You probably recognize celosia (Celosia argentea var cristata) for its use in dried wreaths and floral arrangements, as well as fresh arrangements. Deep rust red is the most common color, although purple, yellow or 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 woolflower. Celosia seems like an exotic flower, but it’s not difficult to grow in the home garden. It makes a striking accent to other flowers in the garden. Dry it in the fall for use in dried arrangements.
You’ll find celosia plants in nurseries in late spring, which is the simplest way to grow it. It doesn’t tolerate frost and should be planted outside only after summer weather has arrived. Celosia needs rich soil to support its fast growth. Dig plenty of manure or compost into the soil before planting. These organic amendments also improve drainage, which is important because celosia doesn’t tolerate wet conditions.
When buying nursery plants, check the roots. Avoid plants with tangled, crowded roots, which will grow slowly or not at all. Be gentle when planting celosia because its roots are easily damaged during transplanting. Plant celosia in full sun or partial shade.
Alternatively, you can start celosia indoors four weeks before the last frost. Spread the seeds in a tray filled with high-quality potting mix. Cover the seeds with ¼ inch potting soil. Celosia doesn’t need light to germinate and can actually be hindered by it. Mist the soil with water and cover the tray with plastic wrap. Mist the soil every day as needed to keep it moist. Celosia seeds will not germinate if they dry out, so this point is important. Store the seeds in a location with daytime temperatures between 80 and 85 degrees, and nighttime temperatures between 65 to 70 degrees.
Once the plants stand 4 inches tall, they can be moved outdoors. Alternatively, if you live in a mild climate, you can sow celosia directly in the garden. Celosia grows quickly under the right conditions, namely consistently moist, but not soggy, soil. Taller plants might need staking. Apply a balanced fertilizer every six weeks throughout the growing season, especially if growth slows.
Celosia Pests and Diseases
Celosia suffers from a few diseases, including powdery mildew, oedema and fungal leaf spot. These problems can usually be avoided through good cultural practices. Space celosia at least 6 to 12 inches apart so air circulates freely. Use soaker hoses instead of overhead sprinklers, which encourage the spread of disease, and avoid working in the garden when it’s wet. Fungicides are helpful, but rarely necessary for this annual plant. In severe cases, remove and discard diseased plants.
Nematodes or mites can occasionally infest celosia, but in most cases, the damage isn’t severe. Plant celosia in a new location if you experience these pest problems.
Varieties of Celosia Flowers
The ‘Sparkler’ series is a favorite for dried and cut flowers. These plants come in a variety of hues and have strong stems, making them an ideal choice for arrangements.
‘Chief’ is a series of plants that grow 3 to 4 feet tall. These plants are also used in dry arrangements.
For use in the garden, consider ‘Jewel Box,’ a dwarf variety that grows only 6 to 8 inches tall.
Celosia plumosa is a close relative, but its flowers appear as feathery plumes, rather than compact mounds. This variety is also seen in dried or fresh arrangements, where it adds an airy look. Try ‘Kimono’ or ‘Geisha.’
Common Questions and Answers About Celosia/Cockscomb
by Erin Marissa Russell
Are celosia easy to grow?
Celosia is commonly described as easy to grow and can be planted outdoors in USDA zones 2-10. Choose a spot that gets full sun to partial shade. The one thing celosia can be fussy about transplanting, so be sure to start seeds in a way that allows you to move them without disturbing their roots. You can either sow seeds directly outside after the last frost or start them indoors, in peat or coir pots that are planted with the seedling when transplanted or in the container they’ll stay in once moved outdoors. If starting indoors, plant seeds six to eight weeks before the last frost, and move outdoors two weeks after your last frost—later if it’s still cold at night. Soil temperature should be kept at 70-75 degrees Fahrenheit if seeds are started indoors.
Are celosia indoor or outdoor plants?
In USDA Hardiness Zones 2-10, celosia can be grown outdoors in full sun to partial shade. It is a perennial in zones 9 and 10, and can also be grown indoors as a houseplant.
Can celosia be a houseplant?
Celosia performs well in containers, and can easily be grown indoors as a houseplant.
Can you cut back celosia?
Generally, you don’t need to worry about cutting back, or pruning celosia, but some gardeners like to remove old flowers as they begin to fade to keep the plant looking as attractive as possible.
Can you eat celosia raw?
Celosia flowers can be eaten raw, tossed in a salad or added to a fresh wrap. It can be cooked and added to soups, stews, stir-frys, and more. It also makes a lovely garnish.
Can you grow celosia in pots?
