Gypsophila–commonly called baby’s breath–bears clouds of tiny white flowers in summer. They are prized by flower arrangers. They are a beautiful addition to flower beds, cutting gardens, and large containers.
Baby’s breaths belong to the genus Gypsophila. There are about 100 species, both annuals, and perennials.
Perennial Gypsophila is shrub-like plants bearing minutely branched wiry stems starred with small flowers. The Gypsophila breath is long-lived in the right growing conditions. They are most showy when planted in groups of three or more.
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Annual Gypsophila is an easily grown hardy annual. Planted in spring, it will bloom by early summer. Annuals Gypsophila looks best in beds and borders when grown in groups of a dozen or more.
Both annual and perennial Gypsophila grow best in cool to warm weather, not too hot.
Get to Know Gypsophila
- Plant type: Annuals and perennial varieties
- Growing Zones and range: Zones 3 to 9
- Hardiness: Hardy to -35°F (-37°C); drought tolerant; does not do well in humid climates; annuals are killed by hard frosts and prolonged heat in the 90°sF
- Height and width: 18 to 30 inches (45-76cm) tall; 2 to 4 feet (.6-1.2m) wide
- Foliage: Multi-branches, slender-stemmed; opposite lance-shaped leaves up to 3 inches long
- Flowers: Cloudlike sprays of tiny white or pink blossoms; flowers are 1/2 inch across
- Flower colors: Whie, pink, and red
- Bloom time: Early to midsummer
- Uses: mixed border filler; cutting garden; rock gardens
- Common name: Baby’s breath
- Botanical name: Gypsophila paniculata (perennial), Gypsophila elegans (annual)
- Family: Caryophyllaceae
- Origin: The Mediterranean to the Caucasus
Where to Plant Gypsophila
- Plant Gypsophila in full sun or very light shade.
- Plant Gypsophila in average to evenly rich soil that is well-drained. The perennial species needs deep, well-worked soil; it has deep, wide-spreading soil.
- Gypsophila thrives in alkaline soil and will not tolerate acidic soil.
- Gypsophila prefers a soil pH of 7.0 to 7.5.
Gypsophila Uses and Companions
- Gypsophila can be planted as an airy complement in front of gladiolus and other summer-blooming bulbs.
- Plant Gypsophila in the cutting garden; they are an excellent addition to cut-flower arrangements.
- Good garden companions for Gypsophila include Crambe cordifolia, Echinacea, Echinops, Erigeron, Hemerocallis, and ornamental grasses.
When to Plant Gypsophila
- Set established plants or seedlings in the garden in spring after all danger of frost is passed, two weeks after the last frost.
- Sow seeds indoors or in a cold frame 6 to 8 weeks before the last frost in spring.
- In mild-winter regions, sow seed outdoors in fall.
- For continuous blooms, sow additional seeds every 2 to 3 weeks.
- Early plantings may reseed themselves.
Planting and Spacing Gypsophila
- Sow seeds 1/8 inch deep.
- Water and keep seeds at 60° to 70°F until seedlings germinate in about 7 days. Grow seedlings at temperatures near 70°F in bright sunlight or just below fluorescent light.
- Sow seeds outdoors where plants will remain 6 weeks before the last expected frost.
- Space Gypsophila 2 to 4 feet apart.
How to Water and Feed Gypsophila
- Keep the soil evenly moist for the best growth. Gypsophila will tolerate drought once mature.
- Fertilize Gypsophila at planting time with a mild liquid fertilizer; during the growing season fertilize occasionally if at all.
- Stake Gypsophila to support top-heavy stems.
- Cut plants back after blooming to encourage second blooming.
- Pinch back tips when plants are 6 to 8 inches (15-20cm) tall to stimulate side branch growth.
- When making successive sowings, harvest whole plants for indoor bouquets and replant fresh seeds.
- To dry flowers for everlasting bouquets, hang them upside down in a cool, dark place.
Gypsophila Pests and Diseases
- Pests include caterpillars, sow bugs, leaf miners, and slugs. To prevent insect damage sprinkle plants with diatomaceous earth.
- Gypsophila can be propagated by seed (annuals and perennials) or cuttings (perennials).
- Scatter seed and tamp in firmly. Seeds germinate in 7 to 14 days at 70° to 72°F (21°-22°C).
- Take cuttings 8 inches (20cm) long after flowers bloom. Dip ends in rooting hormone and set them in a vermiculite/perlite mix; cuttings will root in several months. Keep cuttings misted until they root.
Gypsophila Varieties to Grow
- Gypsophia cerastiodies, perennial to 3 feet tall and much wider; clustered flowers from pink-veined to white to pink.
- G. elegans, annual baby’s breath (plants only live 5 to 6 weeks; make successive sowings). Cool-weather annual grows 12 to 24 inches (30-61cm) tall with gray-green leaves; produces masses of 1/2 inch, star-shaped flowers in white or pink in summer. Cultivars include ‘Covent Garden’ used for cut flowers and ‘Early Summer Lace’ bears flowers in white and shades of pink.
- G. paniculata, perennial baby’s breath. Shrubby perennial grow 2 to 4 feet tall and wide; bears cloudlike panicles of tiny white or pink flowers from mid-to-late summer; dwarf types include ‘Pink Fairy’, ‘Perfecta’, and ‘Snowflake.’
- G. repens, creeping baby’s breath. Perennial grows 4 to 8 inches (10-20cm) tall spreading bears loose, broad clusters of 1/2 inch wide pink or white flowers from early to midsummer.
Gypsophila Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Is Gypsophila a perennial?
A: Gypsophila–baby’s breath–has both perennial and annual forms. Annual varieties include ‘Covent Garden’–white flowered, ‘Rose’, deep pink, and ‘Shell Pink’, light pink flowers.
Q: Baby’s breath is short blooming. What can I do to get longer blooms?
A; Make successive sowing or plantings of baby’s breath every two weeks for a continuous supply of flowers. Start seeds indoors four to six weeks before outdoor planting or sow directly in the garden.
Q: How do I dry baby’s-breath for indoor arrangements?
A: Pick long stems before the flowers are fully open, and hang them upside down in a cool, dark, dry place.