 years ago but am the only one who takes advantige of the garden. I also use grey water off of the washers to irrigate the garden (biodegradable soap only is used….great plant food!) I chose love lies bleeding for one of my first flowers because it is somewhat low maintenance, edible, and an eye catcher. I will be graduating my seedlings eventually to 7 gal black nursery containers because the do have the potential to grow quit big. I will post pics as soon as I figure out how.

          • What an interesting story! I am a big fan of community gardens and also water collection and reuse. I too use my gray water on my yard and flower beds. My wife and I are going to be seriously stepping up our water collection over the next couple of years. Hope to eventually be able to provide all of needs from the cisterns. Thanks for sharing and best of luck. if you do get pictures i would love to do a post on all of the neat things you are doing in a place that works very hard to thwart most gardeners!

            BTW, don’t worry about the deep roots too much. Most annual plants get the majority of there water and nutrients from the roots that are in the top six inches of soil

  7. I grew Loves Lies Bleeding for the first time last year. As the seeds dropped, I left them in the garden. Now something is coming up, but I don’t know if it’s the plant or if it’s just a bunch of weeds. I live in Zone 5b (Pittsburgh, PA). Is it possible that the seeds survived the winter?

    • I have learned to expect the unexpected with plants. Personally, I would think that you would be a little far north for them to have overwintered. However, they grow it in Peru and big parts of there are mountainous. So maybe it can take more cold than we are thinking. When this happens in my own beds I generally let a few go for a couple of weeks to see if I can make a positive id. Who knows, you may have found a hardy variety.

      • I live in Saskatchewan Canada, zone 2B and my Love Lies Bleeding comes up every year. When I clean up my garden after freeze up (early Sept), I just leave a few ropes from different plants on the ground. About June 15th, I transplant the best (hundreds come up) to where I want them. They grow 3 -4 ft tall with ropes to the ground.

        • Thanks for the comment! I love to hear how gardeners in different zones do things and I also love to hear how the plants I grow do in other zones. I am actually surprised to hear that Loves Lies Bleeding grows that far north.

    • I live in zone 3/4 where it sometimes gets to -60 here! Last year we had 6 feet of snow drop at once and harsh winter conditions and this spring a whole crop of new amaranth love lies bleeding popped up! If that happens for me in my zone I’m pretty sure zone 5 is a breeze for these plants 😀

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  9. I planted love-lies-bleeding for the first time this year.They got soooo big i had to give them support starting out with tomato cages and ended up having to tie them up with string and connecting them to the house.I LOVE THEM,my husband calls them an alien plant. lol I just need to know when is the proper time to save the seeds and i have A LOT.I planted three different bunches of these plants and i have huge draping plumes almost two feet long.What i don’t know is when to get the seeds to save them and share the beauty,and hoe to do it.They are still very red,Can you help me?I was also wondering would the grain from them be safe to feed my Quaker parrots?I haven’t noticed any birds going after any of the plums?I would appreciate any help i can get and i can take pictures if you want to see them.Thanks again,Becky

    • First, congrats on your great crop! To harvest your seeds what until about half to two thirds of the red flowers have faded to beige. Crush them in yur hands and let everything fall into a sack. Then pour the contents of the sack into a deep sided bowl. Set the bowl outside in a gentle breeze. This should carry the most of the chaff away and leave you with the seeds. Your seeds can be eaten by you and your parrot.

  10. I cut some of the red prawns in clumps,and have them hanging upside down in the Garage.Will this work for getting seed?They are mostly brown now.I was going to put a garbage bag under them now that they have dried loosely and shake the dickens out of it.Will that work or do they have to turn brown outside first? Thanks for your help

    • That will work. If they are mostly dry I would go ahead and give them a shake and capture what you can. Then let them dry further and shake again. Good luck with your harvest!

  11. You have a great blog here. You are so encouraging and positive. I was looking up info. on Love Lies Bleeding seeds and you answered all my questions in such sweet humor.

    I’m in the Houston area and you have not seen nasty soil until you see what we have to deal with! They call it “gumbo.” We plant in above ground mounds or raised garden beds. I will do the LLB seeds in big pots out by the garden house around February unless we have a cold long winter (for us, anyway). Low nitrogen!

    My husband is a master gardener out here. He’s a big, big help to me! Actually, the whole neighborhood knows about him and he’s helping most the DIYers now. We are very lucky because when you first dig into the soil, it’s shocking to out of towners. You feel like you left earth and ended up on Mars! I had a neighbor show up at the door step crying. Her shovel was caked in thick gumbo.

    Oh, I just thought of one question for you. The soil does not drain for a loooong time after a big rain. We get flash floods. Roses don’t like “wet feet”, from what I understand. Can I grow climbing roses successfully in a 6″ -8″ raised bed?