Celosia can be grown in containers, resulting in a more compact plant than when planted directly in the soil.
Can you grow Dragon’s Breath indoors?
Dragon’s Breath can be grown indoors in protected areas, and bringing it indoors over the winter is actually recommended, as doing so reduces the overall stress on the plant, which will help it to survive longer.
Can you take cuttings from celosia?
Yes, celosia cuttings are easy to root, and can be placed directly into their final containers and left to root on their own, which should happen within three to four weeks.
Do celosia attract butterflies?
Celosia does attract butterflies, particularly the Dragon’s Breath variety.
Do celosia plants grow back every year?
Celosia is considered a tender perennial in zones nine and 10, or a hardy annual otherwise. Though in warmer climate areas, you can get your celosia to grow back year after year, in most climates, they will need to be replanted each year.
Do celosia plants spread?
Once celosia is firmly established in the ground, it will self-seed and spread throughout the garden.
Do slugs eat celosia?
Celosia are susceptible to slugs, and slugs will feast on celosia foliage, leaving large holes in the leaves, or eating whole leaves in their entirety. Usually only a problem in damp weather conditions, you can tell where a slug has been because of the slime trail that they leave behind them.
Do you pinch celosia?
Celosia stems can be pinched back as they grow to encourage a more bushier plant, but they are not generally pinched back in most cases.
Do you prune celosia?
Celosia generally doesn’t need to be pruned or cut back, though some gardeners prefer to remove old blooms as they fade to keep the plant looking its best.
Does celosia attract bees?
Celosia does attract bees and other pollinators. If planted near a vegetable garden, celosia will help to ensure pollination and fruit set on vegetable plants.
Does celosia bloom all summer?
Celosia does not begin blooming until late summer, but blossoms continue through late fall.
Does celosia need full sun?
Celosia can be grown in full sun, but it also does well in partial shade.
Does Dragon’s Breath spread?
Because Dragon’s Breath celosia is an annual that does not live through the winter and will need to be replaced the following year, it is not known for a tendency to spread.
Is celosia an annual or a perennial?
In USDA hardiness zones 10-11, celosia grows as a perennial, and in other zones, it is a full sun annual.
Is celosia Dragon’s Breath a perennial?
The Dragon’s Breath variety of celosia is an annual.
Is Dragon’s Breath celosia deer resistant?
Deer are not particularly interested in Dragon’s Breath celosia; they tend to pass it by in favor of other plants they like better.
How do you grow a celosia plant?
Gardeners in zones 2-10 can plant celosia outdoors, in locations ranging from full sun to partial shade. Especially tall plants may bend or break under the weight of their blooms or as a result of storms; provide with staking in these cases.
If starting plants from seeds, direct sow outdoors after the last frost in your area. If starting seeds indoors, plant them six to eight weeks before the last frost in your area. Soil temperature should be kept between 70-75 degrees Fahrenheit when grown indoors. Move outdoors two weeks after the last frost, or longer if it’s still cold at night. Celosia does not like to have its roots disturbed, so either sow seeds in the container where they will grow or into peat or coir pots that are buried when transplanted to avoid disturbing roots when the plants are moved outside. Barely cover the seeds with soil, and they will sprout in six to 14 days. Celosia grows best when it’s given a layer of mulch.
How do you keep a celosia blooming?
Celosia benefits from fertilization every four weeks or so with nutrient-rich compost or a liquid nitrogen fertilizer. If you suspect nutritional deficiencies, try fertilizing your celosia with seaweed or fish emulsion to encourage blooming. In the hottest part of the summer, you can revitalize celosia with a dilute liquid fertilizer solution.
How do you plant cockscomb seeds?
If starting seeds outdoors, direct sow into the ground or the pot where they will grow after the last frost. If starting indoors, plant seeds six to eight weeks before last frost. Either way, plant them in the container where they will grow or in peat or coir pots that are transplanted with the seedling, as celosia is fussy about having its roots disturbed. Barely cover the seeds with soil, and they will sprout within six to 14 days. Move celosia plants outdoors two weeks after the last frost, or wait longer if it is still cold at night in your area. Indoors, soil temperature should be kept between 70-75 degrees Fahrenheit.
How do you revive a dying celosia?
If your plant has blown over in a storm or broken due to heavy blooms, provide it with some staking to support its weight. You can re-energize a celosia that’s worn down by spraying with a dilute solution of liquid fertilizer, especially during the hottest part of the summer.
How do you start celosia seeds?
