By: Justin Butts
Celosia comes from the Greek word keleos, which means “burning” – a perfect description for these flowers that look like red, orange, and yellow flames in the garden.
Celosia is an easy-to-grow annual in the Coastal Bend. Cockscomb, with its fascinating blooms that resemble a rooster’s comb, is the most popular variety. Plumed and spiked celosia are equally gorgeous with their unique flower shapes. Each variety grows to different heights, to satisfy different needs in the garden.
Crested celosia (Celosia cristata) is the cockscomb variety, available in vivid shades of red, white, pink, and a deep magenta. The flower heads of cockscomb can grow quite large and heavy for the stems. If multiple flowers emerge, or particularly large flowers, they may need to be staked or the stems could tip over or break.
Plumed celosia (Celosia argentea) offers flowers in yellow and orange hues that resemble a long feather with a pointed tip. Plumed celosia grows shorter than crested, about 12” in height, and makes nice low borders in the garden bed. Plumed varieties are less heat tolerant, as well. Plant plumed celosia to receive afternoon shade, perhaps from taller plants in the garden.
Spiked celosia (Celosia spicata) resembles heads of wheat. The white, pink, or red colors of spiked celosia are less vivid and bright than the other varieties, but the effect of the spiked flowers is quite dramatic in the garden. Spiked also grows taller, up to three feet.
To use as cut flowers, clip the plant at the base of the stem. The stems are tall and straight, perfect for a vase. Don’t cut flowers to stimulate new growth; once the flowers are cut, the plant will likely not regrow any blooms.
Spacing, 10” to 12”. Height, 12” to 36”. Plant in well-drained, richly composted soil. Must have eight hours sun: best with morning sun and some evening shade. Drought tolerant (to a degree) but requires even watering. Mulch about 2” to 3” with native leaves. Protect from wind to prevent soil drying out too quickly. Plant from transplants in May for summer flowers, or in late August for gorgeous fall color.
The flowers of cockscomb can grow quite large and heavy. If stems bend, stake flower or take immediately as a cut flower. Spiked celosia grows tallest, up to 36”, though the colors are less vivid. Plumed celosia, the shortest variety, grows to about 12”. Plant celosia strategically in the garden bed to serve as a dramatic backdrop or foreground for other flowers. Dwarf celosia makes beautiful low borders at the edge of the bed.
Celiosa comes in so many bright colors and textures – it is easy to fall in love with its universality. From plume shape to ruffles similar to a sea coral, these fun flowers are easy to dry after a flower arrangement fades – and the best part: it actually drops little tiny black seeds you can easily plant in your garden! They come in oranges, reds, yellows and fuchsias – vibrant tones to spice up any arrangement.
– Donna Titus, Always in Bloom, @alwaysinbloom
All celosia varieties make gorgeous cut flowers. The flowers maintain their rich colors up to two weeks in a vase on a table or shelf with plenty of sunshine but not too much heat. To preserve cockscomb through the winter, clip the flowers at the base of the stem and hang upside-down in a paper bag. Once fully dry, they will hold their vibrant colors all through the winter.