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How to Grow and Care for Kochia

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Kochia–commonly called summer cypress or burning bush–is a summer annual grown for its feathery, soft, dense foliage. It is often grown as an accent in a bed or border or as a quick-growing summer hedge.

Kochia is bright green when young and through the summer; it turns red as it matures and can be bright red in autumn. Kochia is grown for its foliage; its green summer flowers are insignificant.

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Kochia will reseed itself, especially in mild-winter regions. The profusion of volunteers can become a nuisance if not controlled.

The Kochia genus is synonymous with the genus Bassia.

Get to know Kochia

  • Plant type: Annual
  • Growing zones and range: All zones as an annual
  • Hardiness: Half hardy, frost will end Kochia’s growing season
  • Height and width: 36 inches tall and wide
  • Foliage: Feathery, alternate leaves are hairy, 1 to 2 in. long, narrow, pointed, and attached directly to the stems.
  • Flowers:  Small, green flowers and seeds are produced in narrow heads at the leaf axils. 
  • Bloom time: In summer, blooms are insignificant
  • Uses: Colorful accent, fast-growing temporary hedge
  • Common name: Fireweed, burning bush, or summer cypress
  • Botanical name: Kochia scoparia (syn. Bassia scoparia)
  • Family name: Chenopodiaceae
  • Origin: Eurasia
Kochia, Bassia scoparia, also called summer cypress and burning burning bush.
Kochia, Bassia scoparia, also called summer cypress and burning bush.

Where to plant Kochia

  • Plant Kochia in full sun.
  • Gros Kochia in average, well-drained soil.

Kochia uses

  • Kochia can be used as a formal accent in a border and makes a good low-growing temporary hedge.
  • Kochia is a good choice for containers mixed with low-growing or trailing plants.
  • Kochia foliage can be used in cut flower arrangements.

When to plant Kochia

  • Kochia should be seeded as early as the soil temperature reaches 50°F and anytime thereafter throughout the growing season.
  • Set out transplants after all danger of frost has passed.

Planting and spacing Kochia

  • Space Kochia 24 inches apart or as close as 8 inches apart for a hedge.

How to water and feed Kochia

  • Water Kochia moderately until it becomes established; it grows well in hot-summer regions.
  • Apply an all-purpose fertilizer early in the season.

Kochia care

  • Growth is slow early in the season but increases with warm weather.
  • In mild winter regions, Kochia reseeds itself, sometimes in profusion.
  • Kochia can be sheared to any desired shape or height.

Kochia Pests and Diseases

  • Kochia is pest and disease free.
Kochia in autumn season
Kochia in the autumn season

Kochia propagation

  • Seed germinate in 10 to 15 days at 50°F (10°C).
  • Soak seeds for 24 hours before sowing.

Kochia varieties to grow

  • Kochia scoparia, summer cypress, burning bush. Grows to 36 inches tall; feathery leaves are bright green during summer, and bright red in fall.
  • K. s. trichophylla, burning bush. Foliage turns scarlet to maroon at first frost.

Kochia frequently asked questions

Q: What conditions does Kochia favor?

A: Plant Kochia in full sun in dry soil. Kochia does best in regions where summers are hot. Kochia is an annual with a shrublike habit.

Q: Is Kochia a shrub? It’s called burning bush.

A: Kochia is an annual with a rounded habit that looks like a sheared evergreen. It grows three feet tall and looks like a hedge when used in a border or boundary planting. During hot weather, the foliage is light green, but in autumn, it turns a rich red.

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Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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