Gardening in South Africa

Celosia Glow Mixed. Picture courtesy Ball Horticultural CompanyCondensed Version:

Celosias, with their bright feathery blooms that last from spring through autumn, right up till the first hard frost, are finally getting the recognition they deserve. Their vivid hues practically glow in the garden and come in fiery shades of red, gold, yellow, cream, orange, rose, deep magenta, and pink. They are almost indestructible and remain the same shape and texture even during severe storms. Celosia also loves the basking in full sun and is easy to grow, with countless gorgeous hybrids to choose from, ranging in height from 20 to 75cm tall, making them perfect for any garden situation.

Plant or sow directly into garden beds when the soil is warm, as Celosias cannot tolerate cold temperatures and need warmth to germinate. They will adapt to most garden soils, but for best results plant in soil that is rich in organic matter, and which drains well. Water regularly during dry spells but do not overwater, because if the beds remain soggy for long, the plants become susceptible to fungal diseases. In garden beds apply a balanced fertiliser every six weeks, and feed potted specimens regularly with a liquid fertiliser for flowering plants.

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Description, History & Interesting Facts:

Celosias, with their bright feathery blooms that last from spring through autumn, right up till the first hard frost, are finally getting the recognition they deserve. Their vivid hues practically glow in the garden and come in fiery shades of red, gold, yellow, cream, orange, rose, deep magenta, and pink. Even the generic name derived from the Ancient Greek word k?leos, means “burning,” referring to the flame-like flower heads.

Amazingly, although these soft feathery plumes seem delicate and are soft to the touch, they are almost indestructible and remain the same shape and texture even during severe storms. Celosia also loves the basking in full sun and is easy to grow, with countless gorgeous hybrids to choose from, ranging in height from 20 to 75cm tall, making them perfect for any garden situation.

Celosia is a small family of edible and ornamental plants in the amaranth family, Amaranthaceae. The exact geographic origins of celosia in the wild are unknown, although speculations include the dry slopes of Africa and India as well as dry stony regions of both North and South America. The various species are commonly known collectively as “wool flowers, or, if the flower heads are crested by fasciation, “cockscombs”. The plants are well known in East Africa’s highlands and are used under their Swahili name, “mfungu”.

In the Victorian language of flowers, celosias signified humour, warmth, and silliness, and it is not hard to see why. Watch as folks, especially children, walk by a planting of celosia, and you will likely see them break out with a smile. Celosias quirky flowers certainly beg for attention and you also won’t be able to resist reaching down to touch their amazingly soft plumes.

In the Garden & Home:

Tall growing celosias will bring vertical interest and long-lasting colour to sunny plantings, and even the small varieties will add interest to flower borders. They look stunning in baskets, containers and window boxes, whether planted alone or mixed with other summer flowering annuals or perennials. Celosias look particularly lovely when combined with dahlias, Zinnias and Marigolds, and snap up any varieties you may find with red foliage to heat up the display even more!

The flowers of this species are excellent cut flowers for fresh arrangements, and because they keep their colour for a long time, are dried and preserved for indoor decoration. Celosia is also a popular indoor pot plant in many regions of the world.

Cultivation/Propagation:

These tropical plants are grown as summer annuals in cold regions, and in subtropical climates they can be grown year round. They are easy to grow from seed, and young plants are readily available at garden centres in spring and summer. They love full sun, thrive in heat and humidity, and even during unpredictable summer weather you can count on them to come through heat and some drought unscathed.

Celosias are very versatile and will adapt to most garden soils, even clay, but for best results plant in soil that is rich in organic matter, and which drains well. Although the plants can tolerate short periods of drought they grow much better when the soil remains slightly moist. However, do not overwater, because if the beds remain soggy for long, the plants become susceptible to fungal diseases.

If they are planted in good, rich soil and a good general purpose fertiliser is added to the beds before planting, celosias may require no further fertilisation to keep them blooming all season, but if growth slows down, apply a balanced fertiliser every six weeks. Feed potted specimens regularly with a liquid fertiliser for flowering plants.

Celosias cannot tolerate cold temperatures and to germinate well they need warm soil temperatures. Sow them directly into garden beds, or into seedling trays, when the soil temperatures are between 24 and 25°C. Cover the seed lightly with soil or perlite and keep moist until germination, which should occur within 2 to 7 days. The plants will start flowering about 15 to 18 weeks after sowing.

