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January 2008
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Baby’s breath / Gypsophila

Gypsophila (Baby’s-breath; Gypsophila) is a genus of about 100 species of flowering plants in the family Caryophyllaceae, native to Europe, Asia and north Africa. Many species are found on calcium-rich soils, including gypsum, whence the name of the genus. Some species are also sometimes called “baby’s breath” or simply, “Gyp”, among the floral industry. Its botanical name means “lover of chalk”, which is accurate in describing the type of soil in which this plant grows. It is now widespread across Canada and the northern US. It has been observed growing in a variety of habitats.
These cloud-like white flowers grow about 18 inches tall and are unbeatable for cutting and adding to arrangements – but they’re also very pretty for growing in among other flowers. The stems separate into many branches, giving it a light appearance, perfect for accenting. They are most often included in those dozen roses you give or receive, and are a must for bridal bouquets.
A popular flower to accent bouquets, corsages and flower vases, Baby’s Breath is a popular flower in the home garden too. Baby’s Breath are very easy to grow, and quick to bloom. However, a point to note: Baby’s breath comes in both annual (lasts one year) and perennial (returns year after year) types, so be sure you know which one you’re getting.
They come in white or pink and do best in cool weather, petering out when temperatures regularly hit 80 degrees. If you live in the South, your annual baby’s breath will benefit from some afternoon shade. The site also should have excellent drainage. Sow seeds directly in the soil in fall where winters are mild – Zones 8 and warmer of the U.S.D.A. Plant Hardiness Zone Map. Otherwise, plant seeds directly outdoors in early spring after soil thaws.
Established plants have a deep, thick penetrating root system with abundant food reserves that give rise to new shoots in late April. Seedling plants emerge in early May and develop only one shoot the first year. Baby’s Breath are grown from tiny seeds. They can be directly seeded into your flower garden or started indoors for a jump start on the year. Sow them after the soil has begun to warm in the spring. Baby’s Breath do not like frost, so if started indoors, transplant them outdoors after the last frost date.
Once established, baby’s breath needs little care. Its flowers don’t need to be deadheaded and it thrives on minimal water and fertilizer. Baby’s-breath blooms best in akaline soil, so it’s a good idea to work a little lime into the soil if your yard doesn’t have it naturally. Once your Baby’s Breath germinates in 10 to 15 days, they will grow rapidly. For a continuous bloom, plant them in succession every two to three weeks. Discard the plants once they begin to get ratty from the heat or are felled by frost in autumn.

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