Amaranthus tricolor (vegetable group)

Common Name: Joseph's coat 
Type: Annual
Family: Amaranthaceae
Zone: 2 to 11
Height: 1.00 to 4.00 feet
Spread: 0.50 to 1.00 feet
Bloom Time: Flowers not showy
Sun: Full sun
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Annual, Vegetable
Flower: Insignificant
Leaf: Colorful


Sow seeds in full sun about 1" apart in warm (70 degrees F) fertile, well-drained soil, covering lightly with fine soil or thin sprinkling of grass mulch to hold the small seeds in place. Thin to 6" apart in rows 12" apart. Best results are obtained if plants are provided ample water and fertilizer, especially nitrogen, to promote leaf growth. Pinch off terminal buds to encourage branching, harvest individual leaves and cut back to 6" to encourage lateral growth for successive harvests. Cut young tender leaves once or twice a week until plants start to set seeds.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Amaranthus tricolor originating in South Central Mexico but now has worldwide distribution. It produces generous quantities of large tender and nutritious oval leaves (medium-green overlaid with a burgundy cast and resembling coleus).

Those strains identified as vegetable amaranth are selected for their culinary attributes. Others, identified usually as Joseph’s-coat cultivars, have been selected for their colorful foliage.

Genus name comes from the Greek word amarantos meaning unfading in reference to the long-lasting flowers of some species.

Specific epithet means three-colored.


Chewing insects such as cucumber beetles and Japanese beetles may damage leaves. Floating row covers can be affective deterrents.

Garden Uses

Amaranthus is excellent raw in salads, used as a steamed vegetable, and included in soups and stews. Other strains of Amaranthus tricolor bear large leaves in brilliant shades of red, yellow, bronze and green on handsome plants reaching up to 6 feet high. They make a strong statement in large borders, in large beds, and even in pots.