If you’re looking to add a splash of color to your garden with a low-maintenance plant, consider Celosia. Learn how to grow and care for this special plant to enjoy rewarding blooms from summer to fall!
Celosia will thrive in full sun and soil with good drainage. While they can tolerate mild drought conditions, they prefer to have consistently moist (not saturated) soil. Plant Celosia after all chance of frost has passed.
While this plant is considered easy-to-grow, there are a few tips and tricks that will help yours thrive for seasons to come, read ahead to get insider information on how to grow and care for Celosia.
How to Grow Celosia
Planting Celosia in your garden will add bursts of bright orange, yellow, and red that will catch the eye of your neighbors and fellow gardeners. You can purchase starter plants at your local nursery, start your own seeds indoors, or plant seeds directly into your garden or in a pot.
First, you’ll want to prepare your soil. Celosia is known to be able to withstand a wide variety of soil conditions, but they will do best in soil with good drainage. Soil that will encourage good drainage will be loamy and fluffy. If you have clay-like soil, add some compost or organic matter prior to planting.
Soil amendments that you can mix into your existing soil are decomposing leaf matter, peat moss, manure, and aged compost. Also, note that they do best in soil with a pH of 6-6.5. If you need to raise the pH of your soil use lime, if you need to lower it, use a sulfur amendment.
Proper placement in your garden is also important. This is a sun-loving plant; the more the better. So place your Celosia in the sunniest spot in your garden, ensuring they get a minimum of six hours of sunlight per day.
Another crucial factor to consider is temperature. Celosia has zero-tolerance to frost and should be planted in the spring after all danger of frost has passed.
When it comes to watering, you want to aim for consistently moist soil, but be careful not to overwater as this can result in root rot and be the demise of your plant. Celosia can tolerate mild drought conditions but will do much better and produce more robust blooms if given adequate water.
In zones 9-10 you’ll find that your Celosia will act like perennials, you may get up to three seasons of blooms from the same plant. In most zones, Celosia is considered an annual and will start to die back at the first frost.
If you’re starting with purchased seedlings:
- Plant them when temperatures stay above 55 degrees F
- Find the sunniest spot in your garden
- Make sure the soil at your chosen spot has good drainage
- Space them 7-9” apart
- Give them a deep watering
- Transplant shock is normal, if they look wilted at first don’t worry, they’ll bounce back
If you’re planting them in containers or a pot:
- Pick a pot/container with plenty of drainage holes at the bottom
- Fill with loamy soil that will promote adequate drainage
- Place the pot/container in a location that will get at least 6 hours of sunlight per day
- Spacing will vary due to the size of pot and variety of Celosia
- Water thoroughly and keep evenly moist
If starting your seeds indoors:
- Start seeds 4-6 weeks before your last spring frost date
- Get a shallow seed tray
- Fill with potting soil
- Cover the seeds with ¼ inch of soil, lightly tamp down the soil
- Put them under grow lights or on a sunny window sill
- Keep the soil evenly moist
- Seeds should germinate in 8-14 days
- Transplant out when all danger of frost has passed
If you’re direct seeding:
- Wait until the temperature is warm and all danger of frost has passed
- Space seeds 10-12 inches apart
- Plant twice as many as you want, to make up for any seeds that don’t germinate
- Cover with a light dusting of soil and tamp down
- Keep the seeds evenly moist until germination
- Consider covering with a light garden cloth to prevent them from drying out
- Remove cloth once seeds have germinated
How to Care for Celosia
Celosia plants are simple and easy to tend to. For the most part, they are pest and disease-free. On the off chance that you find unwelcome guests such as spider mites and aphids, a spritz of some insecticidal soap can clear bugs away easily and quickly.
You’ll want to water your plants regularly, which will encourage brighter and bigger blooms. At first, you may need to water every day. After you get your plants established, watering three to four times a week should be sufficient. A thin layer of mulch around your plants can help keep the moisture in and the weeds out.
With all the beautiful blooms you’ll be getting, you’ll need to get comfortable with deadheading; the process of cutting off old, wilting flowers. By cutting these off, you’ll encourage more blooms over a longer period, and keep your Celosia looking happy and healthy.
Similar to deadheading, consider pinching off young flowers. By doing this, you’ll encourage the plant to produce more branches and stems, resulting in a bigger, bushier plant.
Celosia is an opportunistic re-seeder. If you let your plants go through their bloom cycle undisturbed, the seeds will dry and fall directly in your garden bed or get dispersed throughout your garden. If you want all the Celosia you can get, let them be and they will happily propagate themselves!
If you’re happy with the amount of Celosia you have and don’t want them popping up everywhere, keep up to date on your deadheading.
If your Celosia is looking discolored or wilted, consider applying a liquid fertilizer every few weeks to keep your Celosia properly nourished and looking robust. A 3-1-2 fertilizer is recommended.
With a taller variety, one that is growing two to three feet or taller, they may need staking. Once the blooms reach those heights, the weight of the flowers can cause the plant to droop over, or even break off. Consider using stakes, or some form of support, for these varieties.
While you’re likely to have success with this plant, you may run into a problem or two. If you do encounter a problem with your Celosia it will likely be due to fungus or pests.
Spider mites have been known to infest Celosia. Dry, brittle leaves are a sign that you may have a spider mite problem. They are small and can be hard to detect, so keep an eye out for them under leaves and on stems. To treat this problem, spray the plant with insecticidal soap.
