Flower-arranging is a fantastic hobby, but if you’re buying all or most of what you need from florists, it can be a costly one. Prices vary depending on market conditions, but with plants like Baby’s Breath, the fine filler just about every flower arrangement needs, chances are you’re paying a premium price per stem. Growing this plant in your garden could save you a lot of money, but you need a little gardening know-how to get it right.
Many Varieties – Choose the one That’s Right for You
Most of us know the common Baby’s Breath or Gypsophila, but it’s by no means the only one out there. Do be sure you’re getting the one you want for your flower arranging hobby, but feel free to experiment. There’s an awesome red variety, for example.
The florist’s Gypsophila is perennial, but not all the species in the genus are. And just because you’ve chosen a perennial doesn’t mean it’s going to live forever. After all, “perennial” and “immortal” are two different things. Try it out in your garden and see how it does for you. Some people sow fresh seeds every year while others are happy to wait for it resprout.
Sow Your Seeds
If you choose to germinate your Baby’s Breath plants in containers, choose small pots so that you can transplant them with minimal root disturbance. Alternatively, sow them in open ground where they will bloom.
The seeds should be sown in spring, but the babies can’t tolerate frost, so you need to choose a time after the last spring frosts have passed. In frost-free areas, you can get away with autumn sowing too, adding to your potential for a steady supply of cut stems.
Choose a sunny spot and follow the directions on the seed packet carefully. Until they’re up and growing, ensure that watering is gentle and thorough.
Well-Drained, Not Overly Rich Soil
The most important trick to success with gypsophila is to give them soil that doesn’t hold too much moisture. If you have heavy clay, it’s going to be harder to succeed with Baby’s Breath, because these plants prefer sandier soils.
And, while your other plants will be thrilled with your composting and manuring efforts, Gypsophila may be less happy about it. It likes poor soil. In fact, it wants poor soil, and planting it in rich, garden loam means you’re likely to be disappointed with the results.
Just to add to the “other plants don’t like this but I do” nature of Baby’s Breath, they like slightly alkaline soil, so if you aren’t in a lime-rich soil area, consider adding a little lime to sweeten the soil’s pH. Most soils tend to be slightly acid, so if you’re in doubt, add lime.
I Love My Buddies
Baby’s Breath, as we can see, is a bit of a rebel in the plant world, and another thing it likes which most plants don’t, is a little crowding. While thinning out your annuals may be second nature to you, it’s better to leave Gyps to their own devices – within reason. All that company from its buddies seems to promote blooming and increase your chance of success. 15cm – 20cm apart is ample, and more space won’t mean better plants. Treat ‘em mean to keep ‘em keen!
Choosing the right time to pick is important, so you don’t want all your plants to be ready at once. Staggering the sowing will help you to get stems more frequently and over an extended period. If you’re trying to time them for a special occasion, that can be tricky. Hedge your bets with staggered sowing.
Don’t Spoil Your Babies
Once Gyps are up and growing, they only sulk if you spoil them too much. Let it be hot. Let things be on the dry side (but not too dry), and don’t give them extra liquid feeding. I’m tempted to say they thrive on neglect, but you can go a bit too far with that too.
If you’re already growing plants like lavender and sage, they’ll be good companions for your Gyps as they need around the same amount of irrigation. If you’ve grown carnations before, use a similar protocol for your Baby’s Breath.
At the same time, you’re likely to find that your results don’t match those of commercial flower growers – especially at certain times of year. That’s because commercial growers carefully monitor and adjust everything from temperature to pH on an ongoing basis in order to get Grade 1 blooms they can sell for a good price. You won’t be doing that, and that’s why your results may be good, but not as good.
Harvesting for Vase Life
The best time to cut Baby’s Breath for the vase is just as the buds begin to open. Pick them early in the morning and place the stems in a bucket of cool water. That’s if you want to use them fresh.
You can get even more out of Baby’s Breath if you dry the flowers. You’ll need to pick them when about half the blooms have opened, and hang them upside down in a dark, well-ventilated place until the flowers are papery to the touch. Now, your Baby’s breath can last for months!
More Than Just a Cut Flower
Lest we forget, Baby’s Breath isn’t just good in flower arrangements, it’s also a real charmer in the flower garden. Do leave some stems to grace your flower beds – you’ll be glad you did. Imagine: with a few flowering friends to keep them company, your garden will look just like a florist’s dream!
Whether you grow for the vase or just to enjoy in the garden, Baby’s Breath is a winner. The only slightly tricky thing about it is its soil preference, and if you’re not succeeding, chances are it’s too much water and nutrition coupled with the wrong pH. In the right soil, it’s a snip! Can you grow Baby’s Breath in your garden? Why not try it and see?