Grow lots of cosmos flowers
Cosmos has been a staple in cottage gardens for generations, but this lovely heirloom annual is a first rate addition to just about any casual garden you have right now. Cosmos flowers sit on long stems that gently nod in the breeze — a great addition to meadows and cutting gardens, too.
Two types of cosmos
The two most common cosmos are tall cosmos and sulphur cosmos. You’re probably most familiar with tall cosmos. This is the one you see in the grocery store seed rack every year. Plants grow 1 to 4 feet tall and have slender, ferny leaves. The 2- to 4-inch blooms come in shades of pink, red, white or violet and bicolors. Flowers are most often single but there are also doubles and other interesting variations — meet a few of my favorites in the gallery below.
Sulphur cosmos has 2- to 3-inch orange, red or yellow single blooms and grows 1 to 6 feet tall. Its foliage is coarser than that of tall cosmos and it tends to grow taller. ‘Bright Lights’ is a dwarf variety in a mix of yellow and shades of orange. But if you prefer a particular color, look for ‘Cosmic Yellow’ or ‘Sunset Orange’.
Cosmos flowers are great in bouquets
Besides looking great in the garden, cosmos is a wonderful cut flower. To get the most from your summer bouquets check out these tips:
- Cut your cosmos as the flower just opens and the center is still tight.
- Use sharp scissors to cut the slender stems at a leaf node — that’s the spot where the leaf joins the stem. The plant will branch from there and form even more flowering stems.
- Strip off the leaves that will sit below the water before putting your stem in a vase. Otherwise it will rot and shorten the life of the bloom. Do leave some of the frilly foliage at the top of the stem near the flower — its fine texture will be a nice contrast to larger leaves in your bouquet.
Deadheading cosmos flowers
Cosmos usually starts blooming in early summer and continues until frost if you deadhead. While you don't have to deadhead, doing so keeps the planty looking tidy and encourages a quick rebloom. Here’s how to do it: Cosmos produces multiple flowering stems near the top of the plant. The center one opens first. As that one fades, clip it out and the side stems will take off more quickly. When they’re all done cut the whole group off above a leaf node to encourage more growth and more blooms.
If you have a large planting or some back-of the-border beauties that are hard to reach, you may or may not want to be as detailed. The photo above shows a less fussy method. You can even go so far as to cut your cosmos back to within 12 to 18 inches of the ground, and the plants will rebloom again in a few weeks.
Save cosmos seed
While it’s a good idea to deadhead your cosmos to keep them blooming, be sure to let a few go to seed toward the end of the season so you’ll have more plants the following year. Let them grow wherever they land or save seeds so you can choose where to grow them. The video above shows you what to look for and how to harvest cosmos seed. They may not come true, or look like the parent plant, though. Check out the simple steps below on how to save cosmos seeds.
How to save cosmos flower seeds
- You’ll know it’s time to harvest when the spiky seeds are dark brown. Carefully grab a handful — they fall off quite easily at this point — to add to your stash.
- Once you get them indoors, sort out the seed from any debris and put them in a shallow bowl or on a tray out of direct sunlight for about a week to dry. This helps induce dormancy and harden the seedcoat.
- Store the seed in a plastic bag, jar or other handy container and keep it in a cool, dry place that stays 32 to 41 degrees F (the refrigerator is fine.)
- And don’t forget to add a label with the date so you know what you have next year.
Cosmos flower varieties to try
Looking for some cosmos to brighten your borders and liven up bouquets? Besides the traditional single flowers that bloom in pink, magenta, white or bright orange, there are plenty of exciting new looks for cosmos. Now let’s take a look at a few gorgeous cosmos varieties that you’re going to want to try.