Red cockscomb in bloom.
image by Amore Miop:commons.wikimedia.org
Cockscomb are annual flowering plants grown from seed that bloom in the summer. Their unusual flowers are ruffled and crenelated like oblong carnations but velvety like a brightly-colored lambs ear. Cockscomb blooms are most commonly seen in hues of deep crimson, gold, orange, violet and pale creamy yellow. The blooms sit atop tall, slender but strong light green stems that hold the large flower heads upright. Known as an everlasting, cockscombs are often used in dried floral arrangements and wreath making as the blooms hold both their form and color long after drying.
Provide bright direct sunlight for your cockscomb plants and remove any overhead plant canopy that casts shade. Limited sunlight will diminish bloom and cause leggy growth. Maintain a soil for cockscomb that is nutrient rich and amended with well aged manure and or compost. Scratch a few pounds of the amendments into the top layer of soil with a cultivating fork once a year to enrich the planting soil.
Maintain lightly moist soil at all times, watering once every 5 to 12 days depending on your climate. Water carefully around only the base of cockscomb so that the stems, leaves and flowers do not get splashed with water to prevent marring the flowers and inviting disease to the foliage. If ever in doubt about watering err on the side of under watering as cockscomb can be susceptible to root rot if consistently in wet soil.
Feed with an all-purpose, balanced fertilizer formula once a month or with a granular slow release formula once or twice a year, according to the label directions.
Harvest the fresh blooms for cut flower arrangements by cutting them down at the base of the plant. To harvest blooms specifically for drying cut the stems down just as they reach the peak of bloom and hang them upside down in a cool and dimly lit spot with good air circulation. When the flowers are allowed to die and desiccate on the stem the seeds will self-sow in place and be spread by the winds.
Prune away dead foliage at the end of the season after it dies back. Remove damaged or diseased stems and foliage throughout the growing season as you see them and id plants look diseased lift them from the ground and destroy immediately to prevent the spread of any pathogen.