With its white and pink flower pads, the easy-to-care-for creeping baby’s breath carries lively lightness to sunny corners of the garden.
Profile of creeping baby’s breath:
Scientific name: Gypsophila repens
Plant family: pink family (Caryophyllaceae) or carnation family (Caryophyllaceae)
Other names: alpine gypsophila
Sowing time: spring
Planting time: best in spring; autumn is possible too
Flowering period: June to July
Soil quality: stony to loamy, calcipholous, low in nutrients
These information are for temperate climate!
Use in: flower beds, ground cover, planters, dry stone walls, flower garden, roof 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 creeping baby’s breath
Plant order, origin and occurrence of creeping baby’s breath
The creeping baby’s breath (Gypsophila repens), often called alpine gypsophila, is a member of the pink family (Caryophyllaceae). Large pads are found in the mountains of Central Europe, especially in the Alps and Pyrenees on rough grasslands and gravel fields.
Characteristics of creeping baby’s breath
The shoots of alpine gypsophila spread above the ground at a height of about 25 centimeters (10 in). They grow from numerous strong taproots. After the leaves fall off, the woody branches become lying rhizomes by forming roots. In this way, the perennial forms dense carpet-like pads. During summer, hundreds of mini-flowers open shimmering above dull green leaves. In addition to the white species, there are varieties that bloom pink.
The dull deciduous leaves of the plant are lance-shaped and blue-green in color. They are about 2 centimeters (0.8 in) long, very narrow and as bare as the stems.
Creeping baby’s breath is a real magnet for insects, opening hundreds of simple, very small flowers close together from June to July. Mostly they are white. Occasionally, sporadic pink flowers mingle with the white flock. But only if the species is propagated by seed. Varieties propagated by cuttings stay pure. They bloom pure pink or white.
The capsule fruits of Gypsophila repens are inconspicuous.
Creeping baby’s breath – cultivation and care
According to its origin, creeping baby’s breath loves lean substrates such as sand or gravel and warm, sheltered and sunny places in the garden.
The botanical genus name reflects the preference of the gypsophila for calcareous soils. For Gypsophila is composed of the Greek words “gypso” (gypsum) and “philos” (friend). It prefers in the garden rather cool and fresh, and permeable soil. The latter is very important for the well-being of the alpine gypsophila. In waterlogging the deep taproots rot quickly, especially in winter.
Creeping baby’s breath is best planted in the spring. If you want to put the perennial in the ground in the fall, it should be planted in the bed no later than mid-September. So that the taproots can easily pass through the soil, it is advisable to loosen the subsoil. If you want a closed carpet of flowers of alpine gypsophila, plant about eleven plants per square meter (10 sq ft) when planting. It is important not to mix peat or compost into the garden soil.
Gypsophila repens is frugal, it does not require regular applications of fertilizer. If necessary, you should fertilize the perennials with garden lime in the fall. Regular watering is not necessary.
Basically, you can propagate creeping baby’s breath uncomplicatedly by seeds. Varieties that grow in your own garden are best propagated by cuttings. They are cut in the spring from young shoots with a root thickening at the end and then put in a box with potting compost up to the leaves. In order for them to grow well, you should place both the seedlings and cuttings protected under glass or film.
Diseases and pests
Except for slugs that like to feast on the young shoots in spring, the plant is rarely affected by pests and plant diseases.
As a robust perennial, creeping baby’s breath is hardy. Only in tubs it should be placed protected under a roof. Icy cold is no problem for Gypsophila repens, but too much moisture from above is.
Use in the garden
The flat pads of creeping baby’s breath are ideal as ground cover in beds, but also fill large and small gaps between paving slabs, in rock gardens or on wall tops. They are also perfect in containers. Charming companions are rock soapwort (Saponaria ocymoides) and pasque flower (Pulsatilla vulgaris).