Each year, the National Garden Bureau, a non-profit organization that promotes the joys of gardening, selects a bulb, annual, edible and perennial to feature in their Year of program. It’s a great way to discover a plant you don’t know or to learn a little more about a plant you already grow.
Celosia is a unique annual for the garden with its brightly colored flowers and textures that beg to be touched.
Wondering how to use this unique plant in the garden? With so many varieties, heights, and colors to choose from, the options are endless. Use celosia in the center of your planter combinations, or as a front edge accent for your garden. A standalone celosia adds a wow factor to your patio and is a unique addition to any children’s garden.
Overview and History
Celosia has been growing in North America since the 1700s and is native to tropical America and Africa. Here in the U.S., we know it as an annual; however, it is a tender perennial in zones 10 to 12. Not only have these plants been grown for their beauty in the garden, but they are also used for food in many places around the world. Celosia argentea, also known as Lagos Spinach, is used for its highly nutritious green foliage and young shoots. It is often steamed or used in soups or stews in Indonesian, Indian and African dishes.
Celosia is comprised of 45 different species in the Amaranth family (Amaranthaceae). Mainly produced by seed, but also produced vegetatively, Celosia argentea cultivars can be grouped into 3 different categories: Plumosa types, Cristata types, and Spicata types.
Plumosa types: (Celosia argentea var. plumosa, Celosia plumosa)
Commonly called feather celosia, or plumed celosia, these plants range in size from 8” to 36” tall depending on the variety. The flower colors are bold and bright and are soft to the touch with green or burgundy foliage.
- Kimono series (6-8”)
- Flamma series (8-10”) new for 2022 — Flamma Orange AAS winner
- First Flame series (10”-14”)
- Kelos Fire series (10”-12”)
- Fresh Look series (14”) – every color is an AAS winner – Yellow, Red, Gold
- Dragon’s Breath (24”)
Cristata types: (Celosia argentea var. cristata, Celosia cristata)
Also known as Cockscomb, these plants have some of the most unique flower shapes. Like the plumosa types, they can range anywhere from 6” to 24” tall depending on the variety.
- Brainiac series (6”-8”)
- Dracula (8-16”)
- Armor Mix series (12”-16”)
- Sol Collection (10”-14”) – new varieties that have been bred for their glossy large leaves and have small insignificant flowers. This variety can be used as an accent in planter combinations.
- Prestige Scarlet series (12”-24?) – AAS winner
Spicata types: (Celosia argentea var. spicata, Celosia spicata)
Known as silver cockscomb, or wheat celosia, due to its cylindrical flower spikes. Varieties in this category can range in height from 5”-24.”
- Kelos Atomic series (5”-8”)
- Kelos Candela Pink (10”-12”) AAS Winner – extremely heavy flowering and flowers are great for drying.
- Intenz series (18”) – bold colors on extremely heat-tolerant plants.
- Asian Garden (30-40”) AAS Winner – excellent bushy habit, covered in spiky pink flowers
How to Grow Celosia in Your Garden
- Celosia likes a warm sunny spot in the garden. Be sure to give these plants at least 6-8 hours of full sun and if you live in cooler northern climates you should wait until May or June to plant them, or at least until temperatures are above 55 degrees F.
- The soil must be well drained. If you have heavy clay soils that need to be improved, you can use compost or sand to improve the drainage. They prefer soils to have a pH of 6-6.5 with high organic matter content.
- After planting you will need to fertilize your plants monthly with a general-purpose fertilizer with equal amounts of Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium (N-P-K).
- Stake taller varieties to prevent them from falling over.
- Removing the old blooms will help to promote the production of new flowers.
- If your plant develops brown or tan holes in its leaves, it may be suffering from the fungal disease leaf spot. You can use a ready-to-use copper fungicide on the infected areas.
- Spider mites can be a common cause of death for Celosia. These spiders are very tiny and hard to catch before they do a lot of damage. Brown-bronze foliage that is becoming dry and brittle is a sign of spider mites.
- Celosia flowers can be used as dried flowers for displays. Hang them upside down for 2 weeks to dry.
How to Start From Seed
- Start to sow Celosia seeds about 10 weeks prior to planting outside.
- Be sure to use soil media specifically for germinating seeds.
- Sow seeds ¼” deep and covered with vermiculite.
- Keep the seeds and media moist by using a plastic cover over the seed tray until they germinate (7-10 days).
- Keep temperatures at 70-75 degrees F while germinating.
- Celosia seedlings are susceptible to dampening off so let media dry out slightly between waterings.
Learn more about the Celosia…
- Fabulous Flowers for Your Cutting Garden by National Garden Bureau
- The Best Flowers for Homegrown Bouquets by National Garden Bureau
Ironically, I just purchased a variety of celosia seeds to try this year. So a very timely article.