Did you know? In the Victorian language of flowers, Celosias symbolized humor, warmth, and silliness.
Cockscomb flowers are also known as Wool Flowers or Brain Celosia, suggestive of a highly colored brain. The flowers belong to the amaranth family, Amaranthaceae. Cockscomb blooms with a compacted crested head 2-5 inches across, on leafy stems that are 12-28 inches long. The flower’s name is suggestive of a rooster’s comb. The Cockscomb flower blooms from late summer through late fall. The Celosia plant is an annual dicotyledon.
Celosia species include Celosia argentea and Celosia spicata. Cockscombs are the crested variety (Celosia cristata). The flowers come in attractive red leafed varieties as well. Although there are many dwarf cultivars available today, the original types were fairly tall plants. Three forms were introduced into England from Asia in 1570.
- The exact origins of Cockscomb in the wild are unknown, though some assign the geographical origins to the dry slopes of Africa and India as well as the dry rocky regions of both North and South America.
- Celosia comes from the Greek word ‘kelos’, meaning burned; apparently referring to the look of the brightly colored flowers in some species.
- There are about 60 species of annual or perennial Celosia.
- The contorted floral heads of the crested types of Cockscomb continue to enlarge throughout the growing season and often have colorful foliage as a complement.
- Standing on long stiff stems, Cockscomb makes excellent fresh as well as a dried cut flowers.
- In China the flower is called chi kuan, where it is extensively cultivated.
- Celosia cristata are widely believed to have developed from Celosia argentea, which is listed as native to India but is common in the wilds in China.
- Cockscomb flowers are seen in vibrant yellows, pinks, reds and gold colors.
- Cockscomb has no fragrance.
- The Cockscomb flower has 5-14 days of vase life.
- Cockscomb flowers are said to resemble rooster combs or convoluted brains, Celosia argentea (Cristata group)
- In West Africa, Central Africa, and Southeast Asia, Celosia argentea is grown as a leaf vegetable and cereal crop. In southern Nigeria, it is the most important leaf vegetable and is known as soko.
- Celosia cristata is a common garden ornamental plant in China and other places.
- Plant seedlings 8 inches apart in full sun and well-drained soil.
- Plant seeds indoors six to eight weeks before your region’s last frost, then plant outdoors 8 inches apart.
- Keep the soil moist. Cockscomb does best in hot, slightly dry conditions, but will wilt if overly dry. Avoid wetting the flowers or leaves to prevent fungal diseases.
- Fertilize every four weeks or so. Cockscomb benefits from regular fertilizing.
- Pull out and discard in fall, once frost kills these plants.
Celosia Plant Care
- Cockscombs are easy to grow from seed, either indoors under lights or outdoors in the garden.
- Space plants 8-12 inches apart depending on the expected height of the variety you are planting.
- Cockscombs grow best when mulched.
- Spray the foliage of flowering annuals with a dilute solution of liquid fertilizer to give them a hot weather energy boost.
- When the plants die with the first hard frost, remove them to the compost pile but keep the beds mulched right through the winter, ready for next year’s plants.