    Thanks and God Bless You!
    Jo Marie

    • Thank you for such a lovely comment! So glad you enjoy the blog. As for your roses, they should be fine in the raised bed. Most plants have 80 to 90% of their roots systems in the top six inches of soil. As long as your raised beds are not on solid rock you should be fine. Thanks so much for reading and for taking the time to leave the comment!

  12. I’ve been growing LLB for a couple years, every year approx 30% of my plants, after reaching form 2-4 ft. go from healthy plants to withered and dead plants in a day. Upon inspecting I find a soft or “mushy” stem within 2 in. of the surface. At first I attributed this to over watering, but other plants right next to them are fine. Could this be caused by the wind twisting and bending the plant when they are smaller and the plant not being able to recover?

    • I am not sure. I have never had an issue. The damage you mention sounds very muck like some type of boring incident. I did a quick search on amaranth pests and found that a bug called the Pig Weed Weavil causes damage similar damage to what you describe. According to that article you need to remove the plants to prevent the spread of the weavil. Here is the link : https://www.plantvillage.org/en/topics/amaranth

        • Upon further and earlier inspection, I did find a white worm, about 1/8 in. long in the base of plants at the first sign of trouble. In the past I had tried to nurse the plants along, sometimes with success and sometimes not. Seems as though the larva move on and the future of the plant depends on the amount of damage done. In the past I have harvested seed/grain from 5′ plants that had severe scars/cancers at the base. Now comes the challenge of getting rid of them. Again, thanks for heading me in the right direction. Marv.

  13. My “wife” has a 20 X 20 postage stamp garden that “we” have enjoyed planting year after year and it yields enough fresh veggies to eat and can. This year I planted a 6 foot row of flower seeds in the middle of the garden, the seed pack was called Assorted Garden Flower seeds that will attract butterflies, and numerous pollinating insects like honey bees, yellowjackets and bumble bees. It wasn’t long until I had a number of assorted flowering plants growing about a foot tall except for three that continued to grow. Thinking weeds had invaded the seed pack I almost pulled them but my wife happened to be there and said to let them grow, she said “we” could always pull them later. We now have 3, 6 foot tall Love Lies Bleeding plants growing in the middle of our veggie garden and they are beautiful! Next year we plan to again use the area in the middle of our garden to allow about three of these wonderful red tassled flowers to grow to maturity. We would like to praise your blog and let you know that it has given us real good instructions on how to harvest the seeds for future plants. Thanks again so much for your informative blog and I would like to agree with the one ladies husbands description of the LLB plants and simply refer to them as that “Alien Plant”….LOL!

    • Thanks for such a nice comment! I am glad you are enjoying Love-Lies-Bleeding. It is a lovely plant and something not everyone grows. Thanks again for the nice comment. You made my day!

  14. I have planted Amaranth in a large pot that is anchored by a curly willow for a few years now. I have had great success with them. The plants this year are doing great but the flower panicles have yet to turn red and some of them are 1 1/2 feet long. Any ideas?

    • Not sure why they are late turning colors. I didn’t grow any this year so I have nothing to compare to. However, if you have panicles that is good. I am betting they will turn. You might try feeding them with a low nitrogen high phosphorus and potassium fertilizer. Both P and K help with flowering

  15. Hi Jay I am looking for information on LLB ,can you tell if I need to pinch out the tips of the young plants.If so when and how ?

        • I really think the key to getting them bushy is to make sure they are in full sun. I have grown some in partial shade and they did get a little leggy. Thanks for reading!

  16. Hello, I am growing Loves Lies Bleeding for the first time and I absolutely love them. I have notice though that some plants are turning to the beautiful pink. I have an upcoming party and I would live if all my plants were pink. Is there anyway to expedite the “ripening”??

    • There are in the greenhouse. Commercial floral producers have a wide array of of hormones they spray to make plants grow and bloom more uniformly. Unfortunately, the home gardener has to rely on mother nature. My recommendation is to provide the plants with plenty of water and feed weekly with a liquid fertilizer that is high in phosphorus and potassium.

  17. Hi, I have learned so much from your blog Thank you.
    I LIVE in Ypsilanti Mich. It’s Sept and my LLB has not turned red, some tassels have the slightest pink shade but that’s it. Will it eventually get red or is it going to stay as is. It is 3ft wide 5ft tall and some of my tassels are 4ft long and 2inches thick.
    Also when can I collect seeds for next yr.?

    • Glad you are enjoying the blog. Amaranths come in all colors so you may have a pink variety. If you bought a red variety, it may just need some more time. The flower heads will darken from the base and move forward. Because of this, the seeds in the base of the flower head ripen first. Once the color has spread to the end you can safely harvest the top and get lots of viable seed. Hope this helps.

    • I planted Amaranth from seed this year expecting red panicles as that is what the seed pack showed. They stayed a pale yellow with a very slight pink. The panicles were fully formed and long. They were nice but definitely not what I was hoping for. I would not collect seeds from these panicles. I eventually cut them back before they dropped seeds. Will try again next year. I love Amaranth but they were disappointing this year.

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