You probably recognize celosia for its use in dried wreaths and floral arrangements. Deep red is the most common color, like the ‘Arrabona Red’ variety that comes in bold red-orange color.
Yet, purple, yellow, and pink celosia flower varieties have gained popularity in recent years.
This annual plant has a velvety, ruffled form that is often compared to a cockscomb, or even a brain. In fact, it’s commonly known as cockscomb or wool flower.
It seems like an exotic flower, but it’s not difficult to grow in the home garden. It adds a striking accent to other flowers in the garden.
If you’re wondering about celosia, how to plant it, care for it, and grow it, we’re here to answer all your questions.
How to Grow Celosia
Celosia is one plant that requires minimum maintenance. But let’s look at ideal conditions in terms of soil, light, drainage, and more.
Though it’ll thrive in nutrient-poor soil, you’ll aid its growth by adding soil amendments. Well-aged cow manure, peat, and leaf compost will all promote its growth.
Here’s how you can unleash the full potential of your cockscomb flowers:
- Expose the plants to at least eight hours of direct sunlight a day.
- Plant it in well-drained soil. Otherwise, the plant is likely to develop root rot.
- Tall plants may have trouble supporting the weight of their blooms. In this case, stake the plants to provide much-needed support.
- Apply a 3 to 6-inch layer of soil amendment 10 to 12 inches deep into your garden beds.
- Add sulfur, should you need to lower the pH and lime should you need to raise it. The plant prefers a pH of 6.0–7.0.
- Although drought-tolerant, water your cockscomb flowers regularly. Working in a 3-inch layer of organic mulch can help control weeds and keep the soil moist.
Popular Varieties of Celosia Flowers
Is there not much variety to your garden aside from the zinnias and marigolds? Do you feel that the flower species you grow are a dime a dozen?
Growing celosias can help here. With over 50 species within the Celosia genus, they’re perfect for adding variety to your garden. They’re often used as ornamental plants, as cut flowers, or dry arrangements.
Native to tropical regions of Southeast Asia and South America, celosias can be divided into three groups.
- A crested type, Celosia cristata, also known as cockscomb celosia. The flower heads resemble the structures of a brain and in some varieties a rooster’s comb. Hence the name. It blooms in red, yellow, pink, white, and orange.
- A plume type, Celosia argentea, also known as plumed celosia. The flowers appear as feathery plumes and come in the shape of an arrowhead. They come in green-yellow and apricot-orange plumes. You’ll find them in plant shops under C. argentea or C. plumosa labels.
- A spike type, Celosia spicata, also known as wheat celosia. The flower heads resemble a head of wheat or a bottle brush. The flower colors are not as bright as with other types, but they come in rose-pink, white and dark red varieties.
Aside from being well-suited for use as cut flowers, cockscomb is great to add a splash of colors to your garden beds. Celosia argentea is most popular for growing in containers as houseplants.
The plants can grow up to 30 inches high, down to 10-12 in smaller varieties. While some dwarf varieties such as ‘Jewel Box,’ will grow only 6 to 8 inches tall.
Common Celosia Pests and Diseases
Common celosia diseases include powdery mildew, edema, and fungal leaf spot. These problems can usually be avoided through good cultural practices:
- Space the plants at least 6 to 12 inches apart so air circulates freely.
- Use soaker hoses instead of overhead sprinklers, which encourage the spread of disease. Avoid working in the garden when it’s wet.
- Mites can often infest cockscomb flowers, but in most cases, the damage isn’t severe. Plant them in a new location if you experience these pest problems.
- Root rot can be a common problem with poorly drained soils. If growing your Celosia argentea in pots, getting a pot with a drainage hole will keep the problem at bay.
Cockscomb Flowers: Frequently Asked Questions [With Answers]
Are Celosia Easy To Grow?
Celosia is commonly described as easy to grow. As long as you satiate its soil and sunlight requirements, the plant will do well. It will spread on its own if left unattended.
How Do You Plant Celosia?
You’ll find celosia in nurseries in late spring, which is the simplest way to grow them. It doesn’t tolerate frost, so you should plant it outside only after summer weather has arrived.
When buying nursery plants, check the roots. Avoid plants with tangled, crowded roots, which will grow slowly or not at all.
Alternatively, you can start celosia from seed. You can sow seeds directly outside after the last frost or start them indoors. Here are a few planting tips to have in mind:
- If starting seeds outdoors, sow directly into the ground or in a pot.
- If starting indoors, plant seeds six to eight weeks before the last frost. Soil temperature should be kept at 70-75 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Plant the seeds in containers or in peat or coir pots that are transplanted with the seedling. Cockscomb can be fussy about having its roots disturbed.
- Move outdoors two weeks after the last frost, or wait longer if it is still getting cold at night. The seedling will be ready for transplant when it gets 4 inches tall.
Barely cover the seeds with soil, and they will sprout in six to 14 days. The plant grows best when it’s given a layer of mulch.
Should You Prune the Plant?
You can pinch back your celosia stems to encourage a bushier plant, but it isn’t mandatory.
