Slender-stemmed, much-branched plants are upright or spreading, ranging from 3 in. to 4 ft. tall. Bloom profusely in summer, covering themselves in clusters of tiny single or double flowers in white, pink, or rose. Leaves (sparse when plants are in bloom) are typically blue green. Use for airy look in borders and bouquets and for contrast with large-flowered, coarse-textured plants. Dwarf kinds are ideal for rock gardens, for trailing from pockets in walls or over tops of dry rock walls.
G. cerastioides. Perennial. Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. Native to the Himalayas. Gray leaves may be spoon shaped or pointed-oval; they form a mat to 3 in. high and twice as broad. Clustered flowers, 12 in. across, vary from pink-veined white to pure pink. Use in rock gardens or between stepping stones.
G. elegans. Annual. Zones US, MS, LS, CS, TS; USDA 6-11. Native to Asia Minor, the Caucasus, southern Ukraine. Upright grower to 112 ft. high and wide. Lance-shaped, rather fleshy leaves to 3 in. long. Profuse single white flowers to 12 in. wide or wider; pink and rose forms are also available. Plants live only 5 to 6 weeks; for continuous bloom, sow seed in open ground every 3 to 4 weeks from late spring into summer. Sow in fall and winter in the Tropical South. Excellent cut flower.
G. paniculata. BABY'S BREATH. Perennial. Zones US, MS, LS, CS; USDA 6-9. Native to central Asia, central and eastern Europe. This is the classic filler in bouquets. To 3 ft. or taller and as broad. Slender, sharp-pointed leaves 2124 in. long. Single, very tiny white flowers (about 116 in. across), hundreds in a spray. 'Bristol Fairy' is an improved, more billowy form to 4 ft. high, covered with double blossoms 14 in. wide. Florists' favorite is 'Perfekta' ('Perfecta'), which bears even larger flowers (to about 12 in. wide). Dwarf, double-flowered forms include white-blossomed 'Compacta Plena', 112 ft. high, and pink 'Viette's Dwarf', 1215 in. high.
Add lime to strongly acid soils before planting. Perennial kinds are not always easy to transplant (especially G. paniculata, which has deep, carrot-like roots). If possible, do not disturb them often. Protect roots from gophers; protect tender new growth from snails and slugs. To encourage repeat bloom on perennial sorts, cut back flowering stems before seed clusters form. Perennial species are usually short lived in the Coastal and Tropical South; treat as annuals there.