I saw it for the first in New York CIty in June 2014, in Grand Army Plaza, just south of Central Park. I was so surprised and impressed by the plant that I took over 30 photos. But there was no label to identify it. As the plant looked like nothing I had ever seen, I didn’t even have an idea as to its family, let alone its genus. Then I saw it again in Pittsburgh later in the summer, still without label. Annoying! But by searching on the Internet, I was finally able to put a name on the stunning stranger: Gomphrena ‘Pink Zazzle’.
This year ‘Pink Zazzle’ will be widely distributed in North America through its main distributor, Euro American Propagators of California. I just picked up a plant Saturday in a local garden center, with no blooms in it (the garden center employee told me that it sells instantly, as soon as the flowers appear). I didn’t need the flowers to recognize it: the foliage alone is intriguing enough that I knew it instantly.
‘Pink Zazzle’ gomphrena is unique, in no way resembling the classic gomphrenas, G. globosa and G. haageana, both commonly called globe amaranths, with their tiny globular inflorescences popular as dried flowers and their small smooth leaves. Instead, the inflorescence of ‘Pink Zazzle is huge, measuring 2 3/4 inches (7 cm) in diameter, and its leaves are large and abundantly covered in white fuzz.
Its “flower” is actually an inflorescence composed of numerous fuchsia-colored papery bracts. Over time, the tip of the bracts turn pale, giving the flower a charming frosted look. The true flowers are orange-yellow, tiny and star-shaped, peeping out here and there among the bracts, adding just a touch of spice to the effect. Each flower can last over a month and new flowers appear all summer at the end of the stems.
Growing your ‘Pink Zazzle’
You’ll find ‘Pink Zazzle’ plants individual pots, probably already in bloom. When you get them home, plant them in full sun if possible (partial shade is also acceptable) in well-drained soil, either in pots or in the ground. As this plant is multiplied by cuttings rather than from seed (the flowers are sterile) and takes longer to produce than most annuals, ‘Pink Zazzle’ is not going to be a bargain plant: expect to pay $10 or more per plant. For that reason, it’s better then to use it sparingly as a “thriller” plant rather than in mass plantings.
‘Pink Zazzle’ is very drought tolerant and in fact prefers that its soil dry out a bit between waterings. It doesn’t need much fertilizer, but you could apply a very diluted all purpose fertilizer once a month. Expect it to bloom continuously throughout the summer… as long as you don’t keep it soaked.
This plant is a perennial in warmer climates (USDA zones 9 and above), but elsewhere, you’re expected to treat it as an annual and let the frost kill it. If you’re like me, however, you’ll do nothing of the sort. I’ll be bringing mine indoors for the winter and taking cuttings too, for backup: I don’t want to lose this plant!
Indoors, it needs your very sunniest spot and and warm to moderate temperatures (above 45˚F/7˚C). Unless you add additional lighting, it is unlikely to flower during the short days of winter, but can still remain an attractive houseplant thanks to its foliage. Pinch it once or twice for a fuller effect. When the days get longer in the spring, flowering will resume.
I think you can eventually expect to see this plant offered as a gift plant in all seasons, as, in greenhouses with supplemental lighting, it can be brought into bloom at any season. For 2015, though, the growers will probably have a hard time just supplying enough plants to meet the needs of enthusiastic outdoor gardeners.
Check it out and see: I’m sure Gomphrena ‘Pink Zazzle is already available in garden center near you. I say go and grab one while the supplies last!