Celosia spicata in full bloom.
Celosia is a genus of edible and ornamental herbaceous annuals and perennials in the amaranth family (Amaranthaceae) native to Africa, North America and South America. Celosia spicata (= C. argentea var. spicata) is a summer annual or short-lived perennial (zones 9-11) grown as an ornamental for its distinctive, erect flower spikes sort of reminiscent of a sheaf of wheat that give it the common name of wheat celosia. C. argentea var. argentea is also used as a leaf vegetable in tropical Africa, East and Southeast Asia and other places for the soft texture and mild spinach-like taste of the foliage.
Other species of Celosia commonly grown as ornamentals include C. cristata (L) and C. plumosa (R).
Other species of celosia commonly used as annual ornamentals are C. cristata (cockscomb), with a crested inflorescence, and C. plumosa, with fluffy, plume-like inflorescences.
C. spicata branches with many strong stems to form a bushy but open, upright plant up to 2 feet wide and 3 or more feet tall. The alternate, medium to dark-green leaves may be mottled or tinged with burgundy. The 2-6 inch long leaves are smooth and entire, oval or lance-shaped, and strongly veined.
Beginning in mid-summer, abundant erect cylindrical inflorescences are produced on the branch tips above the foliage. The terminal spikes may be red, pink, purple or bi-colored and often develop a metallic silver sheen on the calyxes that remain after the flowers fade. The hundreds of small flowers densely packed within each spike bloom from the bottom up and the spike continues to elongate as additional flowers open up along the spike so that early flower spikes can be many inches long by time the frost arrives. Blooming continues until frost, but the plants are sturdy enough that they can remain upright and attractive through late fall.
Cylindrical inflorescences are held above the foliage (L) and bloom from the bottom up (LC), with densely packed flowers (C and RC) often becoming very long (R) by the end of the season.
The flowers are visited by bees, wasps, butterflies, and occasionally hummingbirds. After the flowers fade, small, shiny black seeds are produced in the stiff pink to white or beige calyx that remains attractive even after the flowers are gone, so can be used as fresh or dried cut flowers (especially spikes 2-3” long; longer spikes often do not hold up as well). Celosia is easily dried by hanging small bundles of flower stems upside down in a cool, dry room with good ventilation. The seeds will fall out as they dry. These plants will self-seed readily, and although the seedlings are easy to remove, it can become a weed as they set seed prolifically.
Wheat celosia offers vertical interest in annual gardens.
Use wheat celosia in annual or mixed beds and borders for vertical interest and contrast with mounded forms. It can be used in masses for a blast of color, or in mixed containers as the “thriller” component.
Wheat celosia does best in full sun.
Grow celosia in full sun in moist, but well-drained soil. Pinching when young will promote more compact and bushy plants with more flowers. Taller plants or those in windy areas may need staking, but the flower spikes on plants that do tilt or fall over will turn to face upwards. These plants have few pest problems and are not favored by deer, but may develop powdery mildew.
Celosias are propagated only from seed. Although they can be directly sown in the grown after the last frost, plants started indoors 6-8 weeks before the average last date of frost will be larger and have more flower spikes. Seeds must be covered and the soil should be warm for germination in 2-3 weeks. Transplant carefully as they do not like to be disturbed.
There are many cultivars and hybrids with C. spicata as one parent available, including:
- ‘Cramers Amazon’ – has deep purple-pink flowers that fade to pink.
- ‘Flamingo Feather’ series – has rose pink or purple flowers that fade to white or silver at the base on 2-2½ foot tall plants. It received the RHS Award of Garden Merit in 2009.
- ‘Glowing Spears’ – has intense purple-red flower spikes.
- ‘Kosmo’ series – is a C. spicata x C. plumosa hybrid with white, pink or red spikes on very compact plants (8-10 inches tall).
- ‘Pink Candle’ – has deep pink flowers tinged with silver.
- ‘Punky Red’ – has darker purple red flowers.
- ‘Ruby Parfait’ – has dark rose inflorescences on shorter plants (24” tall).
– Susan Mahr, University of Wisconsin – Madison
- Celosia, Wheatstraw Celosia
- Celosia Care: Learn About Growing Flamingo Cockscomb
- Growing Flamingo Cockscomb
- Caring for Flamingo Cockscomb
Celosia, Wheatstraw Celosia
Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater
18-24 in. (45-60 cm)
24-36 in. (60-90 cm)
12-15 in. (30-38 cm)
Where to Grow:
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Unknown – Tell us
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Late Summer/Early Fall
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Soil pH requirements:
6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)
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From seed; direct sow outdoors in fall
From seed; direct sow after last frost
Self-sows freely; deadhead if you do not want volunteer seedlings next season
Allow seedheads to dry on plants; remove and collect seeds
This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:
Upper Marlboro, Maryland
Annandale, New Jersey
Garner, North Carolina
Raleigh, North Carolina
San Augustine, Texas
Spring Branch, Texas
Bryn Mawr-Skyway, Washington
De Pere, Wisconsin
Celosia Care: Learn About Growing Flamingo Cockscomb
If you’re in the mood to plant something a little different to dazzle your neighbors and make them say ooh and ahh, consider planting a few flamingo cockscomb plants. Growing this bright, eye-catching annual couldn’t be much easier. Read on to learn all about growing flamingo cockscomb.
Growing Flamingo Cockscomb
Flamingo cockscomb (Celosia spicata) is also known as celosia ‘flamingo feather’ or cockscomb ‘flamingo feather.’ Flamingo cockscomb plants are easy to grow as long as you provide them with well-drained soil and at least five hours of sunshine per day.
Although celosia flamingo feather is an annual, you may be able to grow it year round in USDA plant hardiness zones 10 and 11. This plant doesn’t tolerate cold weather and is quickly killed by frost.
Like other cockscomb plants, Celosia flamingo feather is easily propagated by planting seed indoors about four weeks before the last expected frost in spring, or sow them directly into the garden after you’re sure all danger of frost has passed. Seeds germinate in temperatures between 65 and 70 F. (18-21 C.)
An even easier way of getting started with celosia flamingo feather is to purchase starter plants at a garden center or nursery. Plant bedding plants soon after the last frost.
Caring for Flamingo Cockscomb
Celosia care is relatively simple. Water flamingo cockscomb plants regularly. Although the plant is somewhat drought tolerant, flower spikes are smaller and less dramatic in dry conditions. Keep in mind that the soil should be moist but never waterlogged.
Apply a weak solution of a general purpose, water-soluble fertilizer every two to four weeks (Be careful not to over-feed celosia flamingo feather. If the plant is hale and hearty or if the soil is especially rich, fertilizer may not be needed.).
Deadhead flamingo cockscomb plants regularly by pinching or clipping wilted blooms. This easy task keeps the plants neat, encourages more blooms, and prevents rampant reseeding.
Watch for spider mites and aphids. Spray as needed with insecticidal soap spray or horticultural oil.
Celosia flamingo feather plants tend to be sturdy, but taller plants may require staking to keep them upright.