Celosia: planting, care & propagation

Katja
Katja
Katja
Katja

I study landscape ecology and through my studies have discovered a love for plants. Plants are not only beautiful, but also have countless fascinating survival strategies. To bring a bit of nature into my home as well, I nurture my houseplants and herbs on every possible windowsill.

Favourite fruit: rhubarb and all kinds of berries
Favourite vegetables: onions and garlic

Whether feathery or cockscomb, celosia has a variety of forms and colours. That is probably what makes this remarkable plant so popular.

Celosia flowers in various colours
A bed full of celosias brings a splash of colour to the garden [Photo: Bhonna/ Shutterstock.com]

Celosia comes in a variety of shapes and colours. It is ideal for gardens, balconies, indoors and even bouquets. Whatever variety and location you choose, you will find helpful tips on planting and care here.

Celosia: origin and characteristics

The genus Celosia, also known as cockscomb, originates from the tropical regions of Africa and South America. It belongs to the Amaranthaceae family and contains about 60 species. The herbaceous plants have simple, green leaves and either grow upright or as a climber. When we talk about the ornamental plant celosia, we are usually referring to the plumed cockscomb Celosia argentea in one of its variations. The spike-like inflorescences consist of many small individual flowers, which in some cultivated forms can also be arranged like a cockscomb or feather bush.

There are several varieties with flowers in a wide range of colours, and they bloom from July to October. The annual plumed cockscomb grows upright and reaches a height of about 30 cm and it can even reach up to 2 m in its native habitat. Depending on the environment, celosias can be either perennial or annual. If they are kept warm all year round (e.g. as an indoor plant), you can enjoy their flowering for several years.

Silver and fuchsia cockscomb flowers
The plumed cockscomb flower comes in a variety of flower forms and can be grown outside [Photo: Anung Camui/ Shutterstock.com]

Tip: Celosia is also used as a food and medicinal plant in its native regions, as the leaves contain vitamin C, among other things.

Is the celosia plant bee-friendly? Although bees and butterflies find food at the top of the inflorescence, Celosia plants, in general, are not as appealing to insects as our native flowering plants.

The most beautiful species and varieties

Celosia argentea comes in many varieties with different flower shapes and colours. So, here we divide the plumed cockscomb into three groups.

Celosia argentea var. plumosa

This type of celosia is characterised by its typical feather-like inflorescences. In reddish shades, the flower can also resemble a flame.

  • ‘Deep Purple’: has bright purple flowers
  • ‘Rote Feder’: with intense, fiery red flowers
  • ‘Venezuela’: this variety has pink flowers
Pink celosia plumosa close up
Celosia plumosa has particularly lush flowers [Photo: senee sriyota/ Shutterstock.com]

Celosia argentea var. cristata

A type of celosia with very distinctive flowers. The individual flowers are arranged rather flatly and form a kind of wave on top, resembling a rooster’s comb.

  • ‘Hot Tropic’: has hot pink flowers in a cockscomb shape
  • ‘Twisted Yellow’: orange-yellow cockscomb flowers with a dark edge
Twisted yellow crested cockscomb
The cockscomb ‘Twisted Yellow’ is beautiful with its darker edges [Photo: Nahhana/ Shutterstock.com]

Celosia argentea var. spicata

The so-called wheat celosia variety is somewhat simpler in form. The flowers are smaller and usually more muted in colour. Their inflorescences look like narrow tails.

  • ‘Flamingo Feather’: the flowers are light pink and change to an increasingly more vibrant pink towards the top
  • ‘Celway Lemon’: with flowers that turn rich yellow towards the top, while they appear lighter at the bottom
Pink white flamingo feather celosia
The wheat celosia ‘Flamingo Feather’ blooms plumes of ivory-white flowers with pink tips [Photo: LFO62/ Shutterstock.com]

Growing celosia plants

Celosias can be kept both indoors and outdoors. In both cases, place them in a bright spot, as they need light to form flowers. While direct sunlight is tolerated, it can cause the colours of the flowers to fade. Therefore, a bright location with indirect light is ideal. Keep your celosia away from the wind, and preferably at temperatures ranging from 16 to 21 °C. It does not tolerate temperatures below 5 °C. This tropical plant also loves high humidity.