By pinching it, you will also encourage the growth of plumes and get a more uniform look.
- When plants are 8–12 inches tall, remove any dead leaves, limbs, and flowers. Use it by pinching the stem with your thumb and index finger or use gardening scissors.
- Remove old blooms as they fade to keep the plant looking its best.
Can You Plant Celosia in Pots?
Cockscomb can be grown in containers, resulting in a more compact plant. This is one of the most effortless ways to grow the plant. Flower clusters will grow plenty of seeds that will propagate without much work on your part.
Here are the steps you need to take:
- Spread the seeds in a tray filled with a high-quality potting mix.
- Cover the seeds with ¼ inch potting soil.
- Mist the soil with water and cover the tray with plastic wrap. Do this every day as needed to keep it moist. The seeds will not germinate if they dry out, so this point is important.
If kept indoors, keep the plant on a windowsill or in a sunroom so it receives plenty of sun.
Can You Take Cuttings From Celosia?
Yes, and they are easy to root. You can place them directly into their final containers and leave them to root on their own. The process will take three to four weeks.
You can choose to root your cuttings in water or sand.
Do Celosia Plants Come Back Every Year?
Celosia is considered a tender perennial in zones 9 and 10, or a hardy annual otherwise. In warmer climate areas, you can get it to grow back year after year. In most climates, though, they will need to be replanted each year.
Yet, the plant is also known for its unpredictable behavior. Although an annual, cockscomb will often reseed and give you plenty of flowers for the next season.
Do Celosia Plants Spread?
Once cockscomb is established, it will self-seed and spread throughout the garden.
Do Slugs Eat the Plant?
Yes, slugs will feast on the plant’s foliage, leaving large holes in the leaves, or eating whole leaves in their entirety.
This is usually a problem only in damp weather conditions. You can tell where a slug has been because of the slime trail that they leave behind them.
Does the Plant Attract Bees?
Celosia does attract bees and other pollinators, such as butterflies and wasps. One of the best ways to help pollinate your vegetable garden is to plant celosias nearby. They will ensure pollination and fruit set on vegetable plants.
Does Celosia Bloom All Summer?
Cockscomb does not begin blooming until late summer. Yet, you can have your blossoms all through late fall.
Does Celosia Need Full Sun?
Celosia can be grown in full sun, but it also does well in partial shade. It’s best to plant your cockscomb seeds when temperatures hit over 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
Is Celosia an Annual Or a Perennial?
In USDA hardiness zones 10-11, celosia grows as a perennial, since it can survive the winter. In other zones, it is an annual plant.
How Do You Keep Celosia Blooming?
Celosia benefits from fertilization every four weeks or so. Add nutrient-rich compost or liquid nitrogen fertilizer.
Sometimes you’ll suspect nutritional deficiencies. If so, fertilize your celosia with seaweed or fish emulsion to encourage blooming.
In the hottest part of the summer, revitalize celosia with a liquid fertilizer.
How Far Apart Should Celosia Be Planted?
Cockscomb seedlings should be planted 8 inches apart. The only exception is when you’re planting an especially large variety. Then they should be spaced about a foot apart.
How Long Do Celosia Plants Last?
Celosia blooms for up to 10 weeks, and it will live until the first frost when it can be cut and dried. You can promote further growth by pruning dead flowers.
How Long Does It Take for Celosia Seeds to Germinate?
Celosia seeds germinate within six to 14 days. After this, it takes celosia about four months to grow to maturity and begin flowering.
What Can I Plant With Dragon’s Breath?
Other varieties of celosia also make a nice display. Different strains can grow to heights from 6 inches to 3 feet and can add variety to your garden.
Why Is My Celosia Dying?
There are a variety of reasons your celosia may be dying. Check that the soil pH is between 6.0 and 7.0 and that plants are getting full sunlight to partial shade. Loamy soil is best. Celosias can handle clay soil, but combining them with too much rainfall can cause their deaths.
Lack of sufficient sunshine and irrigation can lead to diseases like stem rot or leaf spot.
Soil should be kept moist, as celosia needs consistent moisture. Celosia will wilt if it’s not getting enough water, and it does best when provided with a layer of mulch.
Will Celosia Reseed Itself?
Yes, cockscomb will propagate itself if left to its own devices. It needs no assistance from the
gardener to reseed itself.
If you want your cockscomb flowers for another year, leave some blooms at the end of the season and they will reseed themselves.
Will Celosia Survive Winter?
Celosia will not survive winter in most zones, as it does not tolerate cold well. However, it is grown as a perennial in USDA hardiness zones 10-11.
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For More Information about Celosia, visit the following sites:
Texas A&M University covers Celosia
New York Botanical Garden covers Should I cut dead flowers off of my celosia?
Celosia plumosa from the University of Florida IFAS Extension.
YouTube has a great video about the basics of cockscomb flowers.
When she’s not writing about gardening, food, and canning, Julie Christensen enjoys spending time in her garden, which includes perennials, vegetables, and fruit trees. She’s written hundreds of gardening articles for the Gardening Channel, Garden Guides, and San Francisco Gate, as well as several e-books.