Learn About Baby's Breath
How to Sow
Baby’s Breath may be grown from seed sown early indoors and transplanted outside after frost, or sown directly in the garden in summer, or planted as a potted plant.
Sowing Seed Indoors:
- Sow indoors 6-8 weeks before outdoor planting date in spring.
- Cover the seeds lightly with ¼ inch of seed starting formula.
- Keep the soil moist at 70 degrees F.
- Seedlings emerge in 10-14 days.
- As soon as seedlings emerge, provide plenty of light on a sunny windowsill or grow seedlings 3-4 inches beneath fluorescent plant lights turned on 16 hours per day, off for 8 hours at night. Raise the lights as the plants grow taller. Incandescent bulbs will not work for this process because they will get too hot. Most plants require a dark period to grow, do not leave lights on for 24 hours.
- Seedlings do not need much fertilizer, feed when they are 3-4 weeks old using a starter solution (half strength of a complete indoor houseplant food) according to manufacturer’s directions.
- If you are growing in small cells, you may need to transplant the seedlings to 3 or 4 inch pots when seedlings have at least 2 pairs of true leaves before transplanting to the garden so they have enough room to develop strong roots.
- Before planting in the garden, seedling plants need to be “hardened off”. Accustom young plants to outdoor conditions by moving them to a sheltered place outside for a week. Be sure to protect them from wind and hot sun at first. If frost threatens at night, cover or bring containers indoors, then take them out again in the morning. This hardening off process toughens the plant’s cell structure and reduces transplant shock and scalding.
Transplanting in the Garden:
- Select a location in full sun with organic soil. Avoid too moist or acidic soils.
- Prepare the bed by turning the soil under to a depth of 6-12, inches removing any debris, and lightly raking as level as possible.
- The addition of organic matter (leaf mold, compost, well-rotted manure) benefits all gardens and is essential in recently constructed neighborhoods.
- Plant on a cloudy day or in late afternoon to reduce transplant shock.
- Dig a hole for each plant, approximately 9 inches apart large enough to amply accommodate the root ball.
- Unpot the plant and gently loosen the root ball with your hands to encourage good root growth.
- Place the top of the root ball even with the level of the surrounding soil. Fill with soil to the top of the root ball. Press soil down firmly with your hand.
- Thoroughly water and apply a light mulch layer on top of the soil (1-2 inches) to conserve water and reduce weeds.
Sowing Directly in the Garden:
- Direct sow in ordinary garden soil in a sunny area after danger of heavy frost. Avoid too moist or acidic soils.
- Remove weeds and work organic matter into the top 6-8 inches of soil; then level and smooth.
- Sow seeds evenly and thinly in rows 9 inches apart and cover very lightly with ¼ inch of fine soil.
- Firm the soil lightly and keep it evenly moist.
- Seedlings will emerge in 10-14 days.
- Thin seedlings to 9 inches apart when they are 1 inch tall.
How to Grow
- Keep weeds under control during the growing season. Weeds compete with plants for water, space and nutrients, so control them by either cultivating often or use a mulch to prevent their germination.
- Mulches also help retain soil moisture and maintain even soil temperatures. For perennials, an organic mulch of aged bark or shredded leaves lends a natural look to the bed and will improve the soil as it breaks down in time. Always keep mulches off a plant’s stems to prevent possible rot.
- Water thoroughly at least once a week to help new roots grow down deeply. Soil should be damp at about 1 inch below the soil surface. You can check this by sticking your finger in the soil. Water early in the morning to give all leaves enough time to dry. One inch of rain or watering per week is recommended for most perennial plants. You can check to see if you need to add water by using a rain gauge.
- After new growth appears, a light fertilizer may be applied. Keep granular fertilizers away from the plant crown and foliage to avoid burn injury. Use low rates of a slow release fertilizer, as higher rates may encourage root rots.
- Cut back after flowering for a second bloom.
- Cut long stems for fresh or dried arrangements. For fresh flowers cut flowers when they are 1/3 to ½ open.
- To dry, cut sprays at peak of bloom. Remove foliage, bunch loosely and hang upside down in a dry, airy place for 2-3 weeks.
