How to Grow and Care for Kochia

Kochia scoparia, summer cypress
Kochia scoparia, summer cypress

Kochia–commonly called summer cypress or burning bush–is a summer annual grown for its feathery, soft, dense foliage. It is often grown as an accent in a bed or border or as a quick-growing summer hedge.

Kochia is bright green when young and through the summer; it turns red as it matures and can be bright red in autumn. Kochia is grown for its foliage; its green summer flowers are insignificant.

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Kochia will reseed itself, especially in mild-winter regions. The profusion of volunteers can become a nuisance if not controlled.

The Kochia genus is synonymous with the genus Bassia.

Get to Know Kochia

  • Plant type: Annual
  • Growing zones and range: All zones as an annual
  • Hardiness: Half hardy, frost will end Kochia’s growing season
  • Height and width: 36 inches tall and wide
  • Foliage: Feathery, alternate leaves are hairy, 1 to 2 in. long, narrow, pointed, and attached directly to the stems.
  • Flowers:  Small, green flowers and seeds are produced in narrow heads at the leaf axils. 
  • Bloom time: In summer, blooms are insignificant
  • Uses: Colorful accent, fast-growing temporary hedge
  • Common name: Fireweed, burning bush, or summer cypress
  • Botanical name: Kochia scoparia (syn. Bassia scoparia)
  • Family name: Chenopodiaceae
  • Origin: Eurasia
Kochia, Bassia scoparia, also called summer cypress and burning burning bush.
Kochia, Bassia scoparia, also called summer cypress and burning bush.

Where to Plant Kochia

  • Plant Kochia in full sun.
  • Gros Kochia in average, well-drained soil.

Kochia Uses

  • Kochia can be used as a formal accent in a border and makes a good low-growing temporary hedge.
  • Kochia is a good choice for containers mixed with low-growing or trailing plants.
  • Kochia foliage can be used in cut flower arrangements.

When to Plant Kochia

  • Kochia should be seeded as early as the soil temperature reaches 50°F and anytime thereafter throughout the growing season.
  • Set out transplants after all danger of frost has passed.

Planting and Spacing Kochia

  • Space Kochia 24 inches apart or as close as 8 inches apart for a hedge.

How to Water and Feed Kochia

  • Water Kochia moderately until it becomes established; it grows well in hot-summer regions.
  • Apply an all-purpose fertilizer early in the season.

Kochia Care

  • Growth is slow early in the season but increases with warm weather.
  • In mild winter regions, Kochia reseeds itself, sometimes in profusion.
  • Kochia can be sheared to any desired shape or height.

Kochia Pests and Diseases

  • Kochia is pest and disease free.
Kochia in autumn season
Kochia in the autumn season

Kochia Propagation

  • Seed germinate in 10 to 15 days at 50°F (10°C).
  • Soak seeds for 24 hours before sowing.

Kochia Varieties to Grow

  • Kochia scoparia, summer cypress, burning bush. Grows to 36 inches tall; feathery leaves are bright green during summer, and bright red in fall.
  • K. s. trichophylla, burning bush. Foliage turns scarlet to maroon at first frost.

Kochia Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What conditions does Kochia favor?

A: Plant Kochia in full sun in dry soil. Kochia does best in regions where summers are hot. Kochia is an annual with a shrublike habit.

Q: Is Kochia a shrub? It’s called burning bush.

A: Kochia is an annual with a rounded habit that looks like a sheared evergreen. It grows three feet tall and looks like a hedge when used in a border or boundary planting. During hot weather, the foliage is light green, but in autumn, it turns a rich red.

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