If starting seeds outdoors, sow directly into the ground or into the containers where they will stay after the last frost for your location. If starting indoors, sow into peat or coir pots or into their final containers six to eight weeks before last frost. Keep indoor soil temperature between 70-75 degrees Fahrenheit. Move outdoors two weeks after the last frost, or wait longer if it is still getting cold at night. It’s important not to disturb the roots of celosia when transplanting, which is why peat or coir pots that are buried when transplanted or planting in their eventual container is recommended.
How do you take care of a celosia plant?
Celosia is easy to grow in USDA Hardiness Zones 2-10. Choose a spot that gets full sun to partial shade. Tall plants may have trouble supporting the weight of their blooms or be broken by wind during storms. If this is the case, staking the plants can provide some much-needed support.
Celosia is particular about having its roots disturbed, so plant either in the beds or containers where it will grow or in peat or coir pots that allow you to plant the whole pot when transplanting. If planting indoors, start seeds six to eight weeks before the last frost in your area. Soil temperature for seeds started indoors should be 70-75 degrees Fahrenheit. Move plants outdoors two weeks after the last frost, or wait longer if it is still cold at night. If planting outdoors, direct sow after the last frost. Lightly cover seeds with soil, and they will sprout within six to 14 days. For best results, provide celosia plants with mulch.
How far apart should celosia be planted?
Celosia seedlings should be planted eight inches apart, unless you’re planting an especially large variety, when they should be spaced about a foot apart.
How long do celosia plants last?
Celosia blooms for up to 10 weeks, and plants will live until the first frost, when they can be cut and dried.
How long does it take for celosia seeds to germinate?
Celosia seeds germinate within six to 14 days.
How long does it take for celosia to grow?
After the germination period of six to 14 days after planting, it takes celosia about four months to grow to maturity and begin flowering.
How much sun does Dragon’s Breath need?
Dragon’s Breath and other varieties of celosia can be grown in full sun to partial shade.
How tall do celosia plants grow?
The height of a celosia plant depends on the specific variety; strains vary in maximum height from six inches to three feet tall.
What can I plant with Dragon’s Breath?
Dragon’s Breath and other varieties of celosia partner well with other low-maintenance annuals, such as zinnia (Zinnia elegans) or marigold (Tagetes or Calendula). They also naturally pair with others in the amaranth family, such as globe amaranth (Gomphrena globosa) and red amaranth (Amaranthus cruentus). Other varieties of celosia also make a nice display, as different strains can grow to heights from six inches to three feet.
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 sun to partial shade. Loamy soil is best; celosia can handle clay soil, but combining it 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, so water close to the ground to avoid getting the leaves or flowers wet, which can set the stage for fungal diseases. 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, celosia will propagate itself if left to its own devices. It needs no assistance from the gardener to reseed itself.
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.
For more information, visit the following sites:
Texas A&M University covers Celosia
Armstrong Growers covers Celosia
Balcony Container Gardening covers Caring for Cockscomb Flower in Containers
Balcony Garden Web covers Celosia: Growing and Planting Guide
Botanical Garden of the Pzarks covers Dragon’s Breath
Better Homes & Gardens covers Celosia
Burpee covers Growing Dragon’s Breath
Costa Farms covers Celosia
First Tunners covers Growing Celosia in a Polytunnel
Garden Guides covers Celosia Care
Gardener’s Network covers Caring for Celosia Flowers
Gardening Know How covers Dying Celosia Plants
Gardening with Charlie Nardozzi covers How to Grow Celosia
Greenhouse Product News covers Celosia
Greenhouse Product News covers Celosia Dragon’s Breath
Greenhouse Management covers Summer Celosia Production for Fall Sales
SFGate Homeguides covers Celosia Plant Care Information
SFGate Homeguides covers Edible Celosia
Horticulture Magazine covers Celosia Flowers To Attract Pollinators
houzz covers Celosia for Butterflies
Hunker covers Celosia Plant Care
Johnny’s Selected Seeds covers Celosia Production
Learning with Experts covers Slug Proof Plants
New York Botanical Garden covers Should I cut dead flowers off of my celosia?
Carithers flowers covers Celosia
National Academy of Sciences covers Celosia
North American Farmer covers Celosia
nwi.com covers What is Celosia?
plants.skh.com covers Celosia
Plant Care Today covers How to Care for the Celosia Plant
the flower expert covers Cockscomb
the spruce covers Celosia Flowers
West Coast Seeds covers Growing Celosia
Celosia plumosa from the University of Florida IFAS Extension.
Celosia Production as a Cut Flower from the University of Maryland.
YouTube has a great video about the basics of celosia.
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.