- Name also: Showy Baby’s Breath
- Family: Pink Family – Caryophyllaceae
- Growing form: Annual herb.
- Height: 20–50 cm (8–20 in.). Stem upper part branching, glabrous, bright green.
- Flower: Corolla regular (actinomorphic), white–reddish–violet, approx. 1.5 cm (0.6 in.) wide; petals 5, notched, violet-striped. Corona (an additional small corolla) absent. Calyx campanulate (bell-shaped), 5-lobed, white-striped, epicalyx absent. Stamens 10. Pistil of 2 fused carpels, styles 2. Inflorescence a lax, abundantly flowered cyme.
- Leaves: Opposite, stalkless. Blade lanceolate–almost linear, with entire margins.
- Fruit: 4-valved capsule.
- Habitat: Yards, waste ground, loading areas. Ornamental, sometimes an escape.
- Flowering time: July–August.
When people think about gypsophila, the first thing to come to mind is baby’s-breath (Gypsophila paniculata), with its airy, abundantly-branched inflorescence and thousands of small flowers. It is used in flower-bunches with roses and other large-flowered species and also in dried bouquets. The species is native to an area that stretches from central and eastern Europe to central Asia, where it grows on the steppe. Annual baby’s-breath, which is usually grown as a summer annual, has larger and usually whiter flowers than baby’s-breath. Its natural habitat is south-western Asia, but it sometimes escapes from gardens and jumps the fence into the Finish wild. It has sometimes also reached Finland mixed in with cultivated seeds.
The genus’s scientific name gypsophila, means ’likes gypsum’ and refers to its preferred habitat, which indeed many species are fond of. Finland has no gypsum, but there is plenty nitrogenous soil, which the genus also likes. In gardens they demand conditions similar to their natural habitat: open places and very rich sandy or moraine soil with good drainage. As is typical of dry-habitat plants its rootstock is usually powerfully developed, and it contains large amounts of saponins, i.e. organic compounds which foam vigorously in water and are able to dissolve fats. These have been used for washing textiles.
Annual baby’s-breath and baby’s-breath are cultivated in gardens as ornamentals, and two other genus gypsophila plants grow ferally in Finland. Fastigiate gypsophila (G. fastigiata) is protected, but annual gypsophila (G. muralis) is an annual that has become popular in recent years in hanging baskets.