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By: Mary H. Dyer, Credentialed Garden Writer
Clouds of billowy baby’s breath flowers (Gypsophila paniculata) provide an airy look to floral arrangements. These profuse summer bloomers can be just as pretty in a border or rock garden. Many gardeners use cultivars of this plant as a backdrop, where the floods of delicate blooms show off brightly colored, lower growing plants.
So what other types of baby’s breath flowers are there? Read on to learn more.
About Gypsophila Plants
Baby’s breath is one of several types of Gypsophila,a genus of plants in the carnation family. Within the genus are several baby’sbreath cultivars, all with long, straight stems and masses of dainty,long-lasting blooms.
Baby’s breath varieties are easy to plant by seed directlyin the garden. Once established, baby’s breath flowers are easy to grow, fairlydrought-tolerant, and require no special care.
Plant baby’s breath cultivars in well-drained soil and fullsunlight. Regular deadheading isn’t absolutely required, but removing spentblooms will prolong the blooming period.
Popular Baby’s Breath Cultivars
Here are a few of the most popular varieties of baby’sbreath:
- Bristol Fairy: The Bristol Fairy grows 48 inches (1.2 m.) with white flowers. The tiny flowers are ¼ inch in diameter.
- Perfekta: This white flowering plant grows up to 36 inches (1 m.). Perfekta blooms are slightly larger, measuring about ½ inch in diameter.
- Festival Star: Festival Star grows 12 to 18 inches (30-46 cm.) and blooms are white. This hardy variety is suitable for growing in USDA zones 3 through 9.
- Compacta Plena: Compacta Plena is bright white, growing 18 to 24 inches (46-61 cm.). Baby’s breath flowers may be edged in pale pink with this variety.
- Pink Fairy: A dwarf cultivar that blooms later than many other varieties of this flower, Pink Fairy is pale pink and only grows 18 inches (46 cm.) high.
- Viette’s Dwarf: Viette’s Dwarf has pink flowers and stands 12 to 15 inches (30-38 cm.) tall. This compact baby’s breath plant blooms throughout spring and summer.
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Read more about Baby's Breath
The Diversity of Baby's-Breath
Baby's-breath are well known to most gardeners for their 'filler' effect in the border or use as a cut-flower, but this diverse genus also contains some very desirable alpine species. This article will discuss the more traditional baby's-breath but also introduce you to some of the less well-known yet exquisite miniature species.
The vast majority of gardeners are familiar with baby's-breath or Gypsophila. It is certainly one of the most popular cut-flowers as ‘fillers' in arrangements, but this genus of about 100 species, has great diversity in size, form and uses in the garden. The name Gypsophila comes from the Greek gypsos (gypsum) and philos (loving), referring to the chalk- or lime-loving nature of most species. In the wild, they are only found in Eurasia, southeast Europe in particular.
In the garden, we grow both large and small alpine species. Among the larger species are G. paniculata, the perennial baby's-breath (zone 4), G. pacifica (zone 4) and G. elegans, the annual baby's-breath. All are popular as fillers in the garden, especially if planted in areas where spring bulbs are left to go dormant. They are also perfect cut-flowers, grown in great profusion for the cut-flower industry. They may even be used as a dried-flower. In the garden, G. elegans can reach 50 cm while the other two can reach twice that height. While providing a loose and airy floral display, they can be devastated by heavy rains. A relatively new introduction is the annual G. muralis. The wild species may reach 90 cm but most named selections are only 20 to 30 cm. The smaller forms are dense and covered in minute flowers all summer. They are excellent fillers for window boxes and hanging baskets.
Above are the popular cut-flower baby's-breath G. paniculata and G. elegans, as well as the bedding species G. muralis.
There are many named forms of G. paniculata and G. elegans, which may have single or double flowers in white or pink shades. Among G. paniculata are the single-flowered ‘Festival Star', ‘Snowflake' and ‘Compacta' the double-flowered ‘Bristol Fairy', ‘Double Snowflake', ‘Early Snowball', 'Perfecta', ‘Virgo', Festival White' and ‘Happy Festival' the single pink-flowered ‘Red Sea' and the double pink-flowered ‘Flamingo', ‘Pink Fairy' and ‘Festival Pink'. Among the annual G. elegans cultivars are the white-flowered ‘Covent Garden', ‘Grandiflora Alba', ‘Giant White', ‘White Elephant', ‘Lady Lace', ‘White Monarch' and ‘Snow Fountain' along with the pink-flowered ‘Red Cloud', ‘Rosea' and ‘Carminea'.
