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Fireworks gomphrena dazzles at plant trials

By Norman Winter

MSU Horticulturist
Central Mississippi Research & Extension Center

“Simply unbelievable” is how I would describe the new Fireworks gomphrena. Gomphrena, sometimes called globe amaranth or bachelor’s button, is already considered a tough plant and you would think it would be hard to improve on it, but Fireworks is like none other.

Fireworks gomphrena is tall and works well toward the back of the border. Here, it is complemented by the spiky blue blooms of Velocity salvia and the lime green leaves of ornamental sweet potato. (Photo by Norman Winter) Click to enlarge
Fireworks gomphrena is tall and works well toward the back of the border. Here, it is complemented by the spiky blue blooms of Velocity salvia and the lime green leaves of ornamental sweet potato. (Photo by Norman Winter)

Fireworks gomphrena doesn’t really makes its debut until next spring, but it has been the star of our Mississippi State University trials this summer. The hot iridescent pink flowers have yellow on the tips, reminiscent of dozens of little firecrackers on each round bloom.

We planted ours in April and then found ourselves in the midst of the most miserable June I’ve experienced since I have lived here. During those 28 days with no rain and sweltering temperatures, Fireworks gomphrena not only thrived but seemed to say, “Look at me!”

Then came July, a relief from the drought conditions and staggering heat. The frequent rains and thunderstorms are not necessarily the gomphrena’s best friend, but Fireworks kept on growing and exceeding all expectations. On Aug. 13, I went to see the trials again, and Fireworks was still breathtakingly beautiful, now reaching shoulder high.

Fireworks also has the ability to grow up to 4 feet wide. This large plant produces scores of flowers that seem never ceasing; no other gomphrena can produce as many. I keep expecting to look at it and feel the need to deadhead, or remove spent flowers, but it hasn’t happened.

Gardeners will delight in its beauty and relish the fact that it is well suited to cutting and using in vases. It also can be used as a dried flower.

Fireworks need full sun and fertile, well-drained soil to really perform to capability. Letting these great plants sit in soggy soil would be a crime. Space your plants 20 to 36 inches apart and apply a good layer of mulch after planting.

Since this is a tall gomphrena, you will want to place it to the back of the border in a cottage garden situation. The spiky blue blooms of Salvia farinacea, like Victoria Blue, Velocity Blue or the taller indigo spires selection Mystic Spires Blue, partner well and provide a different flower texture.

Don’t let its large stature confuse you. It will also make a superb plant in large mixed containers.

In our trials, we also noticed how striking lime green foliage looks with the hot pink of the Fireworks. You may wish to use ornamental sweet potatoes or a selection of coleus with your Fireworks. For a tropical style garden, use them in front of large bananas.

When I was out at our trials last week, I noticed several butterflies visiting for a little nectar. The skipper and sulphur butterflies were finding the blossoms a real treat, with an occasional visit by a tiger swallowtail.

The Fireworks gomphrena will make you look like you have the proverbial green thumb. Make sure you include it in next year’s garden.

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Released: August 20, 2009
Contact: Norman Winter, (601) 857-2284

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