With a flower head that looks like an undulating piece of velvet, cockscomb (Celosia sp.) is a tender perennial in United States Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 10 and 11 and grows as an annual in cooler areas. Although cockscomb is named for its resemblance to the red appendage on the top of a rooster's head, the blooms are available in a variety of colors, including orange, pink, purple and yellow. When picked at the height of its maturity, cockscomb is easy to dry and makes a lovely addition to dried arrangements.
Velvety Flower Heads
Plants in the genus Celosia feature clusters of small blooms grouped together to form a larger flower head, rather than a single large bloom. Cockscomb looks like the rose comb on certain breeds of rooster, and all the smaller flowers together give the cockscomb a soft texture that invites touching. The large, visually inviting flower is commonly grown in cutting gardens and often used in floral arrangements.
Cockscomb can be seeded directly after all chance of frost has passed, or seeds can be started indoors six to eight weeks before that point and transplanted into the garden. They are easy to grow and will tolerate some shade and dry conditions, although they prefer full sun and consistent moisture. Cockscomb will continue to bloom through the summer and into the autumn. Blossoms can be cut for fresh bouquets any time the flower looks right, but if plants are to be dried, the flower heads should be harvested when they are fully mature and at the peak of their color, before they have begun to fade or turn brown.
To air-dry cockscomb, cut the blossoms when they are dry, not after rain or heavy dew. Use a sharp knife to get a clean cut, and leave a long enough stem to allow the flower to hang upside down easily. Cockscomb has a thick stem, so dry each one individually, instead of in a bunch, to allow for better air circulation. Hang the cockscomb blossoms in a dark, warm area with good air circulation. Check flowers every few days to make sure they are not getting too dry, as you don't want them to crumble when handled.
Storing Dried Cockscomb
It can take three weeks or more for large, thick flowers such as cockscomb to dry completely. The blooms will maintain their color longer if they are sprayed with hairspray or spray lacquer. Dried cockscomb can be stored in cardboard boxes, but air-tight containers will keep insects and rodents away from them.