How to Grow Gypsophila Plants in your Garden

Gardener's HQ Guide to Growing Baby's Breath, Gyp, & Soap Root

Members of the Gypsophila plant genus can be hardy annuals or perennials.

They range in height from 15 to 90 cm (0 6 to 36 inches) in height. Gypsophila plants have lance shaped, linear to triangular leaves and wire like stems.

They bloom from late in spring through to summer, and carry small massed flowers of white.

Gypsophila muralis
Gypsophila muralis by karitsu.

A commonly grown Gypsophila plant in the garden is Baby's Breath.

Gypsophila elegans
Gypsophila elegans – Baby's Breath by Hyougushi's.

Gypsophila Video

The following video contains pictures of growing Gypsophila plants

Gypsophila Growing and Care Guide

Common Names: Baby's Breath, Gyp, Soap Root. Gypsophila: Common; Annual; Dwarf; Alpine; Bunge's; Sharp leaved.
Family: Caryophyllaceae.
Life Cycle: Hardy annual. Hardy perennial.
Family: The Gypsophila genus belongs to the Caryophyllaceae family (Carnations & Pinks).
Cultivars: Commonly grown Gypsophila cultivars include: Bristol Fairy; Compacta Plena; Covent Garden; Danfestar; Double snowflake; Fairy Perfect; Festival white; Flamingo; Perfekta; Pink fairy; Pink Star; Schneeflocke; and Snowflake.
Height: 2 to 48 inches (5 to 120 cm).
Native: Europe, Asia, North Africa.
Growing Region: Annuals: zones 2 to 10. Perennials: zones 3 to 9.
Flowers: Early spring and summer.
Flower Details: White, violet. Small massed flowers. Five petals.
Foliage: Narrow. Linear to triangular. Sickle-shaped.
Sow Outside:
Annuals: cover seed. Sow every three weeks from just before the last frost until mid-summer. Spacing 6 to 16 inches (15 to 40 cm).
Perennials: cover seed. Early spring or autumn. Spacing 16 to 48 inches (40 to 120 cm).
Sow Inside:
Annuals: start outdoors.
Perennials: use peat pots. Germination time: one to two weeks. Temperature 70°F (21°C). Eight to ten weeks in advance. Transplant outdoors before the last frost or in autumn.
Requirements: Full sunlight. Good drainage. Soil pH 6.5 to 8. Average soil. Chalky soils. Crowd plants. Provide support for larger varieties. Regular watering. Deadhead. Cut back perennials in autumn. Do not let sit in the wet in winter. Propagate: cuttings can be taken from perennials at the start of summer.
Miscellaneous: Invasive species in many areas of North America. Commonly used in floral arrangements. Name is derived from the fact that it likes to grow on Gypsum and other chalks. Contains large amounts of saponins and is thus traditionally used in the washing of textiles.

How to Grow Gypsophila

When growing perennial Gypsophila species they can be sown out at the start of spring or autumn. Annual Gypsophila such as annual Baby's breath should be sown at three week intervals from march until the start of July. In both cases lightly cover the Gypsophila seeds once sown.

Spacing is species dependent; grow small varieties at about 50 cm apart and larger ones from 60 cm to 1.2 m apart. Ideally grow them in a sunny part of the garden.

They will grow in an average soil but like a pH close to neutral (6.5 to 7.5), and good drainage.

If you plan to start Gypsophila indoors then start off about six weeks (annuals) to ten weeks (perennials) in advance; transplant annuals out after the last frost; transplant perennial Gypsophila plants before the last frost or at the start of autumn.

Caring for Gypsophila

It is fairly easy to look after Gypsophila species such as Baby breath flowers. Lightly water and feed annual varieties; regularly water perennial Gypsophila. Once they have finished blooming cut back the stems; this should result in a further bloom. If you want more plants then propagate perennial Gypsophila by taking cuttings at the start of summer.

Plant Specific Growing Gypsophila Guides

Gypsophila paniculata

The following is largely focused on the Gypsophila paniculata ‘Bristol Fairy’ cultivar, but the advice should suffice for other cultivars. The common name for this species is Baby’s breath, though it is usually referred to in the floristry trade as Gyp. It is a native of Europe and Asia.

Baby’s breath is an herbaceous perennial that usually reaches 60 to 120 cm (2–4 feet) in height, and as a spread of a similar amount. Stems are slender. Leaves are narrow and greyish. Flowers are small, showy, double, sprayed, and white.

They are long lasting with a long blooming season, typically from mid-spring through to the end of summer. Cutting back spent Gypsophila paniculata flowers will encourage further blooming.

Plants perform well in average, alkaline soils (pH 7–7.5) that are well-drained. It does not like freestanding water in the winter (this will lead to stems rotting). Locate in a sunny part of the garden.

Although diseases and insects are not particularly problematic be on the look out for aster yellows and the necrotrophic fungus botrytis. If you require further Gypsophila paniculata then propagate by root grafting towards the end of winter (graft stem scions onto root sections). Plants look great as part of a perennial border.

Gypsophila paniculata
Gypsophila paniculata, conocida como "velo de novia" by Enrique Dans

Due to its popularity in gardens and the floristry trade it is no surprise that Baby’s breath plants have escaped and become invasive in many parts of the USA, they are particularly a problem in the Great Lakes and Pacific Northwest regions.

Gypsophila repens

Common names for the perennial Gypsophila repens, include Creeping Gypsophila, Creeping Baby’s breath, and Alpine Gypsophil. It is a native of C & S mountainous regions of Europe.

Plants are prostrate and semi-evergreen, reaching a height of about 15 to 20 cm (6–8 inches). They typically spread by about twice their height (approx. 40 to 50 cm; 16 to 20 inches).

Plants bloom throughout the summer, carrying lilac, pale purple, or white star shaped flowers; these are about 1 cm (0.4 inches) in size.

Gypsophila repens
Gypsophila repens L. by Udo Schmidt

As Gypsophila repens are mat-forming they look great in a rock garden, patios, and is oft used in flower arrangements.

The scientific name of the species refers to the fact that it loves chalk (Gypsum). So it is no surprise that it performs best in chalky, alkaline soils.

Good drainage is very important, especially in the winter, where plants may be subject to stem rot. Ideally grow in full sunlight, and cut back after flowering to encourage a second bloom.

Gypsophila elegans

Common names for Gypsophila elegans Gypsophila elegans include Showy Baby’s breath and Annual baby’s breath. Plants are annuals that are native to Europe and South-west Asia. A commonly grown cultivars include Gypsophila elegans ‘Covent Garden’.

These plants have a much simpler nature than the Gypsophila repens and Gypsophila paniculata that are beloved by florists, but this not to say that they do not make a good cut-plant, indeed they look great in a vase and can last for up to a week. Flowers are single and unscented.

Gypsophila elegans range from 25 to 50 cm (10¬–20 inches) in height, and should be spread at about 30 to 40 cm (12–16 inches). The stem is bright green, and branched towards the top.

Leaves are lanceolate-linear and opposite. They bloom from mid-late summer. Their flowers are larger than the perennial members of the species, typically reaching 1.5 cm (0.6 inches). White flowers have five petals, with are violet stripes.

Annual baby’s breath
Gypsophila elegans by Ángel Hernansáez

Like other Gypsophila, they will perform best in full sunlight in a chalky, slightly-alkaline average soil, and good drainage, especially in the winter, is very important.

Cutting back plants will encourage growth and further blooms. Plants make great container plants and also look great towards or at the front of borders.