Most of the other cultivated Gypsophila species are alpine in nature. The most popular of these is the creeping baby's-breath, G. repens (zone 4). This species has long trailing stems and small but profuse sprays of white or pink flowers in late spring-early summer. The foliage is blue-tinted, adding to the attractiveness of this species. Creeping baby's-breath is ideal when grown draped over a stone or concrete wall. Another attractive alpine is G. petraea (zone 5), a tufted species with clustered flower heads of white to pale pink flowers on 20 cm stems. Superficially, this species looks like sea-thrift, Armeria. Gypsophila fastigiata is a montane, mat-like species with wiry 30 to 45 cm stems and open sprays of white flowers. There is one relatively popular alpine baby's-breath which hails from the Himalayas called G. cerastioides (zone 5). This species has rounded leaves, unusual among this genus where narrow, lance-shaped leaves are the norm. The habit is tufted and the loose sprays of relatively large flowers are held just above the leaves. The flowers are white with pink veins and look similar to those of Cerastium.
Above are the pink and white forms of G. repens
Above are close-ups of G. fastigiata and G. cerastoides
The next two species to be discussed are more challenging and require scree-like conditions to do well. Gypsophila tenuifolia forms a tight, bright-green dome with wiry stems to 20 cm topped with a loose cluster of relatively large, white flowers. The most unusual species is G. aretioides. This one looks like a domed, green rock and is almost as hard! Extremely dense, this species is grown more for its form than flowers. In fact, flowering is rather scarce with solitary blooms being very small and stemless. These last two species are both rated for zone 5.
On the left are the flowers of G. tenuifolia while in the center and right are shown details of the unusual living rock, G. aretioides .
In regards to general cultivation, all the various species of Gypsophila prefer full sun and well-drained soil which is alkaline in nature. If your soil is more-or-less acidic, then a yearly application of lime would be very beneficial. Whether your garden is more designed for traditional perennials or if rock gardening is your forte, then there is at least one species of baby's-breath that would make a useful addition to your garden.
I would like to thnak the following people for the use of their pictures: begonicrazii (G. muralis), broots (G. elegans), echoes (G. paniculata), jajtiii (G. repens, white form), PanamonCreel (G. cerastoides) and saya (G. fastigiata)
About Todd Boland
About Todd Boland
I reside in St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada. I work as a research horticulturist at the Memorial University of Newfoundland Botanical Garden. I am one of the founding members of the Newfoundland Wildflower Society and the current chair of the Newfoundland Rock Garden Society. My garden is quite small but I pack it tight! Outdoors I grow mostly alpines, bulbs and ericaceous shrubs. Indoors, my passion is orchids. When not in the garden, I'm out bird watching, a hobby that has gotten me to some lovely parts of the world.
Baby’s Breath & Lace: 4 Different Varieties, ALL on Sale!
Are you looking for the perfect filler for your bouquet? Or do you want to create cool cloud like centerpieces? Then look no further! At FiftyFlowers, we have over 15 different Baby’s Breath and Lace Flowers! And this week, we are putting four varieties on Sale!
Each of these Baby’s Breath and Lace varieties have their own unique look and could work with any theme or color palette…Read on to learn more about each one…
Million Star Baby’s Breath
Million Star Baby’s Breath is a classic and popular flower, and what most people think of when they think of Baby’s Breath. Named because each stem has a spray of many tiny white blooms that give it the appearance of a million stars. Only in this case, they’ll light up your bouquet instead of the night sky! Use alone to create cloud like arrangements or combine with any other flowers for a touch of softness! Million Star could work with any theme, but fits in perfectly with Classic and Romantic styles.
Baby’s Breath Wedding Ideas
Queen Anne’s Lace
Queen Anne’s Lace is similar to Baby’s Breath with its tiny and delicate clusters of small white flowers, however, these clusters are located at the top of the stem and create kind of a starburst pattern, or a flat topped umbel (think of an upside down umbrella), rather than scattered along the stems like Baby’s Breath. Queen Anne’s Lace symbolizes magic, trust, and healing. Try Queen Anne’s Lace for a Modern Wedding or a Gorgeous Garden Bouquet.
Queen Anne’s Lace Wedding Ideas
Chocolate Queen Anne’s Lace
The Chocolate Lace Flower. It is basically Queen Anne’s Lace but in a natural, monochromatic chocolate brown color, ranging from a light milk chocolate color to a darker burgundy color. Chocolate Lace would work great for a Vintage or Rustic wedding. Pair with creamy white garden roses or wild greens and berries for a look all your own, or use alone to create a unique monochromatic bouquet.
