Get to know celosia
Want flowers that last for up to a month in stunning colors and striking shapes? Learn how to grow celosia (Celosia argentea cristata). This tender perennial remains undaunted in the summer sun and produces a bounty of blooms to enjoy in the garden and in a vase. You can even dry a few as a reminder of warm summer days once winter sets in.
3 common names for celosia’s different flower types:
- Plume celosia has soft feathery flowers in red, orange, yellow, pink and magenta.
- Cockscomb celosia has crests of wrinkled-looking blooms that you’ll find in red, orange, yellow, pink, magenta and bicolors.
- Wheat celosia, as you might guess, looks a bit like wheat. It flowers in shades of pink or red-purple and often self-sows with the right growing conditions.
Many celosias are part of a series and you can easily find them at the garden center. Mail-order sources are a great place to look for heirlooms and taller varieties, which are often grown as cut flowers.
How to grow beautiful celosia
You’ll find lots of celosia varieties at the garden center but most are bedding types. Starting them from seed provides you with even more colors, shapes and sizes. Once you get plants in the ground celosia isn't fussy. Follow these simple guidelines and you’ll have beautiful blooms from early summer until first frost kills the plants.
- Grow celosia in full sun - at least 6 to 8 hours a day.
- Well-drained, nutrient-rich soil keeps plants growing strong.
- Use a liquid plant food every couple of weeks, especially if it’s been rainy or really hot: Lots of rain can wash away nutrients and temperatures above 95 degrees F slow growth.
- You may need to stake taller varieties, especially the cockscomb types with their heavy blooms. Push a bamboo stake in the ground within a few inches of the stem at planting time and attach it with a piece of twine in a figure-eight pattern as it grows.
Celosia flower know-how
Though celosia flowers can last up to a month, they still need deadheading to speed new ones along. Blooms start to fade from the bottom up so when the bottom third to half is done, remove it at the leaf joint. This encourages side stems to take off more quickly, and plants won’t waste energy producing seed.
Harvest cut flowers when the blooms are fully mature and they’ll last for weeks in a vase. Just be sure to use a floral preservative or change the water frequently to avoid rotting stems. If you just can’t let your celosia go in fall, you can bring some plants inside and enjoy the blooms for a few more weeks. But once they fade, toss the plants — celosia doesn’t overwinter well.
How to dry celosia flowers
Dried celosia blooms make a beautiful addition to late-season flower arrangements, imagine them on your thanskgiving tablescape! Follow these simple tips and you should have dried blooms in about a month.
- Harvest mature blooms that haven’t set seed yet in the morning after the dew has dried.
- Cut the longest stem you can and place it in a bucket of water until you get back inside.
- Bundle six to eight stems together with a rubber band and hang them upside down to keep the stems straight in a warm, dry location such as an attic or shed.
- Position the flowers at different levels in the bunch so air circulates and the blooms aren't damaged.
- Keep the flowers out of direct light to help preserve the color.
- Space bundles to allow good air circulation and avoid mold.
There are few pests or diseases that bother celosia. The most common problem is rot and that’s usually because plants are growing in poorly drained soil or watered too much. Also, wait until early summer to buy your plants at the garden center. Get them too early and cool temperatures and plentiful rain could stunt their growth or rot. Here's what to look for:
- Wilted foliage even though plants have been watered
- Moist looking brown spots and a decayed crown
How to use celosia in your garden
Celosia’s neon colors and unusual flower shapes might give you pause when it comes to working them into beds and borders. Let’s take a look at a few of the different types and how you might use them.
Turn heads with a mass planting
Growing a big group of brightly colored plume celosia is a sure way to create drama. These softly sculpted spikes are often sold as bedding plants in multipacks. Plant a flat or two of fiery Fresh Look Yellow in the photo above, near the front door to grab visitors’ attention and point the way. That sunny sweep of color lasts from late spring until frost kills the plants and makes great curb appeal, too.
Try more plume celosia
Add size to the “wow!” factor with a grouping of taller celosia, such as the 2- to 4-foot Sunday® Mix or the Bombay® series midborder.
Add spikes for excitement
Clusters of flower spikes from wheat celosia, such Intenz™ above, give this planting of globe amaranth plenty of pizzazz. Adding a softer color along with the vibrant celosia hue helps tone down the intensity a bit.
Try more wheat celosia
‘Flamingo Feather’ is an old favorite with a similar flower shape but the blooms aren’t as densely packed. Flowers start out pale pink opening from the bottom up and age to white. Though ‘Flamingo Feather’ is known for producing an abundance of blooms, its habit can get a bit wild looking. Grow it with a denser plant, such as zinnias, to mask the irregular shape.
Grow a fascinating focal point
You can’t miss Twisted™ Orange cockscomb celosia among its foliage companions in this container. Those bright orange blooms in that convoluted shape are some of the most unusual you’ll find. Have a smaller pot? Fill it with the dwarf varieties, such as ‘Amigo’ or ‘Kimono’, these two series grow just 6- to 12-inches tall.
Try more cockscomb celosia
When you want eye-catching blooms in the border look for ‘Red Velvet’ cockscomb celosia. Its strong 3 to 4 feet tall stems hold deep red blooms that last for weeks. Or try the slightly smaller ‘Cramer’s Lemon Lime’ that gets just 2 to 3 feet tall.
Meet the family
Check out this gallery of top celosia varieties that you can use to bring some vibrant color or head-turning shapes to your borders and containers.