792 Celosia spp.Common Names: cockscomb, feathered amaranth, woolflower, red fox, celosia , prince Family: Amaranthaceae (amaranth Family)
The celosias or cockscombs are erect, branching plants with oval or lance-shaped, strongly veined leaves 2-6 in (5.1-15.2 cm) long and hundreds of tiny flowers packed in dense, brightly colored flowerheads which usually stand above the foliage. The wild form, Celosia argentea var. argentea is a weedy annual or short-lived perennial to 6 ft (1.8 m) tall, with erect plumes of silvery white flowers. C. argentea var. cristata (a.k.a. C. cristata) is a tetraploid cultigen of garden origin with many cultivars classified into several groups. These cultivars come with flowerheads in a variety of shapes (some rather weird), and brilliant hot colors including red, orange, yellow, purple and creamy white.
The Plumosa Group of cultivars (sometimes sold as Celosia 'Plumosa' or feathered amaranth) have feathery plumelike flowerheads, 4-10 in (10.2-25.4 cm) tall, that look a little like tiny Christmas trees. 'Apricot Brandy' is freely branched, to 20 in (50.8 cm) tall, with orange flowerheads. 'Forest Fire' has maroon leaves and bright scarlet flowerheads. 'New Look' has purplish leaves and crimson flowerheads. 'Kimono Series' cultivars are small, to 8 in (20.3 cm) tall, with flowerheads in rose, pink, creamy white and red.
Cultivars in the Cristata Group have compact rounded, crested or fan-shaped flowerheads with bizarre convoluted ridges. The flowerheads are 3-12 in (7.6-30.5 cm) across and look a little like velvety brains, cauliflower heads or roosters' combs. 'Big Chief Mix' is tall, to 3 ft (0.9 m), with cauliflower-shaped flowerheads to 6 in (15.2 cm) in diameter. 'Jewel Box Mix' is very small, to 8 in (20.3 cm), with bronzy leaves and flowerheads in hot, bright colors including yellow, pink, salmon, gold and red; the flowerheads are fan-shaped, like a rooster's comb.
The Childsii Group (a.k.a. C. 'Childsii' and Chinese woolflower) includes cultivars with rounded flowerheads that look like twisted and tangled balls of yarn.
The Spicata Group (often classified as a distinct species, C. spicata) includes cultivars with slender, cylindrical pink or rose flowerheads which have a metallic sheen because the individual flowers are silvery-white at their bases. 'Flaming Series' cultivars are typical of this group.
Celosia argentea occurs widely as a weed in the equatorial tropics of Africa, Asia and South America. It may have originated in Asia and then spread to Africa and South America with the help of people.
CultureLight: Full sun. Moisture: The celosias require constant moisture, but a well drained soil. Water before the soil dries out. Plants that survive periods of drought may become stunted and flower only poorly if at all. Hardiness: USDA Zones 5 - 11. Celosias are warm weather annuals. They can be stunted if exposed to temperatures below about 60ºF (15.5ºC). Celosias thrive in hot, humid weather. Propagation: Many gardeners purchase their celosias in the bedding plant section at their local garden center. The best plants to get are those that haven't flowered yet. Celosias are easy to start from seed. Sow shallowly in soil or potting mix at 70-75ºF (21-24ºC), and set out when nighttime temperatures stay above 45º or 50ºF (7-10ºC). Six week old seedlings should bloom in about two months.
Use celosias, especially the Plumosa types, in masses in the annual flower bed, or for edging in front of taller flowers and perennials. (Some of the flower colors may be just too dramatic to go well with other flowers.) The Cristata cultivars are good in containers, and prized for Japanese flower arrangements. The flowerheads of the Plumosa and Spicata cultivars are beautiful in fresh flower arrangements. The dried flowerheads of all groups are excellent in dried arrangements where they retain their color and don't disintegrate all over the place. Cut off flowerheads before the seeds develop, strip off all the leaves, and dry as quickly as possible by hanging upside down is a warm, well ventilated area.
In the garden, celosia flowers can last up to 8 weeks. Dried flowerheads last indefinitely. The Cristata Group cultivars were selected from mutations and are among the most bizarre of flowers.
Steve Christman 9/8/00; updated 3/4/04