The Celosia also goes by the names “wool flower,” “cockscomb,” and “the Flamingo Feather.” The Celosia produces some interesting flowers which bloom for up to ten weeks during the summer into the fall. The Celosia is an annual plant, communing in shades of purple, violet, red, orange, pink, or gold. Occasionally, you’ll come across bi-colored varieties.
Celosia translates from Greek to “Burning.” When passing a field of red or orange Celosias blowing in the breeze, it produces a shimmering effect similar to flames dancing across the landscape. There are several cultivars of Celosia, and not all of them have the same visual characteristics.
The plants vary in size from six inches to two feet, producing a variety of shapes and colors. Each Celosia blossom contains an array of tiny flowers that produce small seeds at the end of the growing season. The Celosia is a self-seeding variety, and some of the seeds will germinate the following year.
Here is a complete guide with everything you need to know about growing Celosia this season.
Caring for Celosia
Celosia is a top choice for beginner gardeners. The forgiving plant is somewhat drought-resistant, and it grows well with little care from the gardener.
Sunlight and Soil
When planting Celosia, choose a spot in the garden that gets eight hours of direct sunlight during the day. The Celosia prefers the morning sun and shade in the afternoon. When digging out your flowerbed, make sure you’re using well-draining soil that’s rich in nutrients.
Make sure you complete all your soil amendments before planting your Celosia. Sites that don’t offer the plant good drainage result in waterlogging of the soil and the development of root rot in the plant. The Celosia enjoys rich, loamy soils, and the shallow roots will easily drown if overwatered.
Adding perlite to the soil increases drainage and enhances airflow to the roots. This volcanic substrate is commercially available at most nurseries for an affordable price.
The Celosia enjoys growing in soils that have a pH of between 6 to 6.5. The Celosia will tolerate a variety of poor soil conditions, and it grows in sandy areas. However, it may limit the size of the plant and the intensity of the blooming season.
When the fall arrives, prepare your Celosia for planting. Start with prepping the flowerbeds with the right amendments. Dig a hole for the root ball and line it with two handfuls of compost and a handful of perlite. Mix the materials and make sure you remove all weeds from the surrounding area.
During the growing season, it’s a good idea to use organic mulch around the base of the plant. The mulch helps to retain moisture in the soil while releasing nutrients during watering. Peat moss, leaf mold, and aged cow manure are all suitable soil amendments for growing Celosia.
If the pH of your soil is too high, add some soil to bring it down to a more acidic level. If the pH is too acidic, add some lime to make it a bit more alkaline. When the average daytime temperatures reach above 60F, you can plant Celosia out in the garden or start the germination process.
Plant the Celosia root ball in the hole and fill it with excavated soil. Lightly press down on the soil to remove large air pockets and water deeply. The water helps the soil to settle around the roots, activating the growth cycle of the Celosia.
A few days after the initial watering, mulch around the base of the plant using organic matter. Make sure you keep the soil moist but don’t overwater.
Fertilizing and Deadheading
Provided the soil has the right nutrients and you mulch throughout the summer months, your plants shouldn’t require any fertilizer. However, if the plants seem like they are slow at taking off or the growth rate isn’t what you expect, add some liquid fertilizer.
Use a water-soluble fertilizer product featuring a 3-1-2 ratio of NPK every other week. Slow-release granular fertilizers are also an option. Make sure you don’t over-feed the plants as it may cause burning and delays in flowering.
When the plants are growing, pinch it back to create a bushier plant, or stake the stems to prevent them from falling. After the first round of flowers starts to fade, use some pruning scissors to deadhead the plant and inspire a second round of flowering.
How to Grow Celosia From Seed
As mentioned, the Celosia is a forgiving plant and a great choice for beginner gardeners. Many newbies find it challenging to grow plants from seed, preferring seedlings to reduce the room for error when germinating.
However, the Celosia is easy to germinate and the perfect flower for beginner gardeners to start from seed. To propagate your seeds, you can start them indoors a few weeks before the start of the spring. Use seedling trays with high-quality compost to germinate the Celosia seedlings.
Place the seedling tray under an artificial grow lamp, and keep the soil moist. When planting the seeds, make sure you push them around ¼” into the soil.
After the seedlings sprout, you can plant them in the garden when the last frost passes. Check your local listings for details on the frost dates in your area. Alternatively, you can start your seedlings directly in your flowerbeds in the early spring.
Prepare the soil as mentioned above, and follow the same planting technique, leaving the seed ¼” under the surface. To speed things up and retain moisture in the soil, cover the ground with plastic wrap.
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When planting in flowerbeds, we recommend spacing the seedlings eight inches apart for the best results. Make sure the weather is warm before planting, as frost will kill your Celosias.
Planting your Celosias in June means that they’ll start flowering in mid-August. The plants grow slowly in the first five weeks and take off after establishing a root system in the flowerbed.
Make sure you keep the soil moist throughout the growing season. If the soil dries out, it can result in the plant dying back or failing to flower. Gardeners should also take care to weed flowerbeds throughout the growing season.
What are the Pests and Diseases Affecting Celosia?
Like all other plants in the garden, the Celosia is at risk of infestation and infection with pests and diseases. Here are the most common pests and diseases gardeners have to deal with when growing Celosias.
When Celosias experience disease or pest infestation, they tend to drop seeds. We recommend using a diluted solution of neem oil applied through a spray gun to get rid of pests. Bugs don’t like neem, and they’ll flee the plants.
Red Spider Mite
These tiny critters are hard to spot. However, they produce small spider webs across the leaves of the plants that are a dead give-away of their presence. These pests such the juices out of the plant, weakening its immune system.Aphids
Aphids can also be a problem for gardeners. These pests suck the juices out of the plant, creating small yellow spots on the leaves and stem of the Celosia. Aphids are destructive, but they are somewhat easy to get rid of with a jet from the garden hose.
Fortunately, there are very few diseases that bother your Celosias. However, make sure you plant them well apart and in a space in the garden with good airflow. White powdery mildew can kill the plant in humid and overcast conditions.
Fungal disease leaf spot can also present a problem for Celosias. To keep fungal infections off your plants, we recommend avoiding watering from an overhead position. Don’t get the leaves wet, and reduce splashback to the underside of the leaves when watering.
For the best results, we recommend getting a drip-feed irrigation system for your flowerbeds. If you find any disease on plants, it’s best to remove them from the garden right away. Place the infected plants in a plastic bag and throw them away in the trash.
Don’t place the dead infected plants in the compost heap. The fungi will infest the material, and it will infect your plants when you use it as mulch during the growing season.
Mold and fungi can overwinter in flowerbeds if you have infected plants; it’s best to plant in other locations and avoid the infected area the following growing season.
Celosia’s are also a good choice for attractive houseplants and patio plants. They do well in containers, provided they get the right care. There are around 60 annual and perennial varieties of Celosia for your garden.
It might take you a few seasons to figure out which ones you like. However, they produce attractive flowers that have a light fragrance, inviting pollinators into the yard to investigate.
The three most common types of Celosia include crests, feathery plumes, or flower spikes belonging to Celosia spicata and Celosia argentea. Visit your local nursery or research the varieties online and order some seeds of your preferred types.