Kochia scoparia for Container Gardens?

Kochia (Kochia scoparia )

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-trichophylla-Burning-Bush2z (1)

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?

images from cnseed and  log house plants


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8 Responses to Kochia scoparia for Container Gardens?

  1. Wow. I want to know what part of India. Will it cope with the dry heat of the Sonoran desert? Because I LOVE that green…

  2. A friend who grow it as annual here in Wisconsin did have problems with it reseeding in the following year. Not sure just how weedy it is, but she was not very impressed with it as an ornamental plant.

  3. Kochia scoparia (Bassia scoparia, is its new name) is on the federal list of introduced, invasive and noxious weeds for the U.S. (see: http://plants.usda.gov/java/invasiveOne?startChar=B). In NE UT, it basically grew into a tumbleweed-type plant (largest specimens were ~3-4 feet tall and wide). As I recall it’s a tough plant that will grow where few other types of plants grow but grows particularly well in disturbed soils. The more water it gets, the bigger it gets. I don’t recall it turning red; it just browns up into a scratchy ball of stems.
    I wouldn’t say that it is a handsome plant. Although the Pinterest image, with the red plants in a pattern is nice, an individual plant is really not that nice looking.
    I suspect that this plant would take over a container, only leaving space for trailing plants.

  4. If this is even remotely related to the Kochia that grows in Wyoming I would never plant a single seed. There are very few ways to get rid of it other than pulling ,burning or very specialized herbicides. It reseeds like crazy and is very invasive.

  5. I just found this site by hunting for this wonderful plant and I get a wonderful plant AND a wonderful website to put into my rss feed reader at the same time! Who needs to win the lottery :) Cheers for sharing what you know about this incredibly promising plant that I can hopefully source here in Australia :)

  6. Holy cow! Given some of the comments, I’ll not risk trialing it myself, but if it turns out to play nicely with others in your garden, let us know. I’ve never seen anything like that and, as a grower, that piques my interest! Your post was sent to us by an IGC customer :)

  7. I grew it in my garden as a child (parents gave me and my siblings plots in which to plant flowers and care for them. In the Autumn is was always a spectacular magenta! I’m planning on growing it again this coming year. Anything with seeds can get out of hand if you don’t take care to maintain it.

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