How to Plant and Grow Edible Amaranth

These edible plants offer both nutritious grains and greens.

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amaranthus plants in garden
Photo: Janet Mesic Mackie

Edible amaranth varieties are prized for their nutritious, golden seeds. High in protein and well-balanced in amino acids, amaranth has become a popular superfood in recent years. There are three main types of amaranth grown for food: red amaranth, prince's feather, and foxtail amaranth. These edible species of amaranth are less showy than purely ornamental ones, but their culinary uses give them garden accolades. Use this guide to grow edible amaranth in your garden.

Amaranth Overview

Genus Name Amaranthus
Common Name Amaranth
Additional Common Names Edible Amaranth, Grain Amaranth
Plant Type Annual, Vegetable
Light Sun
Height 3 to 8 feet
Width 2 to 8 feet
Flower Color Orange, Red, Yellow
Foliage Color Blue/Green
Season Features Summer Bloom
Special Features Cut Flowers, Low Maintenance
Propagation Seed
Problem Solvers Drought Tolerant

Where to Plant Amaranth

Plant amaranth in rows in the vegetable garden for easy harvest. Growing 4 to 8 feet tall, it is best planted where it will not shade nearby plants. Amaranth also grows well alongside perennials in the garden where it contributes impressive height and unusual flowers. Create a bird-friendly planting by combining it with sunflowers, coneflowers, and elderberry. Each of these easy-to-grow plants unfurls a bird buffet of seeds and fruit while providing a valuable habitat.

How and When to Plant Edible Amaranth

Amaranth is easy to grow from seed. It can be sown directly in the garden but benefits from an early start indoors 6 to 8 weeks before your area's last average frost date in Zones 6 and below. Sow seeds in potting mix for seed-starting and water them gently. Keep moist until the seedlings emerge. Place the seedlings in a bright, sunny window or use grow lights to provide consistent bright light. Transplant seedlings outdoors when all chance of frost has passed. Plant seedlings 10 to 12 inches apart.

Edible Amaranth Care Tips


Amaranth grows best in full sun.

Soil and Water

Plant edible amaranth in well-drained soil that is rich in organic matter. Average garden soil will yield plants that are 4 to 6 feet tall while humus-rich garden soil will produce 8-foot-tall plants. Water the plants during periods of drought and weed around amaranth regularly to prevent competition for water.

Harvesting Amaranth

Harvest young leaves for use in salads a month or so after seeding. Remove individual leaves as needed, or cut the entire plant back to 8 inches from the ground to encourage tender new growth to develop. Harvest seeds for grain 100-110 days after seeding. Bend mature seed heads over a large bowl or bucket, and shake them to catch the many tiny black seeds.

Types of Edible Amaranth

Red Amaranth

Growing to about 6 feet tall, red amaranth (Amaranthus cruentus) produces pinkish red flowers in summer into fall. Several varieties of this annual plant are available, offering different flower colors and foliage hues.

Prince's Feather

Native to Mexico, prince's feather (Amaranthus hypochondriacus) is a fast-growing, upright annual plant or short-lived perennial in warmer climates. It can reach 7 feet tall and its attractive flower plumes can be purplish pink or greenish yellow.

Foxtail Amaranth

Also called love-lies-bleeding, foxtail amaranth (Amaranthus caudatus) is one of the more ornamental types of edible amaranth. This annual plant can reach 8 feet tall and produces long, dangling tassels of red, orange, pink, or yellow blooms starting in summer.

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