Is Celosia a Perennial?

I love seeing colorful celosia in fall-themed container gardens. But if it's planted in the ground, is celosia a perennial? Let's find out!

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Lately, I’ve noticed my local greenhouse bringing in more than just mums for replenishing fall container plantings. Among all these new flowers are several types of celosia. They stand out for their colors that are perfect for fall, including shades of red, yellow and orange.

I love the idea of using plume-type celosias, whose flowers look like flames, to add height and fall color, all in one plant. Then there are the cockscomb varieties of celosia with flowers that look like little brains. What better flower is there for a Halloween-themed container?

What Is Celosia?

Celosia is an unusual looking flower related to the ancient grain, Amaranth. It has several other common names, including cockscomb and woolflower. The leaves are edible, although most people just grow them for the flowers. Celosia is also considered deer-resistant; the deer don’t generally eat it unless there is little else around.

Is Celosia a Perennial?

For most of us, no. As an annual, it grows, flowers, sets seed and is done for the season once the first frost in the fall arrives. In warmer climates, including U.S. Department of Agriculture Plant Hardiness Zones 10 and 11, celosia can be grown as a short-lived perennial for a few years.

How Do You Keep Celosia Blooming?

Whether growing celosia as an annual or a short-lived perennial, encourage it to keep blooming by cutting off old blooms before they set seed. This will encourage the plant to produce more branches and more flowers.

Also, when the plant is a young seedling, it will grow bushier and produce more flowers if you carefully pinch or cut off the growing tip of the main stem. This is generally done when the seedling is four to six inches tall and has several sets of true leaves.

Can You Divide Celosia?

Celosia is not generally dug up and divided like other perennial plants. Where it grows as an annual, new plants can be purchased in the spring, or seeds can be started indoors six to eight weeks before the last frost. Where it is grown as a short-lived perennial, it doesn’t lend itself to being dug up and divided.

How Do You Prepare Celosia for Winter?

Because celosia is an annual flower almost everywhere, it needs no winter preparation. Frost will kill it. Once that happens, pull it out as you clean up the garden, being careful not to let its seeds scatter everywhere (see below). In areas where celosia can survive the winter, protect it with a frost cover.

Does Celosia Self-Sow?

Some varieties of celosia may self-sow, especially in warmer areas.

If the flowers are allowed to set seed and the seed drops to the ground, you may see lots of little seedlings in that area the following spring. These seedlings may make it seem like celosia is a perennial, but those seedlings are new annual plants. Depending on the variety of celosia, these seedlings probably won’t produce the same color of flowers the following year.

Can Celosia Grow Indoors?

You might be tempted to take smaller varieties of celosia indoors and treat them like houseplants, but they aren’t likely to thrive. They grow best in sunny, hot and dry conditions. Varieties that grow up to three feet tall would be too large for houseplants. Plus, digging up a plant outside, repotting it and relocating it indoors rarely works.

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.