At the right location, the baby’s breath is an uncomplicated and combinative companion plant with girl-like charm. Its delicate flowers bring lightness to any garden.
Profile of baby’s breath:
Scientific name: Gypsophila paniculata
Plant family: pink family (Caryophyllaceae)
Other names: common gypsophila, panicled baby’s-breath
Sowing time: spring, after frosts
Planting time: spring and autumn
Flowering period: June to September
Soil quality: stony to loamy, calcipholous, nutrient rich
These information are for temperate climate!
Use in: flowerbeds, flower bouquets, embankments, planters, rose companion, flower garden, rose garden, rock garden, potted garden
Winter hardiness: hardy, USDA Plant Hardiness Zones: 4 (-32 °C / -25 °F)
Bee and insect friendly: Yes
Plant characteristics and classification of baby’s breath
Plant order, origin and occurrence of baby’s breath
The baby’s breath (Gypsophila paniculata) is the highest of all garden gypsophila species. But also its common name panicled baby’s-breath is a program, because the striking thing about this perennial is the numerous flower panicles. The original home of the common gypsophila is steppe lawns and stony lawns from southern Central Europe to Western Siberia. It is also naturalized in North America. The German physician and botanist Traugott Gerber brought the plant from his expeditions to the Don and Volga in the middle of the 18th century. Over botanical gardens, the shrub then found distribution in private gardens. It belongs to the pink family (Caryophyllaceae).
Characteristics of baby’s breath
The growth height of the baby’s breath depends on the location and can be between 50 and 120 centimeters (20 and 48 in). Its upright shoots branch strongly and form lush, spherical cushions. Underground, the beet-like thickened taproot burrows its way deep into the ground.
The narrow, lanceolate leaves of the baby’s breath sit opposite each other on the stems, but remain quite inconspicuous. They grow to a maximum of 1 centimeter (0.4 in) wide and about 2 to 7 centimeters (0.8 to 2.8 in) long.
Between June and September the baby’s breath appears as a fragrant cloud of flowers. The white individual flowers are only a few millimeters in size, but they sit together in richly branched flower panicles at the end of the stems. A typical feature are the stamens which protrude far beyond the corolla. In the species, the radially symmetrical flower is formed by five petals, in the varieties they are often double. The pollination of the common gypsophila is done by insects.
The seeds mature in roundish fruit capsules, their distribution takes place as tumbleweeds.
Baby’s breath – cultivation and care
The baby’s breath prefers to grow in full sunlight.
According to its natural occurrence on dry, stony and sandy soils, the baby’s breath in the garden should be given a permeable, preferably calcareous subsoil. The soil can be dry to moderately moist, but it should not be allowed to build up waterlogging.
The best planting times are spring and autumn. At the latest in September, the young plants should be planted in the ground so that they have enough time to take root before winter. A deeply loosened soil is helpful. Because of the protruding growth, one should leave at least 70 centimeters (28 in) planting distance, in case of flat use two specimens per square meter (10 sq ft) are sufficient.
The additional supply of water is of secondary importance for the growth and abundance of flowers of the baby’s breath. Only in the case of summer drought, water the plant a little. Cultivated in a tub, watering is only required when the upper 5-6 cm of the substrate is dry.
Gypsophila is one of the rare exceptional plants where the administration of fertilizer in any form has a counterproductive effect. Even the use of a mulch layer of organic materials has negative effects, up to the complete denial of flowering.
At the right location baby’s breath is quite undemanding and does not need to be watered or fertilized. Every few years in spring, compost can be added, but never in large areas, only in small amounts. The deep taproot makes it difficult to divide and transplant the plant.
The pure type of the baby’s breath can be propagated very well by sowing. One begins in March with the pre-cultivation in the house or sows from May directly into the bed. Also, from young cuttings, which are cut in spring, and rooted in pots with potting compost, one can obtain offspring of Gypsophila paniculata.
Diseases and pests
In the right place, the baby’s breath proves to be quite insusceptible to plant diseases and pests. Only with young plants one should take care that they are not eaten by snails. Too moist and stagnant wet soils can cause root rot.
Baby’s breath is hardy down to -32 °C / -25 °F. Only young plants, in their first year of planting, should be covered with some brushwood in winter.
Use in the garden
The baby’s breath is a welcome companion shrub with its fragrant clouds of flowers in neutral white or pink. In order to meet its location requirements, it is planted in sunny open spaces and in steppe or gravel gardens. If the panicled baby’s-breath is combined with perennials in beds and borders, one should pay attention to good drainage in its root area. Planted in large tubs, it also makes an effective accent in potted gardens. Traditionally, its delicate flower panicles enjoy great popularity as cut flowers. The stems can also be hung upside down to dry well and then used in dried flower arrangements.
- Gypsophila paniculata ‘Snowflake’ is a seed-propagable variety that grows to a height of 80 to 100 centimeters (32 to 40 in) and produces white, mostly double, sometimes simple flowers.
- The variety ‘Bristol Fairy’, which can grow up to 100 centimeters (40 in) high, also flowers white, with double flowers that are particularly large.
- The variety ‘Flamingo’, which dates back to 1938, has double pink flowers that sit on stems up to 120 centimeters (48 in) high.