Cockscomb for Fall Beauty
Celosia or Cockscomb is a wonderful Fall Flower
If you are thinking you could use some more fall color in your pots or landscapes into fall consider growing. Celosia or Cockscomb for next year.
Celosia, known as feather or plume cockscomb has an open, feathery cluster of flowers. The tightly clustered blooms are said to resemble a rooster’s comb, thus the common name “cockscomb”. Flower colors include red, yellow, orange, gold, and pink.
The Cockscomb is also called Brain Flowers. There are about 60 species of Cockscomb and they differ quite widely in appearance. There are some that have a long feathery tops and others that are shaped round and rough, like a brain, which is where the nickname Brain Flowers come from.
Celosia has stringy celery-like stems with leafy foliage, and is treated in Africa as a vegetable. The plant grows wild in hot tropical regions of South America, Africa and South East Asia. In China, Celosia is cultivated as a garden plant, whereas in most Western counties Celosia is grown solely for the cut flower industry.
They grow up to 30 inches tall and the dwarft version reaches about a foot in height. You will see this plant in a lot of large scale plantings such as in a park because it thrives very well on its own.
Cockscomb is an excellent addition to any floral arrangement. It has a great vase life with no scent. It can be used as a filler flower, it does not take away the scent from a more prominent flower in an arrangement that has a pleasing scent featured. Cockscomb also makes an excellent dried flower, as it holds it shape and color as it dries. It is from the Celosia family derived from kelos, which means burned, that refers to the color and character of the flower.
A member of the Amaranth family, the Cockscomb is thought to have originated in Africa and India as well as in rocky areas of North and South America, though it is now widely cultivated in China. It was introduced in England in 1570 from Asia. So while this annual flourishes in most climates, it is no surprise that it prefers hot, dry weather.
It can be grown from seed, either started indoors early in spring or planted directly in your garden after all danger of frost has passed. Being the seed is tiny, careful watch is needed so it does not rot. The dwarf variety reaches a height of 12 inches and should be planted 6 to 8 inches apart. Space the tall variety, which attains 30 inches, 12 to 15 inches apart. Prepare the soil with organic matter such as compost or manure before planting. Water frequently until the plants are established, at which point reduce watering to once a week. You can also purchase larger potted plants at greenhouses, which is my favorite way to acquire this plant. Try pinching off the first few flowers as this will allow the plant to spread out and produce more flowers.
Cockscomb blooms from early summer until fall. All it really needs for care is sufficient watering when it does get dry. It does not need to be fertilized. After the first fall frost, when the plants die back, remove the entire plant from the earth, roots and all. Deposit it on your compost heap.
Feather Cockscomb, C. argenlea (C. plumosa) – The heads resemble ostrich plumes of shining, silky texture. Those of some sorts are a clear, brilliant pink or crimson; others are like feathers of pure gold. The best sorts are the Thompson hybrids and the Pride of Castle Gould. The plants when given space to develop will grow 2 1/2 feet to 4 feet tall.
Woolflower (C. childsi) – Of rather recent development, the Woolflower is somewhat like the Feather Cockscomb except that the flower heads form globular crimson or orange masses resembling balls of woolen yarn or silk thread. The plants start to bloom when only several inches tall. Then branches develop, each tipped with a flower often from 4 inches to 6 inches in diameter.
Celosia are somewhat resistant to insects and disease. Aphids eat the leaves and stem. At the first sign of problems, treat with insecticide, repellents, or fungicide as appropriate.