Common Pests and Problems
Common Disease Problems
Alternaria Leaf Spot: Small, round reddish brown spots with white to gray centers form on the upper surface of the leaves and along the midrib. The lesions may encircle the stems and cause wilt. This disease is worse in warm, wet or very humid weather. Burpee Recommends: Avoid getting water on the foliage. Remove infected plant parts and do not work around wet plants. Provide plenty of air circulation. Contact your Cooperative Extension Service for fungicide recommendations.
Aster Yellows: Plants are stunted, develop witch’s brooms (excessive growth), petals turn green and become deformed. This virus-like condition is caused is spread by leaf hoppers. Burpee Recommends: Remove infected plants and control leaf hoppers. Remove weeds in the area.
Botrytis: This fungus causes a grey mold on flowers, leaves, stems and buds. It thrives in cool wet weather conditions. Burpee Recommends: Remove affected plant parts, avoid watering at night and getting water on the plant when watering, make sure plants have good air circulation. Contact your Cooperative Extension Service for fungicide recommendations.
Root Rots: A number of pathogens cause root rots of seedlings as well as mature roots. Burpee Recommends: Pull up and discard infected plants. Make sure your soil has excellent drainage. Contact your Cooperative Extension Service for recommendations.
Sclerotinia Crown Rot: Dark spots appear on lower stems and roots, plants wilt and rot. A white fungus with dark structures appears on the dead plant tissue. Burpee Recommends: Remove affected plants. Make sure there is good drainage.
Common Pest and Cultural Problems
Aphids: Greenish, red, black or peach colored sucking insects can spread disease as they feed on the undersides of leaves. They leave a sticky residue on foliage that attracts ants. Burpee Recommends: Introduce or attract natural predators into your garden such as lady beetles and wasps who feed on aphids. You can also wash them off with a strong spray, or use an insecticidal soap.
Leafhoppers: Leafhoppers cause injury to leaves and stunt growth. They also spread disease. Burpee Recommends: Remove plant debris. Use insecticidal soaps. Consult your Cooperative Extension Service for other insecticide recommendations.
Japanese Beetles: Burpee Recommends: Hand pick early in the morning into a bucket of soapy water.
Rabbits: Chew on plant leaves. Damage is similar to deer damage but not usually as extensive. Burpee Recommends: Use a hot pepper wax spray or rabbit repellent.
Slugs: These pests leave large holes in the foliage or eat leaves entirely. They leave a slime trail, feed at night and are mostly a problem in damp weather. Burpee Recommends: Hand pick, at night if possible. You can try attracting the slugs to traps either using cornmeal or beer. For a beer trap, dig a hole in the ground and place a large cup or bowl into the hole; use something that has steep sides so that the slugs can’t crawl back out when they’re finished. Fill the bowl about ¾ of the way full with beer, and let it sit overnight. In the morning, the bowl should be full of drowned slugs that can be dumped out for the birds to eat. For a cornmeal trap, put a tablespoon or two of cornmeal in a jar and put it on its side near the plants. Slugs are attracted to the scent but they cannot digest it and it will kill them. You can also try placing a barrier around your plants of diatomaceous earth or even coffee grounds. They cannot crawl over these.
Baby’s Breath FAQs
Is baby’s breath an annual or perennial? There is an annual and a perennial baby’s breath, be sure you have the right one when you plan your garden.
Can I grow it in a container? The plants grow rather large and full and tend to work best planted in the ground.
I have acidic soil, will they do well in that? The Latin genus name for baby’s breath is “Gypsophila”, which indicates that the plant likes a more alkaline soil. It does not grow well in an acid soil, but can grow well in 6.0-7.0. If your soil pH is less than a half point from that range, you can add garden lime to raise the pH.
My baby’s breath is flopping over, what’s wrong? This plant does need full sun and will tend to flop if it has too much shade. It also may benefit from staking.
My soil doesn’t drain well, can I plant baby’s breath? Baby’s breath is susceptible to root rot in poorly drained soil, especially over the winter. Try working organic matter into your soil to improve drainage, or plant in raised beds.