If you encounter a fungus causing problems for your Celosia it’s either leaf spot or stem rot. In the case of leaf spot, you’ll notice brown spots on the foliage. These spots can turn into holes and eventually kill the plant. Increase air circulation and spray the plant with a copper fungicide to treat leaf spot.
Stem rot is caused by fungus in the soil. Symptoms include dark spots on the base of the plant, stems, and lower foliage. Unfortunately, there is no cure once it’s affected your plant. The best you can do is implement prevention techniques which include: increasing air circulation and making sure to only wet the soil, not the plant when watering.
Types of Celosia
With a wide range of colors, sizes, and appearances, the varieties of Celosia differ greatly. You’ll want to have an idea of what your Celosia plant will look like in full bloom before planting. Let’s take a look.
The three broad categories for Celosia are:
The most intriguing variety for many is the cockscomb. Its flowers are often likened to coral, with their compact, ruffled look. These plants most commonly produce blooms in different hues of red, but can also have orange, white, yellow, or pink blooms. Within this variety, you’ll find plants that bloom between eight inches and two feet high.
The blooms on the cockscomb variety tend to be large, with a diameter anywhere from 4” to 10”, consider using stakes to provide support for top-heavy blooms.
The next is the plumed variety. Plumed Celosia produces upright, feather-like blooms. The blooms can be described as fluffy, differing greatly from the compact cockscomb variety. They can grow to be anywhere from 6 to 18 inches in height. Plumed Celosia comes in red, white, pink, orange, and violet.
The wheat variety is appropriately named. Resembling wheat, the blooms can be described as compact, upright spikes of beautiful colors. The flowers will bloom from the bottom of the spike and continue upward. The shorter spikes, in the 2-3 inch range, make great cut flowers.
The wheat variety is known to last longer than others, holding blooms into the fall. The plant can grow to be three feet or taller.
All varieties make good cut flowers! Once flowers are fully developed, snip a bundle off and enjoy them in a vase. Alternatively, you can cut the flowers and dry them, making for a long-lasting decoration.
There are several ways to incorporate Celosia into our garden, patio, or household. With red, pink, orange, white, and violet varieties available you can mix and match to create beauty all around you.
- Use as a border around your garden bed
- Plant densely and use a variety of colors
- Pick a variety and a color you like and use it as a stand-alone in a pot by your front door
- Plant with zinnias, dahlias, or amaranth
- Dry cut flowers and make a long-lasting flower arrangement
- Plant them along pathways
Can Celosia Be an Indoor Plant?
While Celosia is said to do better outdoors, it can be considered a houseplant as well. To have a thriving Celosia indoors you’ll need to place it in the sunniest place in your house. If you don’t have a spot sunny enough for the plant, consider using grow lights to provide enough light.
The Cockscomb variety is most popular for indoor and container planting. The smaller varieties won’t get bigger than a foot, ideal for small indoor spaces.
Similar to growing Celosia outdoors, it will do best in good draining soil that is kept consistently moist. It will also benefit from deadheading.
Celosia belongs to the Amaranth family (Amaranthaceae). While it’s become popular for its great ornamental attributes in the United States, it’s commonly used as food in Africa and India.
Typically the leaves and stem are eaten. Young flower shoots are edible as well. The greenery is used in soups and stews in combination with other vegetables. It’s best to use the leaves before the plant sends up flowers. Once blooms begin to emerge, the greenery will turn bitter, making for an unpleasant addition to food.
The nutritional value of Celosia greens can be compared to that of other dark, leafy greens, including nutrients like iron, vitamin A and C, calcium, phosphorus, and protein. The flavor and texture are similar to that of spinach.
Some ideas for how to incorporate Celosia into your next meal:
- Sauteed with scrambled eggs
- Cooked with garlic and onion as a side dish
- Cooked in a soup with other leafy greens
- Blended into a smoothie
- Use the flowers for garnish on a salad
Celosia is most often grown from seed. You can plant the seeds yourself or purchase starter plants that are ready to go.
They are also prolific re-seeders and if blooms are left on the plant to dry, seeds will disperse themselves and emerge throughout your garden in the spring.
Celosia can also grow from cuttings. Once the plant is 3-4 weeks old, you can take cuttings for propagation. Cut a section off the top of the plant 4-6 inches long. Remove the lower leaves and place the cutting in a jar of water. Allow several sturdy roots to develop before transplanting into the soil.
It is believed that Celosia first emerged in parts of Africa, India, and the Americas. The name comes from a Greek word meaning “burning”. It’s likely that the flame-like blooms of common varieties inspired this name.
During the 18th century, the British planted them exclusively in pots, while American colonists had started putting them directly in garden beds. Even Thomas Jefferson was known to sport Cockscomb in his flower garden.
To Sum Up
Being both ornamental and edible, Celosia has a lot to offer to a home gardener. Incorporating these colorful plants into your garden will bring fresh and exciting colors to your environment. You may even find yourself incorporating them into your next meal!
For both experienced and novice gardeners, Celosia will be a delight to plant and care for. If planted in a sunny spot and kept properly watered, you can rely on your celosia to produce bountiful blooms through the spring, summer, and early fall.
Don’t hesitate to plant these intriguing plants in your garden this season!