How To Grow and Care for Celosia

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If you haven't grown celosia, you're missing out on some unique and interesting flowers. Here's what to know about celosia plant care.

The National Garden Bureau, a non-profit organization promoting gardening in North America, announced 2023 will be the Year of the Celosia. That should will make this fun group of plants even more popular, introducing them to many new gardeners.

What Is Celosia?

Celosia is both the scientific and common name for several flowering annual plants related to the ancient grain, Amaranth. Celosia comes from an ancient Greek word for “burning” or “flame.” Many celosia flowers do look like flames, ranging in color from yellow to orange to red.

Why Are Celosia Popular?

Celosias are popular because they look so different from other flowers in the garden. Once you see that flower head that resembles the cockscomb of a chicken, you’ll likely never forget it. Another variety looks like a brain! Plus, many varieties feature bright colors in shades of pink, red, yellow and orange.

Types of Celosia To Plant

There are three main groups or types: plumosa, cristata and spicata.

Plumosa group

These have the flowers that look like flames or plumes of feathers. An outstanding example is a variety called ‘Flamma Orange.’ It produces orange flowers on small plants that grow to just under one foot. This variety received a national All-America Selections award in 2022.

Cristata group

Also called the crested group, these include varieties with flowers that look like a chicken’s cockscomb or even little brains. Many come in shades of red. ‘Cramer’s Rose’ is relatively easy to find.

Spicata group

These are sometimes referred to as wheat celosia because the flowers are carried on upright spikes, like wheat. ‘Flamingo Feather,’ with silvery pink blooms, is one example.

When To Plant Celosia

Celosia is planted outdoors in the spring once there’s no danger of frost. Nighttime temperatures should average around 55 degrees before planting celosia outside in containers or in the ground.

In the fall, celosia in full bloom is often available for purchase as a flowering plant that adds instant color to your garden. They also make great additions to fall containers to replace other annual flowers that are fading out.

How To Plant Celosia

You can grow celosia from seeds started indoors, or buy plants in the spring. Plan to start seeds indoors six to eight weeks before your last frost date. Always plant celosia in a location with well-drained soil and full sun.

Also pay attention to their mature size. Depending on the variety, celosia ranges from as short as eight inches to as tall as three feet.

Celosia Plant Care

Watering

As with other annuals grown in the ground, provide the equivalent of an inch of rain a week. Newly planted celosias may need more frequent watering until they’ve grown new roots. If growing celosia in containers, you may need to water daily during the hottest days of summer.

Fertilizer

Fertilize your celosia as you would other annual flowers. Those grown in the ground may not need additional fertilizer, but those in containers likely will. Use a general fertilizer labeled for annual flowers.

Pruning

To encourage branching and more blooms, pinch back young plants by carefully cutting off or pinching out the growing tip of each. After that, continue to cut off old blooms as they begin to form seeds. This encourages the plants to keep blooming.

Many celosia plants will self-sow readily in the garden, so be sure to cut off old blooms before the seeds drop to the ground.

Overwintering

As an annual flower, celosia plants are not often overwintered. It’s best to start new plants from seeds in the spring or buy transplants.

Where celosia is hardy, in U.S. Department of Agriculture Plant Hardiness Zones 10 and 11, celosia can be left out year round and will be a perennial. But even in these areas celosia is often grown as an annual, especially if there are occasional periods of widespread frost.

How Long Do Celosia Last?

Celosias as annuals last through one growing season. They’re finished after the first frost in the fall.

Fortunately many of the flowers, especially those in the cristata and spicata groups, dry easily so you can use them in dried flower arrangement and wreaths. To dry the flowers, cut them before they start forming seeds, then hang them in a cool, dark room.

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Carol J. Michel
Carol J. Michel is an award-winning author of several books including five gardening humor books and one children's book. As the holder of degrees from Purdue University in both horticulture and computer technology, she spent over three decades making a living in healthcare IT while making a life in her garden. She started writing about gardening on her blog called May Dreams Gardens which lead to numerous magazine articles, her books, and a podcast called The Gardenangelists. She was recently named a GardenComm Fellow by Garden Communicators International.