By: C. Colston Burrell
Alternanthera is an annual shrub of interest to gardeners.

Alternantheras, of which there are possibly 200 species, are brilliantly colored foliage plants used for their leaves. Different species and varieties are strongly marked with yellow, pink, red, and coppery red.

: A. ficoidea forms a bushy plant up to 1 foot tall with leaves veined with brownish-red, carmine, and orange. Varieties include A.f. amoena, a compact form with red-splashed leaves and A.f. rosea-nana, with rosy pink leaves. Gold Threads has golden, needle-shaped leaves. Red Threads is similar with ruby-red foliage.


A.f. bettzickiana is taller with olive-green to red leaves. A.f. aurea-nana has yellow leaves. A.f. brilliantissima bears bright red leaves. A.f. versicolor has dark green or red leaves with pink veins and leaf margins of white and pink.

: High temperatures in full sun bring out the brightest coloring in alternantheras. They do best in well-drained soil that is not excessively moist. They are very frost-tender and should not be planted out until all danger of frost has passed and the soil is warm. They are usually kept sheared to induce uniformity in formal bedding situations. Plant small varieties 8 inches apart and tall ones every 12 inches.

: By cuttings or by division. Cuttings root easily and quickly.

: Alternantheras are at their best combined in patterns of color in formal bedding situations, but they also make handsome container and hanging basket specimens. They can also be planted in design combinations with flowering annuals, the brightly colored leaves being especially effective with light-colored flowers. In areas without frost, they are often used for bed and walkway edgings.

Alternanthera related species: A. dentata rubinginosa is a red- or purple-leaved form of a species that is normally green-leaved. It will normally grow from 1 to 2 feet tall.


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