Caren White is a Master Gardener and instructor at Home Gardeners School. She has been associated with Rutgers Gardens for over a decade.
If you like to craft with dried flowers, you need to add celosia to your cutting garden. The flowers come in many bright colors, are easy to dry and retain their colors for months.
What is Celosia?
Celosia is an annual flower that is related to amaranth. Unlike amaranth, it is not edible. Celosia is native to North Africa. There are many species of celosia, but the most common one grown in our gardens is Celosia argentea. There are three sub-species that are popular. C. spicata have flowers that resemble wheat. C. plumosa flowers are bushy and look like flames. C. cristata is my personal favorite. It is also called “cockscomb” because the flowers have intricate folds that look like a cockscomb.
The plants flower in reds, yellows, oranges and purples. The vibrant flowers of all three sub-species retain their color when dried making them excellent choices for dried arrangements.
How to Grow Celosia
Celosia is hardy in zones 10 and 11 which are tropical. The rest of us grow them as annuals. Be sure to grow your plants where they will get full sun which means a minimum of 6 to 8 hours of sunlight every day. Morning only or afternoon only sun is not enough. They also need well-drained soil because they are subject to root rot. If your soil has a lot of clay in it, consider adding compost to it to provide nutrients and drainage. Raised beds are also a good option.
Spicata plants are tall and can grow up to 3 feet tall. The plumosa and cristatas are shorter and stockier, closer to 12 to 18 inches, making them excellent candidates for container plantings.
Water them well when you plant them, but afterwards as long as your area is not experiencing an unusual drought, you will not need to water your plants. They are drought tolerant. This is another reason why they make good container plants. Containers dry out faster than your garden. You don’t have to worry about keeping your container watered because of their drought tolerance.
The plants also don’t require fertilizer. You can add some time release fertilizer when you first plant them. Unless the plants are not doing well, it is not necessary to fertilize. If you do fertilize, use one specially formulated for flowering plants.
How to Grow Celosia From Seed
Celosia is easy to grow from seed. No matter which variety you are growing, you treat the seed the same way. You can direct sow the seed, barely covering it, in your garden after your last frost. The seeds will begin to germinate within 1 to 2 weeks when the soil reaches 60⁰F. This is the preferred method because celosia does not transplant well. It doesn’t like having its roots disturbed.
If you want to start your seeds indoors, it is best to sow them in individual peat pots or other biodegradable pots that can be planted directly into the garden without having to disturb the seedlings’ roots. Sow the seeds 6 to 8 weeks before your last frost in the biodegradable containers and barely cover them. Use a heat mat to keep the soil at 70⁰F to 75⁰F. Germination should occur within 1 to 2 weeks.
Transplant your seedlings into your garden, peat pot and all, two weeks after your last frost.
How to Dry Celosia
Celosia flowers should be harvested for drying when they are fully open unlike most dried flowers which are harvested when they are only partially open. Celosia is harvested at the fully open stage so that they are at their most colorful.
Harvest your flowers early in the morning after the dew dries. You want to harvest early before the sun has a chance to fade any of the color but at the same time you don’t want them wet from the dew. Otherwise, the flowers will get moldy rather than drying. Cut the stalks off at soil level or as close to the ground as you can get. Remove all of the leaves. Tie the stems together in small bunches, no more than 6 to 10 stems per bunch.
Hang the bunches upside down somewhere that is warm, dry, has good air circulation and is dark. Sunlight will fade your flowers. Humidity will cause mold to form so avoid basements. Also avoid anywhere that there is not good air circulation to gently blow the mold spores off of your flowers. Attics are good if they have good air circulation. Sheds and garages can also be used if you hang your bunches well away from any windows.
Properly dried, celosia flowers will retain their colors for up to 6 months.
Questions & Answers
Question: Do Celosia seeds come from the flowers?
Answer: Yes, if you allow the flowers to die and go to seed, you can harvest that seed or let it fall naturally into your garden and they will germinate the following spring. Just be aware that most celosias are hybrids so the resulting plants will not look like the parents. Most gardeners purchase seeds so that they get the exact celosia flower form and color that they want.
Question: My wheat celosia has never thrived since being planted in a container after purchase, why?
Answer: I'm sorry to hear that your celosia is not doing well. My guess is that it is not getting enough sunlight. Celosia needs full sun, which is a minimum of 6 to 8 hours of sunlight each day. Try moving your container to a sunnier location.
© 2019 Caren White
Caren White (author) on February 27, 2019:
So glad that you enjoyed it, Eman. I agree, the flowers are very beautiful.
Eman Abdallah Kamel from Egypt on February 27, 2019:
This article is very useful and also filled with valuable information. The plants are very beautiful and attractive.
Caren White (author) on February 27, 2019:
I agree! And they are fun to grow because of their unusual flower shapes.
Heidi Thorne from Chicago Area on February 27, 2019:
Being in Zone 5, we don't have these around too often. But I have seen some planted, as you note, as annuals. They are beautiful!