After coming across this image on Pinterest with the note “Kochia, the summer pot plant in India” — I had questions.
First — what is Kochia (never heard of it, have you?).
Second – How do I grow this? Clearly it is spectacular in that it looks like some sort of highly touchable by-product of the Lorax movie.
And then Third — what is the drawback? (i.e. is it invasive, impossible to grow where I am? impossible to find? etc?).
So here are the answers as best I can find – maybe you know more?
Kochia (Kochia scoparia) also goes by burning bush (but not the same as the one that is illegal in MA – that is Euonymus alata) or fireweed. The names comes from the spectacular fall color (who hasn’t seen these images on pinterest?).
It is also called ‘poor mans alfalfa’ (which I can understand given the health drawbacks to cattle who are overgrazed on it — according to this article). But it is prized as an ornamental annual. Which leads me to my next question — why haven’t I ever seen this in my garden centers? (I’ve got no answer for that one)
Kochia is an annual started from seed — I am buying my test seeds here. (yes, I am giving it a go this year). Have you grown it? I would love some advice.
So the drawbacks — besides it being a slight misfit, it grows wild across most of the US – but it is not an all bad (at least according to my reading) weed in the plains states. From what I can tell it is one of the those plants that with a little management, it can go from marginally bad and annoying to highly useful as a drought and pest resistant feed crop, cover crop or soil retainer.
But I am more concerned with how it will look in my containers…. and if I am going to start some sort of out of control New England Kochia problem. Bottom line, I want a fast easy grower (to look just like the India picture) that doesn’t make me into an environmental monster.
I don’t think I’m going to have a problem, at least with that last part. Soils here in my garden are very acidic (and it likes alkaline soil) so I suspect errant seeds are unlikely to go out of control (plus it is already in the wild and it isn’t invasive). Am I right in my assessment? Tell me, what do you know about this plant?