Celosia has many colorful varieties and is easy to grow in a wide range of hardiness zones. The biggest concern is to keep the soil moist but not too wet to protect the roots from rotting.
This plant enjoys full sun, hence needs warm weather for germination and for thriving once mature. Interested in learning how to care for a celosia flower in the garden, keep reading.
|Origin||India, Africa, North and South America|
|Scientific Name||Celosia sp.|
|Common Names||Cockscomb Flower, Wool Flower, Brain Celosia, Flamingo Feather|
|Height||Up to 28 inches|
|Watering||Keep soil moist|
There are over 60 species of celosia plants that fall into three main categories: crested, plumed, and spiked.
The crested types of celosia belong to the Celosia cristata variety. They have flowers that resemble a rooster’s comb, hence the common name of ‘cockscomb flower.’ These flowers are also said to resemble to look of a brain or are often compared to coral. These flowers are typically available in vibrant and striking colors, such as dark red, and gold; however, it’s common for the plant to only produce one flower at a time. This variety is the largest of all the celosia plants.
This crested variety is compact, growing to just six inches tall, with a six-inch spread. It works well in rock gardens, container pots, or as a border and bedding plant. The striking flowers are very unusual looking, adding some great interest to gardens. The blooms of this variety are red, with fine lines of yellow running along the edge of some of the ruffled petals. It is very drought-tolerant and also has good resistance to high levels of heat, making it a good choice for adding color to desert gardens (Better Homes and Gardens).
The plumed types of celosia belong to the Celosia plumosa variety. They feature feathery soft flowers that have a velvety texture. The foliage of this variety is quite broad, forming a dense base from which the flowers stand high above.
‘Fresh Look Yellow’
This variety flowers heavily, so it is ideal for adding shocks of vibrant color to the garden. This particular variety grows to around 20 inches in height and is well suited to being grown both directly in the ground, as well as in container pots. The flowers are a striking shade of yellow, with a feathery appearance.
The spiked types of celosia belong to the Celosia spicata variety. The flowers resemble wheatgrass, and therefore, this type of celosia is also sometimes referred to as wheat celosia. The flowers of these varieties stand upright like tall candles and appear in more subtle colors compared to other celosia flowers. The plant produces such an abundance of flower stems that it can actually become so dense that it takes on the appearance of a shrub.
This variety of celosia can grow up to four feet tall, making it ideal for adding color to the back row of your garden. The flowers are a soft pink color and are especially good for making dried flower displays.
‘Intenz’ Celosia argentea
This variety of celosia features flowers that bear a striking resemblance to bottle brushes. They bloom in a soft lavender color, with a slightly more pronounced purple shade at the tip. As a small variety, this plant grows to around 12 inches in height, making it ideally suited to use in container pots and even in hanging baskets. The flowers bloom for most of the season, adding pretty color to the garden all summer long.
‘Glow Red’ Celosia argentea var. Cristata
This celosia variety has stunning bright pink flowers, but this is not the only interesting aspect of the plant. The foliage is also quite striking, as the green leaves feature subtle pink edging. This variety grows to around 14 inches in height, with its spiked flowers being held, pointing upwards above the foliage (Royal Horticultural Society).
Caring for Your Celosia
This plant enjoys moist soil but will not tolerate wet and soggy conditions. Therefore it’s vital that you plant the celosia in well-draining soil. This will mean that in the event of accidental overwatering or heavy rain, the water will be drained away from the plant and not result in the roots sitting in excessive moisture. If the plant is overwatered when situated in poorly draining soil, it will typically suffer from root rot, which damages the roots beyond repair and disables them from being able to absorb nutrients or moisture, thereby killing the plant from the roots up.
As this plant dislikes soggy soil, it is best to err on the side of caution when watering, though ideally, it should be grown in consistently moist soil. In order to be sure that you are watering the right amount, you should let the top few inches of soil dry out before watering the plant again, though never letting it dry out completely as this will hinder growth.
The celosia plant is mildly drought tolerant, so it is forgiving of occasional sporadic watering, but it would prefer to be in continuously moist conditions. The amount of water the plant requires will vary according to the amount of light it receives, as well as the time of year.
Celosia is a full sun plant. Position it in a spot where it will receive at least 8 hours of sunlight each day for maximum growth. It can also tolerate partial shade, but a full sun position will yield the best results and produce a greater abundance of flowers.
Celosia plants need warm temperatures upwards of 80 °F to germinate, and they also need continued warm weather to thrive once mature. They are commonly grown as annuals in zones 2 to 9, but they can survive as perennials in USDA plant hardiness zones 10 and 11, where winter temperatures do not drop lower than 30 °F.
These plants grow well from seed, germinating easily in the right conditions. The plant blooms approximately three months after germination, so it’s a good idea to get a head start on the growing season and sow the seeds indoors around six weeks before the last frost is expected, as this will produce earlier flowers. Use a seed tray and spread the seeds across high-quality potting soil, then cover with an extra quarter-inch of soil.
Celosia requires warm soil to germinate, so use a heating pad or supply bottom heat if possible. Ideal daytime temperatures are in the region of 80 °F, and nighttime temperatures between 10 and 15 degrees lower than this. The soil will need to be kept consistently moist, which is best achieved with a daily water spray. Cover the tray with clear plastic to create a humid environment similar to a greenhouse, removing the plastic once seedlings have developed. Light is not required for germination, and too much light can actually prevent the seedlings from forming, so situate the tray in shaded but not dark position.
Once you have seedlings, thin out the weakest, leaving only the strongest seedlings to repot or plant outside. Seedlings should be transplanted directly to the ground outside once the risk of frost has passed and should be kept at a distance of 8 inches from each other to allow adequate growing space. Celosia has delicate roots that can be inhibited by weed growth. To prevent weed roots from killing off your celosia seedlings, apply a few inches of organic mulch around the top of the soil when you plant your seedlings to prevent weeds from forming.
Once mature, each celosia bloom is made up of hundreds of tiny flowers, with each of these flowers producing tiny seeds that will self-seed to ensure plenty of new plants each year. The plant readily self-seeds with no intervention necessary to encourage growth.
Depending on the variety of the celosia plant, the flowers can drastically differ in appearance. Some varieties have feathery round blooms, while others have tall spiky arrowhead flowers or those which resemble bottle brushes. They can bloom for up to 10 weeks, in summer through fall, offering an array of rainbow-colored flowers to the garden.
Typically, the flowers bloom until the first frost, which will kill them off, though it’s a good idea to cut the flowers just before the first expected frost, as they make excellent bouquets. You can expect cut celosias to last up to 10 days in a vase of water.
Unlike many flowering plants, the celosia can produce an abundance of blooms without the addition of fertilizer, making it an exceptionally easy-care flowering plant. Though it will thrive without fertilizer, it will benefit from a soil high in organic matter, and you can add a water-soluble monthly fertilizer if you wish.
Taller varieties will need to be staked to prevent the weight of the flowers from causing the stems to droop. You can tie them to taller, stronger plants nearby or fix them to a fence. Pinching off stems as the plant grows will encourage a bushier growth from which more flowers will bloom, and you should also deadhead flowers once they are spent as this will also encourage the plant to put more energy into producing fresh blooms.
Let us know how your celosia flowers are doing by leaving us a comment, and please do share this page with other flower enthusiasts!