Problems, Pests & Diseases:

Common pests and diseases that infect celosia plants are aphids and spider mites which can be treated with a suitable insecticide.

Poorly-drained soils and overwatering makes them susceptible to root rot, and fungal leaf spot diseases may also occur. Spray with an organic pesticide and fungicide if necessary, and find a better spot to grow them next season.

Warning:

Celosia plumosa is not listed as toxic to humans, and is non-toxic to dogs, cats and horses.

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Amaranthus

The red color of this flower is considered to be the darkest red naturally possible.

Amaranthus is a showy and exotic plant, ideal for beds and borders. Amaranthus are the best accent plants, especially in dried flower arrangements. The long, rope like Amaranthus flowers cascade to the ground from tall, erect branching stems. Amaranthus flowers are breathtaking tassels of the darkest red or green.

Kingdom Plantae Division Magnoliophyta Class Magnoliopsida Order Caryophyllales Family Amaranthaceae Genus Amaranthus

Amaranthus is also called as Amaranth, Tampala, Tassel Flower, Flaming Fountain, Fountain Plant, Joseph’s Coat, Love-lies-bleeding, Molten Flower, Prince’s Feather and Summer Poinsettia. Amaranthus is a broad genus of about 60 species of short-lived herbs that breed mostly in the temperate and tropical regions. Amaranthus also includes the pigweeds, Amaranthus hybridus.

The plant is large and bushy, growing at about 90-130 cm in height. Many Amaranthus species are cultivated as leaf vegetables, cereals, or ornamental plants. It primarily serves as an annual ornamental, and its leaves and seeds are edible with nutritional properties.

Bisexual or unisexual, Amaranthus flowers are typically very small and usually prickly with bristly perianth and bracts. Bracts subtend the flower with two scarious or membranous bractlets . The flower’s androecium holds usually 5 stamens located opposite the sepals. Its stamens on the are generally united for part or all of the length into a membranous tube or crown-like structure, sometimes with tiny appendages between the anthers. Leaves on the Amaranthus are alternate, simple, estipulate, and generally whole.

Facts about Amaranthus

  • The Aztecs used Amaranthus flowers in several of their ceremonies, making images of their gods (especially Huitzilopochtli) with Amaranth mixed with honey.
  • The Aztecs and other Mexicans also used Amaranthus, called huautli, to prepare ritual drinks and foods.
  • Amaranthus cultivation reached its height during the Aztec Empire. For the Aztecs, the Amaranthus represented nutritional value, in both therapeutic and the ritual usage.
  • Amaranthus was one of the staple foodstuffs of the Incas, and is known as the kiwicha in the Andes today.
  • To this day, Amaranth grains are toasted much like popcorn and mixed with honey or molasses to make a treat called alegra, literally joy in Mexican Spanish.
  • As Amaranthus was often mixed with blood and used in pagan ceremonies, it was nearly extinct when Christian culture spread in the Americas.
  • Amaranthus leaves are oval, 2-4 inches long, starting out green or dark red and changing to bright yellow, orange or florescent pink at the top.
  • The foliage of all varieties of Amaranthus is edible, highly nutritious and is described as tasting like spinach.
  • The world has recently rediscovered the nutritional properties of Amaranthus.
  • Amaranthus is used as edible greens, herbs, and grains in Africa, China, Greece, India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Tibet.
  • Amaranthus caudatus is most typically known as the Love-Lies-Bleeding plant and serves as a border plant in flower gardens.
  • Members of the genus Amaranthus share many characteristics and uses with members of the closely related Celosia genus.

Growing Amaranthus

  • Amaranthus prefer partly shady to full sunlight conditions.
  • The soil type is not overly important, though it should have a PH between 6 and 7; for the most vibrant Flowers it is best that the soil is not too rich, as this soil type encourages growth.
  • Amaranthus should be sowed indoors or outdoors when all the danger of frost has passed.
  • Lightly cover the seed with soil, and make sure the seedling has plenty of light and protect from the cold.
  • Spacing between the seeds must be 10-14 inches apart.
  • Germination is seen in 10-14 days at 70 degrees F.

Amaranthus Plant Care

  • Amaranthus is not known to be ethylene sensitive.
  • Regular watering is needed
  • Maintain soil moisture all season.
  • From the start of the growing season, apply slow-release or all-purpose fertilizer monthly.

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