Chocolate Queen Anne’s Lace Wedding Ideas
Orlaya Lace Flower
Last but not least, the Orlaya White Lace Flower. A gorgeous vintage style flower, similar to Queen Anne’s Lace, with the addition of wispy, delicate white petals. Use as a filler flower in romantic bouquets and charming centerpieces. Perfect for Romantic, Vintage and Garden Weddings, combine Orlaya with gorgeous Garden Roses, Scabiosa Pods, and Stock for a romantic garden bouquet or place a few stems in vintage bottles for an easy chic centerpiece.
Orlaya Lace Wedding Ideas
Remember, these four flowers are 10% OFF this week! So, head to FiftyFlowers to order your favorites!
Care and Establishment
Baby's breath almost seems to thrive on neglect - over watering or fertilizing are two things that can lead to its demise, or at least reduce its flowering. If a baby's breath plant is looking poorly, it is likely that it is either growing in acidic soil or in a poorly drained or excessively shady location. It's also important to avoid transplanting baby's breath, as the stems and roots are very fragile and can easily be damaged.
Trimming off the dead flowers is a great way to keep more of them coming. Otherwise, there is little to do in the way of maintenance and pests and disease are virtually non-existent as long as the basic requirements are met.
Alternaria Leaf Spot: Small, round reddish brown spots with white to gray centers form on the upper surface of the leaves and along the midrib. The lesions may encircle the stems and cause wilt. This disease is worse in warm, wet or very humid weather. Burpee Recommends: Avoid getting water on the foliage. Remove infected plant parts and do not work around wet plants. Provide plenty of air circulation. Contact your Cooperative Extension Service for fungicide recommendations.
Aster Yellows: Plants are stunted, develop witch’s brooms (excessive growth), petals turn green and become deformed. This virus-like condition is caused is spread by leaf hoppers. Burpee Recommends: Remove infected plants and control leaf hoppers. Remove weeds in the area.
Botrytis: This fungus causes a grey mold on flowers, leaves, stems and buds. It thrives in cool wet weather conditions. Burpee Recommends: Remove affected plant parts, avoid watering at night and getting water on the plant when watering. Make sure plants have good air circulation. Contact your Cooperative Extension Service for fungicide recommendations.
Root Rots: A number of pathogens cause root rots of seedlings as well as mature roots. Burpee Recommends: Pull up and discard infected plants. Make sure your soil has excellent drainage. Contact your Cooperative Extension Service for recommendations.
Virus (Various causes): The most characteristic sign of virus is tight and dark green mottling of the leaves. Young leaves may be bunched. Young plants may have a yellowish tone and become stunted. Burpee Recommends:This disease is readily spread by handling. Destroy diseased plants and the plants on either side.
Common Pest and Cultural Problems
Aphids: Greenish, red, black or peach colored sucking insects can spread disease as they feed on the undersides of leaves. They leave a sticky residue on foliage that attracts ants. Burpee Recommends: Introduce or attract natural predators into your garden such as lady beetles and wasps who feed on aphids. You can also wash them off with a strong spray, or use an insecticidal soap.
Leafhoppers: Leafhoppers cause injury to leaves and stunt growth. They also spread disease. Burpee Recommends: Remove plant debris. Use insecticidal soaps. Consult your Cooperative Extension Service for other insecticide recommendations.
Rabbits: Chew on plant leaves. Damage is similar to deer damage but not usually as extensive. Burpee Recommends: Use a hot pepper wax spray or rabbit repellent.
Spider Mites: These tiny spider-like pests are about the size of a grain of pepper. They may be red, black, brown or yellow. They suck on the plant juices removing chlorophyll and injecting toxins which cause white dots on the foliage. There is often webbing visible on the plant. They cause the foliage to turn yellow and become dry and stippled. They multiply quickly and thrive in dry conditions. Burpee Recommends: Spider mites may be controlled with a forceful spray every other day. Try hot pepper wax or insecticidal soap. Check with your Cooperative Extension Service for miticide recommendations.
Whitefly: These are small white flying insects that often rise up in a cloud when plants are disturbed or brushed against. Burpee Recommends: They are difficult to control without chemicals. Try hot pepper wax or insecticidal soap. Check with your Cooperative Extension Service for pesticide recommendations.
Can I grow Baby’s Breath in containers? This grows to be a large and wide plant and is generally not recommended for containers unless they are very large.
Is Baby’s Breath a good pollinator plant? Yes, it attracts bees and other beneficial insects.
Why is my Baby’s Breath flopping over? Baby’s Breath will tend to flop if it does not get enough sun. It prefers at least six to eight hours per day.
Will Baby’s Breath be fine in a clay soil? Probably not, Baby’s Breath needs a very well -drained soil as it is susceptible to root rots.
Is Baby’s Breath an annual or perennial? Some species are annual and will die at the end of the season, although they may self-sow, and others are hardy and can survive frost.
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