Celosia Cristata is a variety of Celosia Argentea. This exotic plant is very popular in tropical Africa but also in Asia and South America.
This herbaceous plant is commonly known as Cockscomb or Quail Grass and it belongs to the Amaranth family. It is treasured due to its bright colors and it is reasonably easy to grow. It can be grown both indoors and outdoors, and while gardeners usually cultivate it for ornamental purposes, it has other uses as well.
Cockscomb flowers retain their colors even when they dry, so you can use them in dry flower arrangements and decorate your home. This versatile flower can be grown in beds, borders, or containers, and its beauty will surely spruce up any space.
- The plant’s name comes from the fact that the wrinkly flower resembles the head of a rooster.
- The genus name Celosia comes from the Greek word “keleos” which means burning. It refers to the brightly colored flowers that characterize this plant. Cristata means crested and it refers to the shape of the flowers.
- Despite its exotic appearance, the Celosia Argentea plant grows as a weed in China and India.
- The Cristata variety faced extinction at one point. Luckily, it was saved by the fact that has a religious value, so it was heavily planted around Indian and Chinese temples.
- This exotic herbaceous thrives in USDA hardiness zones 9-12.
- The Cristata variety is not very widespread in natural environments because these plants do not produce a lot of seeds. Nonetheless, it is a very popular plant cultivated around temples in Asia where people have cherished it for decades.
- Cockscomb is a very resilient plant. It is not susceptible to pests and it is resistant to most diseases, except for fungal diseases.
- The plant’s cresting is an abnormal growth that often occurs in the growing tip of vascular plants. This growth produces a flattened contorted tissue. This condition usually occurs due to hormonal, bacterial, or fungal causes. In most plants, this type of growth is appreciated for aesthetic reasons.
- Celosia Cristata’s leaves and flowers are edible, and people grow them as vegetables in Western Africa, South America, and India. In fact, in Southern Nigeria, Cockscomb is the most widely used leafy green. It is commonly used in soups and stews. The seeds of this plant can also be eaten, and they are sold as pseudocereals (non-grasses that can be used as cereals. The seeds are a great source of edible oil.
- Cockscomb is also sown as a root parasite repellent in various grass plantations. It contains a special compound that induces suicidal germination in various types of weeds.
- People have used this plant in alternative medicine for centuries. The seeds have diuretic properties, as well as immunostimulating and anti-metastatic effects. Cockscomb can be used to treat bloodshot eyes, cataracts, vision blurring or to relieve poison from snake bites.
- This plant is not toxic to cats, dogs, or horses, so you can safely grow it both indoors and outdoors.
Cockscomb Features: An Overview
- Being an herbaceous plant, Celosia Cristata lacks a woody stem. Instead, it features a straight unbranched stem.
- Gardeners grow celosia as an annual plant in most parts of the world, but it is a perennial in USDA zones 10-11. This means that in warmer climates, it can safely survive winter and come back to life the next year.
- Its leaves are long, and elliptical, being slightly wider in the middle. Overall, the leaves resemble lance tips. They are mostly green but can sometimes have a bronze shade. They grow in an alternate arrangement on the stem.
- The leaves feature terminal inflorescences that look like ridge crests. The inflorescences are red, creamy yellow, or even whitish. Some hybrids can feature a variety of colors within the same inflorescence.
- The blooming period starts in late summer, and you can enjoy the vibrant flowers until late fall.
- The flowers can last up to 8 weeks, producing up to 1500 seeds per gram. They are about 7-30 cm wide.
- Overall Cockscomb is a low-growing plant, but it can sometimes reach a top height of 30 cm with a similar spread.
Since Cockscomb is susceptible to fungal diseases, it is essential to plant it in soil with good drainage, preferably in an area that gets minimum to no shade at all. As far as humidity goes, this resilient plant can thrive in both arid and humid environments.
Being an annual plant, Cockscomb only lives for about 3 months. Even though it is a tropical plant, you can grow it in colder climates as well, if you synchronize its growth with the warm summer months. For optimal growth, you should try to maintain an average soil temperature of 16 °C. It pays to put some effort into enriching the soil with organic matter. Mature plants will need at least 8 hours of direct sunlight.
Celosia cristata a.k.a. Cockscomb prefers soils with a low ph. You can use sulfur to lower the pH and lime to raise it. The ideal pH for this plant is around 6.0–7.0. Like most tropical plants, it is resistant to droughts. However, it prefers regular watering.
Celosia cristata does not require pruning. However, to prolong blooming, deadhead the spent flowers as often as possible. As far as feeding goes, fertilize it once a month, preferably with a liquid nitrogen fertilizer.
Before planting Cockscomb seedlings in the garden, you will need to harden them off. This means that you need to accustom them to outdoor conditions. You can do them by moving them to a sheltered outdoor location for a few days. During the hardening period, the seedlings need to be sheltered from the wind, direct sunlight, or frost. This transition period will soften the shock of the transplant.
You should transplant the plants outdoors when the temperatures exceed 15 °C during the day and 10 °C during the night. The plants should be 25 cm apart. Dig holes big enough to fit the root balls of your young plants, place them in the holes, and then cover with soil until the top of the root ball. Press the soil around the plants, creating a natural saucer where the water can gather. Water your new plants abundantly, until you form a puddle in the natural saucer.
As summer temperatures rise, Cockscomb plants require frequent and abundant watering. Nonetheless, keep in mind that proper soil drainage is essential. Excessive watering and soggy soil can lead to root rot or fungal diseases. To prevent fungal diseases, try to avoid wetting the leaves and the flowers. Ideally, you should water this plant directly at its base.
Since this plant produces an abundance of seeds, it is relatively easy to grow it from seed. To make sure that the plant will grow in the summer, you should plant the seeds in May.
You should sow the Cockscomb seeds on a warm seed tray. Barely press the seeds in the medium. Keep the soil moist, at an average temperature of 23 degrees. The seedlings should emerge in about 10 days. When this happens, move the tray to a very sunny location. If you do not have sufficient natural light indoors, use a led grow light. The seedlings should receive 16 hours of light per day. Keep in mind that a dark period is also necessary for growth, so do not leave the lights on non-stop.
When the seedlings grow two leaves each, you will want to thin them and leave one seedling for each cell in the seed tray. You can start fertilizing when the seedlings are about a month old. Around the end of May or the beginning of June, you should have some healthy young plants that you can transplant to a permanent location.
You can also propagate Celosia cristata through cuttings that catch roots quite easily. You can place the cuttings directly in their final containers, or outdoors if the weather is favorable. It will take about three to four weeks for the cuttings to catch some healthy roots.
Outdoor Cockscomb plants will spread on their own, and in the right environments, they can become a little invasive. You might want to keep an eye on them to prevent them from invading the territory of other plants. But, if you want them to produce seeds, leave a few blooms at the end of the season.
If you want to enrich your garden with some vibrant crimson or yellow shades, you cannot go wrong with Cockscomb. Moreover, it pays to have a potent pharmaceutical herb in your garden, especially one that you can also use as a vegetable. You can grow the plant directly in the garden or in containers on your patio.
Since this is a low-growing plant, you can also use it as an edging in containers. It grows well with other annuals such as Marigold or Amaranth. You can use it to make some amazing dry wreaths that will embellish your front door for months to come.
Are you growing Cockscomb? Share your experience in the comments below!