Past Articles Library | Growing Gypsophila or Baby's Breath
If you a cutting garden is in your garden future, nothing beats Gypsophila or baby’s breath. Depending on the variety, Gypsophila can either be an annual or a perennial. While you may assume that baby’s breath blooms only come in white, you would be mistaken. Baby’s breath blooms can also be found in shades of pink and rose.
When planning on growing Gypsophila, do not limit this plant as simple cut flower. Since this plant blooms during the middle of the summer to fall, this plant can be used to disguise perennial plants that have already bloomed.
Baby’s breath can be found in three common varieties. The ‘Bristol Fairy’ is the one that you commonly find in your floral arrangements. Depending on where you live, this Gypsophila produces small, white blooms from April to August. The height of this variety ranges from 2 to 3 feet, which can be a little too tall for some gardens.
If you are looking for a little more manageable, the ‘Viette’s Dwarf’ is for you. The mature size of this plant is only 18 inches and it is covered with pink to white flowers that appear from May to August.
Looking for a Gypsophila that is even more compact? If the answer is yes then consider ‘Compacta plena.’ This type of baby’s breath reaches a height of 12 inches and produces white blooms from April to August.
Finally, if you are not concerned about height but really want large blooms, take a look at ‘Perfekta.’ This variety produces large, white blooms that are double in the month of June. But, when planning on using this variety, make sure you plan for its mature size of 3 feet.
When it comes to growing baby’s breath, you have three choices. The first one entails purchasing plants and transplanting them into the garden space. The second choice is to take a cutting and the third is through seeds. Depending on your needs and available sources will determine which technique you pick.
Baby’s breath survives in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 3 through 9. This plant requires full sun and a soil that is well draining with a pH of 7.0.
If you decide to go the transplant route, the first step of this process is to prepare the garden space. What this entails is removing any unwanted plant material and loosening up the soil. If the soil is acidic, add some lime to raise the pH. On the other hand, if the soil is heavy in clay, do not feel that you cannot plant baby’s breath. To improve the drainage of this type of soil, mix in a good amount of well seasoned compost and/or manure.
Now that the garden space has been prepared, the next step is to plan out your garden design. To maximize bloom production, plant Gypsophila close together. This means each plant should be space 12 inches apart.
Once you have your designed mapped out, dig a hole for each plant that is the same depth as the container it is in and twice the width. Next, cut away the container from the root mass, and tease the roots. This latter step simply means you loosen the roots with your fingers so that they can grow outward. After that is done, place the plant in the hole and backfill with soil. Water the plant in to settle the soil and add more soil as needed.
When it comes to taking cuttings from existing baby’s breath, the process is easy but the rooting takes time and should only occur in early summer. To take a cutting, begins with preparing pots for the cuttings. Clean and sterilize the container and fill with a well draining planting medium. Next, pick stems of the baby breath that are healthy. Make a cut on these stems so that the cutting is 3 to 5 inches in height. Once the cutting has been removed from the parent plant at an angle, dip the cut end into water and then rooting hormone. Place the cut end in the soil so that there is about 2 inches of the stem sticking out above the soil line. Remove any leaves that touch the soil and pick off any flowers. Repeat this process until you have the number of cuttings you desire. Water the cuttings from the bottom. Once the soil is evenly moist, place the container in a clear, plastic bag and tie off. Place in a warm location away from direct sunlight.
In 4 weeks, check your cuttings by removing the pot from the plastic bag and give them a little tug. If you feel resistance then your cuttings are rooting. This should take about 4 weeks. After you have roots forming on your cuttings, remove the cuttings and place them in their own containers. Continue to care for them until you plant them outside.
While the two techniques described above will give you flowers during the same planting season, starting baby’s breath from seed will not have the same result. In other words, plants grown from seed in the garden will flower next year.
To start your seeds indoors begins with your calendar. Baby’s breath seeds need to be planted 10 to 12 weeks prior to your local frost free date. Once you have that date, prepare for the planting by cleaning and sterilizing your flat. Allow the flat to dry before filling it with a well draining planting medium.
At this point, just sprinkle the seeds on top of the soil. Once all the seeds have been planted, it is time to water but do not just pour or spray water over the top of the seeds. As you may have noticed, baby’s breath seed is very small. To keep from burying it into the soil, mist the soil surface with a spray bottle. Next, cover with clear, plastic wrap and place in a warm location away from direct sunlight.
In about 10 days you will see signs of seed germination. At that point, remove the plastic wrap and place your seedlings on a sunny windowsill. Continue to monitor soil moisture.
If you do not want to plant your seeds indoors, you can directly seed into the garden either in the early spring after your local frost free date or in early fall.
To keep your baby’s breath looking its best, prune often. This will encourage more blooming and keep the plant growing compact verses spindly.