Plant type: Herbaceous perennial
Hardiness: USDA Zones 3 to 9
Perennial that features tiny, delicate cloudlike blooms over bluish-green foliage. Bloom colors range from white to pink. Blooms from spring through summer (April to August). Plant size ranges from 18 to 36 inches tall and as wide.
How to use it: In masses and in hanging baskets or containers. Use in a mixed perennial border, cutting garden, rock garden or xeriscape. Use as a fresh or everlasting cutflower.
Culture: Prefers a well-drained soil and tolerates a dry site. Plant in full sun to partial shade. Likes alkaline soils with a soil pH of 7.0 to 7.5. If needed, do a soil test and apply lime according to soil test recommendations. Does not perform well (or may not come back) if planted in a wet soil over winter. Cut back in spring, not fall. Also cut back after flowering to encourage reblooming. Plant in spring, and it may take a couple of growing seasons to become established. Has a taproot, and once established, does not like to be moved. Has moderate salt tolerance. Prone to rabbit damage. Tall flowers may need to be staked. Primarily propagated through seed or cuttings. No serious pest or disease problems; may have nematode and fungal problems, like root rot.
Special notes: The term gypsophila translates to "lime-loving," and thus this plant prefers an alkaline soil. Good for mountainous regions in elevations of 8,000 to 10,000 feet. Tolerates poor soils. Good for rock gardens. Deer resistant. Drought tolerant. Great cutflower. Warning: This plant can be a noxious weed in some areas, including California, spreading its seed in a tumbleweed fashion.
Selected cultivars and species
- 'Bristol Fairy'. Produces large clouds of white double flowers that repeatedly bloom throughout July and August. Reaches 24 to 36 inches and as wide. May need to be staked. Propagated by tissue culture.
- 'Pink Fairy'. Produces large clouds of double pink blooms which last to frost. Reaches 18 inches tall and as wide.
- Creeping baby's breath (G. repens). Alpine. Has delicate white to pink flowers that bloom in early spring. Great for rock gardens.
- Annual baby's breath (G. elegans or G. muralis). Annual used as a cutflower. Flowers grow in delicate clouds over the foliage. G. elegans has white to rosy pink blooms and reaches a height of 18 to 30 inches. G. muralis has pink blooms and reaches a height of six to 12 inches. Plant in full sun to partial shade. Both melt in high heat and humidity, so they don't do very well in the South. Primarily propagated by seed. Drought tolerant.