Celosia argentea var cristata
full sun, part sun
Bloom Period and Seasonal Color
Summer until fall in colors such as red, pink, yellow, apricot, gold and cream
Mature Height x Spread
6 to 24 inches x 8 to 12 inches
attracts beneficials, deer resistant
Whether you grow the feather-shaped or coral-like shaped celosia, you’ll be able to enjoy this annual flower with its multitude of colors from early summer until frost. Celosia is a classic bedding plant, meaning it looks best planted in groups in the ground where the color show can really be highlighted. The vibrant colors really put on a show when grown together making them great for a bed that’s viewed from the distance. And some varieties have bronze-colored foliage, too, making for an even better color contrast. The feathery types are more delicate, while the coral-shaped varieties look more like a brain, in a good way. Taller types are great for use as cut flowers, lasting up to 3 weeks indoors, or dried flowers.
Where, When and How to Plant
Although you can direct sow celosia seed into the garden in spring, they will take so long to get to the flowering stage, that it’s better in our climate to either sow seeds indoors under grow lights 6 weeks before your last frost date or purchase seedlings from the local garden center. Plant celosia seedling in full sun for best flowering, in compost amended soil after the last frost spacing plants about 6 to 12 inches apart. Celosia seedlings like the heat, so don’t rush into the ground in early or mid May when the soil may be still cool.
Poorly drain soils can lead to root rot, so grow celosia in raised beds or in sandy loam soils. Group tall varieties together or stake them to prevent strong winds from breaking their stems. Don’t worry if the stems break, the side shoots will form and soon you’ll have more, but smaller, flowers. Fertilize monthly with a complete organic plant food to keep them flowering. Keep the plants well watered.
Regional Advice and Care
With our sometime rainy springs, celosia is prone to needing some extra nitrogen fertilizer to get growing. A dose of fish emulsion fertilizer right after planting may also help if young plants are looking yellow.
Companion Planting and Design
Different varieties of celosia look great planting en mass in a bed varying the heights and flower colors.
Celosia also pairs well with other annual flowers, such as zinnia, marigold and amaranth. You can plant the tall varieties in a cutting garden for use in arrangements and grow some celosia in pots to bring indoors in fall. After a few weeks they will start looking ratty, but will be nice fall accents in a sunny window.
The ‘Fresh Look Series’ has won awards for the vivid yellow or red colored feathered blossoms that don’t fade and compact plants that are drought and heat tolerant. They look equally good in the ground as in containers. ‘Bombay Series’ featured coral-like, bright colored heads in red, yellow and even purple.
Excerpted from my book, New England Getting Started Garden Guide.