If you want to add some intense color and exotic looking flowers to your garden, look no farther than Celosia. They are easily one of the most colorful and eye-catching annuals for the garden, and in addition, they are also an excellent choice for cutting. The flower heads are enjoyed in both fresh and dried arrangements. Dried Celosia flowers are often sold as everlasting flowers and for use in potpourri.
Celosia is separated into 3 major groups:
Celosia plumosa, sometime commonly called Plume Plant. These flowers look like feathery plumes and the colors are vibrant with reds, oranges and yellows.
Celosia cristata, which is often called Cockscomb. These flowers are called crested, but in my opinion, they look like wrinkled knobs. Again, the colors are vibrant and nearly glow with intensity.
Celosia spicata, which goes by the common name of Wheatstraw or Wheat Celosia, and it is an elongated cone that resembles a wheat head. The colors are in shades of pinks and purples.
The name Celosia is derived from the Greek word ‘kelos.’ It means burning which definitely describes the intense “flame-like” colors and inflorescence (group or cluster of flowers arranged on a stem) of some cultivars. Celosia thrives in hot, humid summers, and they are known for coming through the hottest droughts unscathed. They do not perform as well in areas with cool, wet summers. Celosia is actually a tender perennial, and in frost-free zones, they will grow as trouble-free perennials.
Celosia is propagated from seed, and the seeds are extremely small — 43,000 seeds per ounce. The Celosia seeds need a soil temperature of 60°F or warmer, so for areas with long winters, it’s best to get the seeds started indoors. In general, it is recommended to use sterile seed starting mix as the Celosia seedlings are vulnerable to damping off. Also, their roots are sensitive to transplanting, so it is suggested to sow the seeds into individual peat pots that can be transplanted outdoors without much disturbance. Cover the pots with plastic wrap and mist the soil with water daily to keep the seed mix lightly moist. Once seeds have germinated, move the pots to a sunny south window or under fluorescent lights.
Once nighttime temperatures are 55°F, begin to harden the Celosia seedlings off. Place the seedlings in a protected area outdoors for part of each day. After about 8 days, leave the seedlings out over night. Space the plants the recommended distance apart for the specific cultivar. Remember to tear back any part of the peat pot that is above the soil line. After transplanting, make sure Celosia plants receive 1 inch of water per week for the first few weeks that they are in their new location. To obtain the greatest number of flower heads for crested and plume Celosia, pinch plants 2 weeks after transplanting to promote branching and multiple, small flower heads. Celosia needs nutrition throughout the growing season. Apply an application of a complete fertilizer every few weeks. Celosia blooms for about 8 weeks, from midsummer to fall.
Celosia plumosa varieties are great for houseplants. The potted plants will show color for a month or more under low light conditions. Many gardeners sow seeds in a 10 – 12 inch pot in mid-summer. Within 8 – 10 weeks, the plants will be showing color, and potted Celosia makes a beautiful autumn houseplant.
There is much more that could be written about these lovely, exotic looking flowers! The ideas for decorating with cut and dried Celosia flowers are endless. Celosia is as versatile as it is lovely!
Question for the week: Do you grow Celosia and what is your favorite use for it?
By Kimberly Bell