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Baby's breath is a staple in flower bouquets, but it makes an excellent addition to your garden, too. Sprays of tiny, delicate white or pink flowers add softness to ornamental plantings and make a lovely addition to floral arrangements. Many cultivars are available, including low-growing, creeping types that make for colorful ground cover. Here's what you need to know to grow baby's breath in your garden.
- Botanical Name: Gypsophila spp.
- Common Name: Baby's breath, common gypsophila, panicled baby's breath
- Plant Type: Herbaceous perennial
- Mature Size: Two to three feet tall and wide
- Sun Exposure: Full sun
- Soil Type: Well-drained soil
- Soil pH: 6.5 - 7.5
- Toxicity: Toxic to people and pets
One of the benefits of baby's breath is its ease of care once established. Plants generally only need water during excessively hot, dry weather or extended periods without rain. Feed your baby's breath plants with organic fertilizer once each year in the spring.
Deadhead plants as their flowers die back—you can deadhead a spray after more than half the flowers on it have faded. Prune back leggy growth after the spring or summer bloom period has concluded to encourage a second or even third wave of blooms in cooler climates.
After blooming has concluded in fall, it's best to cut back the entire plant to a few inches above the soil for perennial varieties. This will encourage fuller growth next year.
Best Growing Conditions for Baby's Breath
Plant baby's breath in a spot that gets at least six hours of sunlight each day and offers very well-drained soil, ideally neutral or slightly alkaline. Incorporate organic matter like compost or shredded leaves to enhance drainage with clayey soils.
Types of Baby's Breath
There are many species in the genus Gypsophila, but the two main categories where gardeners are concerned are annuals and perennials. Other considerations include growth habits. Some species grow in large masses while creeping, low-growing types make excellent ground cover.
Annual species Gypsophila muralis includes varieties like 'Gypsy White Improved' and 'Gypsy Deep Rose' in white and pink. Perennial species like Gypsophila paniculata and Gypsophila repens, which include cultivars in both white and pink, will grow back each year, making them an excellent addition to a flower garden.
Note that perennial baby's breath is considered invasive and even banned in some regions, so be sure to check local regulations before planting.
How to Propagate Baby's Breath
Baby's breath is easy to propagate from cuttings. You'll have the best results in the spring or summer when your plant is actively growing.
What You'll Need
- Healthy, mature plant
- Sharp, sterilized scissors or pruners
- Gardening gloves
- Small plant pot
- Potting soil
- Clear plastic bag (optional)
Step 1: Fill the pot with potting soil and moisten it well with water. Using your finger or a pencil, poke a hole in the soil about halfway down.
Step 2: Wearing gloves to protect your hands from irritation, select mature, healthy stems and cut pieces that are about six inches long. Make the cut just below a leaf node. Remove any foliage from the bottom third of the cuttings.
Step 3: Plant the cuttings in the hole you made in the soil. Put the cuttings in a warm place with bright, indirect light. Keep the soil moist but not soggy. You can tent a clear plastic bag over the cutting to help hold in humidity.
Step 4: After about a month, or once you see new leaf growth, give the cuttings a gentle tug on the stem. If you meet resistance, that means they're rooted. They can now be acclimated to outdoor light and transplanted outside.
Common Problems With Baby's Breath
While baby's breath is relatively easy to grow, the plant can experience issues with crown and root rot caused by pathogens in the soil, which thrive with insufficient drainage. Bacterial and fungal issues can also damage flowers and foliage.
The best way to handle these issues is to prevent them before they start. Choose the proper site with the right soil conditions to plant your baby's breath, and be sure to keep foliage dry by watering the soil directly to keep pathogens from growing.
How to Get Baby's Breath to Bloom
Deadheading and cutting back the plant each fall are the best ways to get perennial baby's breath to bloom. Ensure when planting that you're choosing a spot with ideal conditions, as lack of sun and overly wet soil can also affect blooms.
If planting annual baby's breath, sow seeds every two weeks to have blooms throughout the summer.
Is Baby's Breath Easy to Care For?
With the proper growing conditions and basic care, baby's breath is low maintenance and easy to care for.
How Long Can Baby's Breath Live?
Annual varieties will die back in winter in colder climates and need to be replanted every year. Perennial varieties can regrow each year, though they may take two or three years to bloom when planted from seed.
Can Baby's Breath Grow Indoors?
Baby's breath can be grown in containers, but because it needs full sun to thrive, indoor conditions aren't ideal for this plant.