Plants annual, glabrous. Stems erect, often branched, 0.8–1.5 m. Leaves: petiole 1/2 as long as blade; blade ovate, elliptic, rhombic, or lanceolate, mostly 4–12 × 1.4–6 cm, base tapering, margins entire, usually undulate, apex acuminate and short-mucronate; distal leaf blades green, red, scarlet, maroon, purple, yellow, and cream (unique to A. tricolor). Inflorescences axillary glomerules. Bracts of pistillate flowers ovate to lanceolate, 5–6 mm. Pistillate flowers: tepals 3, narrowly ovate to lanceolate, 5–6 mm, apex aristate; style branches spreading; stigmas 2–3. Staminate flowers intermixed with pistillate; tepals 3; stamens 3. Utricles ovoid, 2–2.5 mm, rugose, dehiscence regularly circumscissile. Seeds black or brownish black, subglobose, 1 mm diam., shiny.
Phenology: Flowering summer–fall.
Habitat: Locally escaped from cultivation, disturbed areas
Introduced; La., Mich., Mo., native in tropical Asia.
Amaranthus tricolor is widely cultivated as a garden plant for its showy, often variegated, distal leaves of striking colors—red, scarlet, maroon, purple, yellow, cream, and green. Other cultivated varieties with green leaves are sometimes cultivated as a potherb. Escaped plants sometimes occur near places of cultivation; we have no evidence of widespread establishment.