Although cockscomb (Celosia cristata) is named for the bright red blooms that resemble a rooster's comb, it is also available in bright shades of purple, orange, rose and yellow. The velvety cockscomb blooms make beautiful cut flowers and can be easily dried for use in dried flower arrangement, crafts or wreaths. Cockscomb is a good choice for a butterfly garden as butterflies love the colorful blooms. Cockscomb is a tender annual that is usually best started by seed indoors.
Start cockscomb seeds indoors four to six weeks before the last expected frost date for your climate. Fill several peat pots with regular commercial potting soil. Moisten the potting soil slightly with a spray bottle.
Plant three or four cockscomb seeds in each peat pot, then cover the seeds with 1/4 to 1/2 inch of potting mixture. Place the peat pots on a tray and cover the tray with clear plastic.
Place the tray of peat pots in moderate, indirect light in a warm room with temperatures between 70 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove the plastic for a few minutes every day to provide air circulation. Mist the peat pots lightly with room-temperature water while the plastic is removed.
Remove the plastic covering after the seeds have germinated, which should take about 10 to 15 days. Move the tray into bright sunlight or put the tray under a florescent light or grow light with the tops of the peat pots 6 inches under the bulbs.
Thin the seedlings when each seedling has two set of true leaves, which are the leaves that develop after the initial, tiny seedling leaves. Leave one sturdy seedling in each peat pot.
Begin to harden off the plants outdoors when nighttime temperatures are over 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the seedlings outdoors in a protected area for four hours the first day, then add two hours of outdoor time every day until the plants are outdoors for eight hours. After the eighth day, the seedlings can be planted outdoors.
Use a trowel to dig a small hole for each cockscomb plant. The hole should be no larger than the size of the peat pot. Leave the peat pot in place, but tear off the top so that the pot doesn't extend above the soil. Place the peat pot in the hole and cover the pot with soil. Allow 10 to 15 inches between each plant. Water the area lightly immediately after planting.