Jump To Section
What Is Baby’s Breath?
Baby’s breath (scientific names Gypsophila paniculata and Gypsophila elegans) is a small, white flower most commonly known for being a filler in cut flower arrangements, especially ones featuring roses. The flower is a member of the carnation family of herbaceous plants, Caryophyllaceae. While its blooms are only about a pencil eraser’s size, each baby’s breath plant can grow hundreds of blooms, making them a spectacular addition to a flower garden. Many gardeners like to plant baby’s breath around spring-blooming perennials, since the summer- and fall-blooming baby’s breath flowers will hide the perennials at the end of their blooming season.
When to Plant Baby’s Breath
Plant baby’s breath (whether from seeds, cuttings, or established plants) in late spring or early summer, just after the last frost date in your area. Since baby’s breath is a perennial plant throughout most of the United States, you’ll only need to plant baby’s breath once to enjoy the flowers in your garden year after year.
It’s important to note that in several US states, baby’s breath is considered an invasive wildflower or noxious weed because it is so hardy, spreads quickly, and can outcompete other plants for nutrients. Check your state’s guidelines to ensure it is safe to plant baby’s breath in your area.
How to Plant Baby’s Breath From Seeds
One way to plant baby’s breath in your garden is to buy baby’s breath seeds. While seeds are a simple way to plant, the hardy perennial may take an entire year to flower. To grow baby’s breath from seeds:
- Choose the site. Baby’s breath prefers full sun, so be sure to pick a spot that gets at least six hours of direct sunlight a day.
- Prepare the soil. Baby’s breath grows best in well-draining soil that’s slightly on the sandy side, with plenty of organic matter. The plant prefers alkaline soil with a pH between 7.0 to 7.5.
- Sow the seeds. Sow seeds by sprinkling them across the flower bed. You can either sprinkle a light layer of soil over the top of the seeds or simply press down to embed them into the soil.
- Water. Keep the soil moist as your seeds germinate and grow.
- Thin the seedlings. Once your seedlings are one to two inches tall, use garden shears to thin them back 12 inches apart to prevent competition.
How to Plant Baby’s Breath From Cuttings
Think Like a Pro
Community activist and self-taught gardener Ron Finley shows you how to garden in any space, nurture your plants, and grow your own food.View Class
You can start baby’s breath plants using the cuttings of established bushes. To grow baby’s breath from cuttings:
- Choose the right containers. The most reliable way to start plants from stem cuttings is to begin them indoors first and then transplant them into the garden. To begin, choose a container (or several) with drainage holes.
- Prepare the soil. Baby’s breath grows best in well-draining, slightly sandy soil, with plenty of organic matter and a soil pH between 7.0 to 7.5.
- Select the stems. If you’re cutting from an established baby’s breath plant, cut stems that are three to five inches long.
- Prepare the stems for planting. Strip the leaves from the lower third of each stem. For the fastest results, dip the bottom of each stem in rooting hormone to encourage root growth—however, this step isn’t necessary.
- Plant the cuttings. Plant each cutting by burying the lower inch of the stem in potting soil.
- Keep moist. While the new plants are growing roots and getting established, keep the soil evenly moist.
- Transplant to the flower bed. After four weeks, your cuttings should have grown roots. Choose and prepare a spot in the garden that gets at least six hours of direct sunlight a day, and transplant each cutting to the garden, giving each plant a foot of space on each side for growth.
How to Plant Baby’s Breath From Established Plants
If you don’t want to plant baby’s breath from seeds or stem cuttings, you can grow an established baby’s breath plant in your garden:
- Choose the site. Baby’s breath prefers full sun, so pick a spot that gets at least six hours of direct sunlight a day.
- Prepare the soil. In terms of soil, baby’s breath will do best in well-draining soil a little on the sandy side, with plenty of organic matter and a pH between 7.0 to 7.5.
- Plant the baby’s breath. Plant the sprouted baby’s breath plant in a hole that’s just a few inches wider and deeper than its root ball. Next, fill in the space to keep the plant secure and upright.
- Stake the plant, if necessary. If the stems are having a hard time staying upright, insert a stake beside the plant and secure it gently.
- Water. Immediately after planting, water the area gently to help the soil settle.
- Take cuttings. Once your baby’s breath plant establishes its roots, you can take cuttings from the flower and plant them to spread the baby’s breath throughout your garden.
How to Grow and Care for Baby’s Breath
Once your baby’s breath is in the ground, it only requires basic maintenance to thrive:
- Water. After your baby’s breath is established, it is drought-tolerant and can handle periods of dry soil. Water your baby’s breath occasionally by moistening the soil every week or so; keep an eye on the plants to see what watering schedule is best for your area. If your plants are struggling with a fungal infection, water only at the base or install a drip system to avoid getting the flowers and branches wet.
- Stake. Baby’s breath plants can grow up to four feet tall, so they may need staking to help establish themselves upright. If you find your baby’s breath bushes leaning to one side, insert a thin stake (like bamboo) near the roots and fasten the plant to them with a loop or two of twine.
- Prune. While baby’s breath plants don’t require deadheading(a process in which you trim old blooms to encourage new growth), you may find that your baby’s breath bushes need pruning to help the white flowers look their best around your other garden plants. Simply trim back stray branches to keep the bush the desired shape.
- Overwinter. If you get especially cold or wet winters, overwinter your perennial baby’s breath by cutting the plant back after the last bloom and covering it with mulch.
Grow your own food with Ron Finley, the self-described "Gangster Gardener." Get the MasterClass Annual Membership and learn how to cultivate fresh herbs and vegetables, keep your house plants alive, and use compost to make your community - and the world - a better place.