QUESTION: What is Hopi red dye amaranth? I see the seeds for sale online and want to learn more about it before I add it to my collection. — Brian H.
ANSWER: Hopi red dye amaranth is a gorgeous amaranth variety with dramatic blossom plumes that, along with the deep red leaves, can be used to make an all-natural pink dye. In the garden, this plant brings in pollinators like birds, butterflies, and bees. In a cut flower arrangement, the Hopi red dye amaranth will dye the water purple. This article tells you everything you need to know about how to plant and grow Hopi red dye amaranth, as well as how to harvest it and use its leaves and flowers as a dye.
USDA Plant Hardiness Zone: 9 and 10 (grown as an annual in other zones)
Sun Requirement: Full sun (at least six to eight hours of direct sunshine every day)
Soil pH: 5.5 to 7.8 (Not sure what the pH level is in your garden? See our article How to Test pH in Your Soil.)
Soil Type: Thrives in somewhat sandy to clay loam soil, but will grow in just about any soil type as long as it provides good drainage
When to Plant: Can be planted after the frost date
Mature Size: 4 feet to 7 feet tall, 0 feet to 1.5 feet wide
Blooms: From the middle of summer to the beginning of Fall
How to Plant Hopi Red Dye Amaranth
Once all danger of frost in your area has passed, plant your Hopi red dye amaranth seeds a quarter of an inch deep. Rows should be spaced one foot apart. Plant three seeds every 10 or 15 inches. Once they have their first true leaves, thin the seedlings so there are 10 to 15 inches between each plant. Water seedlings sparingly, as getting too much moisture can lead to fatal garden problems like damping off.
If you prefer, you can start your seeds indoors four to six weeks before the last forecasted frost in your region. Sow the seeds onto the surface of the soil, then just barely cover them. Mist or water from the bottom so the seeds aren’t disturbed by your watering. Care for them indoors until the last frost of the year has passed, then transplant your Hopi red dye amaranth into the outdoor garden.
How to Grow Hopi Red Dye Amaranth
One of the garden problems most likely to plague your Hopi red dye amaranth plants is aphids. You can fight back against aphids with a homemade spray made of one gallon of water, 4 to 5 drops of dish soap, and a tablespoon of neem oil. It may take a few applications before the spray is effective. Make sure you spray hidden nooks and crannies on your plant as well as the undersides of the leaves, where aphids love to congregate. For more information on keeping your garden free of aphids, check out our article All About Aphids, and How to Kill Them.
If your plants grow large and their blossoms are heavy, established plants may require staking to support the flower heads.
How to Harvest Hopi Red Dye Amaranth
If you want to save seeds from your plants to grow again next year, put paper bags on top of the flower heads before they go to seed. In addition to making it easier to save seeds, this technique will also prevent your Hopi red dye amaranth from cross pollination with other plants.
Once the seeds are mature, pull the plant up by its roots and find a warm, dry spot to hang it like a patio or cellar. Hang the plant upside down, with the bags still over the seed heads. Wait for the seeds to dry out completely, then shake the seeds into the paper bags. Store the seeds in a jar or any other airtight container.
In addition to saving seeds to plant again, you can also eat the seeds of your Hopi red dye amaranth plant. You can either grind the seeds to make a flour or cook them to eat as a breakfast grain.
The leaves are edible as well. Because Hopi red dye amaranth is so drought tolerant, you may find that you can count on the plant for greens when lots of other leafy greens have bolted or stopped growing. The leaves taste something like spinach and should be used in the same way in the kitchen.
To harvest the leaves of Hopi red dye amaranth, you can either pull up the whole plant, roots and all, or cut what you need. If you choose to cut the leaves you will eat, the plant will continue to produce for you. Just use a pair of clean, sterilized garden shears to prevent the risk of spreading plant disease in your garden. Start cutting at the outside base of the plant, working your way up and in as you go around. Do not remove more than one third of the leaves on the plant.
To learn more about dyeing with Hopi red dye amaranth, visit this informative site.
Not only are you ready to plant and care for Hopi red dye amaranth, you’ve also learned about how to harvest the leaves for eating and how to save the seeds. You’re ready to add the drama of blooming amaranth to your garden, and don’t forget that the seeds and foliage of Hopi red dye amaranth are edible.