grow celosia for Gorgeous Fresh and Dried Flowers
Celosia argentea cristata, C. spicata, and C. plumosa (Cockscomb)
Celosia is simply an outstanding flower for strong color, unique forms, and excellent drying quality. It comes in three main forms: crested, plume, and feather. They’re easy to grow, taking dry conditions and hot sun, and they produce the most wonderful, intensely colored flowers.
It’s also called cockscomb because some of the crested ones are wavy, resembling a rooster’s comb.
Celosias are annual flowers.
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Celosia flowers and plants
The crested form, Celosia argentea cristata, can be fan-shaped with a wavy top or densely crested to look like brain coral—a truly interesting flower! It comes in a gorgeous range of colors: yellow, gold, rose, almost red, soft orange, and burgundy. The “blooms” get up to 7 in. wide, but also produces many smaller blooms that are good as filler and dried arrangements.
Wheat celosia, C. a. spicata, looks like a head of wheat, with color. The heads are 2-3 in. long in pale pink, dark rose, and there’s now a coppery color available. Beautiful on their own, mixed in a bouquet, and great as a dried flower in dried arrangements.
Plume celosia, C. a. plumosa, forms fluffy plumes in lengths of a few to 8 in. long. Their color range is gold, bright scarlet, to a pale green.
There are bedding celosias that are common in nurseries for summer bedding plants. They’re good in bouquets. But I don’t include them as a cutting flower.
The best are the ones listed above, which are bred as cutting flowers. And they all make fantastic dried flowers.
They bloom by mid-summer through fall.
Plants range from 2 – 3½ ft. tall. They’re branched and keep sending up flowers all season if you cut the flowers.
How to grow Celosia
Full sun. Average to good garden soil.
You may plant seed directly into the soil once it has warmed, or start earlier in cells and set out plants. I like to start them in my seeding trays.
They can handle some drought once they’re established.
Harvest the flowers to produce many smaller side shoot flowers. These are smaller flowers but fit very well into dried arrangements and wreaths.
How to harvest Celosia
For the crested Celosias, the flowers bloom below the crest formation. Wait until the body of the flower and stem is stiff enough and seeds have just started to form before cutting them. Too soon and the crest will wilt.
It’s ok if you delay, the flowers keep elongating and the top stays just as cool, but the flowering parts below the top continue to form seeds as the top grows on. It just gets messy with seeds dropping everywhere… just a warning.
These are tough plants and flower stems, not delicate. So they’re easy to handle. Still you have a long window of harvest time.
Wheat and plume types can be cut at the base of the stem and benefit from bunching and hanging upside down to dry for later use. The cristatas, if ripe enough, can be laid in an airy spot and dried.
When you harvest the biggest heads of the crested celosias, you get many side shoots that are much smaller. These are nice because they still work very well in bouquets, dried arrangements, and in wreaths. So you can use all of the flowers, fresh or dried, not just the big ones.
The cristata crested Celosias are my favorite. The colors I like best are the reds, carmine, and persimmon.
I’ve always liked the Flaming Feather Celosia for the pale pink color to add texture to wreaths.
I’ve been trying different colors of plume celosia, this year it’s Sunday Orange.
Sources for Celosia seeds
Johnny’ Seeds: has been my go-to source for a huge selection Celosias. The only problem is that I don’t have room for as many as I’d like, so I need to exercise great restraint.
The nice thing about Celosias as dried flowers is that you can keep a dried harvest for a few years to use later.