Celosia is a genus of around 50 annual and perennial species from Asia, Africa and the Americas, and is a member of the amaranth family (Amaranthaceae). Celosia argentina is the most cultivated species, known for plumes of tiny, brightly colored flowers, giving it the common names of cockscomb or woolflower.
Species of the genus Celosia fall into three groups: plume type (C. plumosa), crested type (C. cristata) or wheat type (C. spicata). Each group name describes the appearance of the plant's inflorescence (flower cluster). Celosia species vary in height from 2 feet tall to 6 feet tall, but most cultivated varieties are around 2 feet in height with around 1 foot spread. Celosia species usually have simple, lance-shaped green leaves. Flower colors range from vivid yellow, orange, red or multi-colored.
Grow Celosia as an annual in landscape borders, in mass plantings and in fresh-cut or dried flower arrangements. To use in dried arrangements, hang cut Celosia blooms in a dry, well-ventilated location. Their flame-like color and interesting flowerheads make Celosia an interesting garden specimen.
Grow Celosia in full sun on nutrient-rich, well-drained soils after danger of frost has passed. Celosia are not frost tolerant and hardy only in USDA zones 10 through 12. Propagate Celosia by direct seeding after soil has warmed or start seeds indoors. Water Celeosia well during dry periods, but don't keep the soil wet. Pinching back the first plume encourages branching and bushiness. Celeosia benefits from periodic application of all purpose fertilizer.
Selected Species and Cultivars
Celosia argentea (plume group) blooms summer to autumn with yellow, red or purple flowers. Cultivars include, Apricot Brandy, Castle hybrids, New Look and Century hybrids. These are most common, according to University of Vermont extension literature.
Crested Celosias (C. cristata) include Chief hybrids, Coral Garden hybrids, Empress hybrids, Fireglow and Floradale hybrids.
The spicata group (C. spicata) of Celosia includes Pink Candle, Pink Flamingo and Purple Flamingo.
Diseases and pests of Celosia include leaf spot, stem and root rot, spider mites and root nematodes. Practicing good sanitation methods, like disinfecting tools, and using sterile growing media help reduce disease occurrence. Trickle, or drip, irrigation is recommended to reduce the amount of moisture left sitting on plants. Watering early in the day is recommended if drip irrigation isn't an option. Treat insect problems early with organic or chemical insect repellents.