Flowerheads of ‘Forest Fire’ celosias
Keep celosias in a bright place [Photo: MasterChefNobu/ Shutterstock.com]

If you would like to plant a plumed cockscomb, it is best to use a container − this way, you can bring it indoors for overwintering. First create a drainage layer consisting of coarse material before filling in a layer of substrate. A high-quality, humus-rich substrate such as our Plantura Organic All Purpose Compost is suitable. It is rich in nutrients and its loose structure provides optimal growing conditions. Always keep the soil evenly moist. If the substrate is too dry, it can lead to premature flowering and a shorter flowering period.

Celosia kept in a pot
Celosia is a charming and captivating houseplant [Photo: Jordi Prat Puig/ Shutterstock.com]

If you want to keep your celosia outside, plant it from mid-May onwards, after the risk of frost has passed − it does not tolerate cold temperatures. When the thermometer shows at least 10 °C all day, go ahead and plant the celosia outside. Plant the celosias 20 to 25 cm apart to give them enough room to grow.

Tip: If you move your celosia from indoors to outdoors in spring, you should acclimatise the plant to the new conditions slowly. To begin, just place the plant in partial shade for a few hours. Gradually increase the amount of time it spends outdoors.

Plumed celosias in a pot
If you have your cold-sensitive celosia in a pot, bring it inside during the winter. [Photo: Melissa Tate/ Shutterstock.com]

Summary: Planting celosias

  • Location: Bright, indirect light, sheltered from the wind and warm (16 to 21 °C)
  • Planting in a container is recommended: drainage layer made of coarse material and humus-rich substrate with plenty of nutrients
  • Planting outdoors: from mid-May onwards, when the temperature is above 10 °C all day; plant 20 to 25 cm apart

Celosia plant care

There are a few important steps to take when caring for celosia that will help the plant produce magnificent flowers and stay healthy.

The water requirement of the plant is quite high. Never let the substrate dry out and always keep it evenly moist. Rainwater is preferred, but tap water is also tolerated. Remove the water that collects in the saucer after about 15 minutes.

Brown and wilted celosia flowerheads
For a longer flowering period, deadhead wilted flowers [Photo: rainyclub/ Shutterstock.com]

When it comes to fertilising, the following should be noted: less is more. When overfed with nutrients, the celosia’s flower colour, among other things, will be affected. Fertilise celosia plants in pots every four weeks from May to September. We recommend using a liquid fertiliser such as our Plantura Liquid Houseplant Food. This fertiliser not only promotes growth, but also strengthens the roots through the microorganisms it contains.

Plantura Liquid Houseplant Food
Plantura Liquid Houseplant Food

Liquid fertiliser with an NK ratio of 3-4, for all houseplants, promotes healthy plant growth, child & pet friendly

Pruning is only necessary to a limited extent. As a rule, the celosia’s growth does not need to be restricted. Deadheading the withered inflorescences, on the other hand, will extend the flowering period. Celosia flowers also make excellent cut flowers. It is best to harvest the flowers when the inflorescences are just short of being fully developed. The cut flowers will then last longer.

Celosia plants are susceptible to infestation by thrips. These feed on the plant sap, causing tiny, pale spots on the leaves. If the plant is not in a sufficiently ventilated location, it can also be attacked by Botrytis fungi.

Is celosia hardy?

Celosia is not winter hardy and must be brought indoors at temperatures below 10 °C. Overwintering is possible but unpredictable. To overwinter celosias, keep the pot in a bright and warm place all year round and just water more sparingly in winter − do not fertilise in winter. A greenhouse with plenty of artificial light is an ideal overwintering location. All the same, making use of the many celosia plant seeds and simply sowing new plants in the following year might be easier.

Close-up of purple wheat celosia
If the celosia is overwintered correctly, it will flower again the following year [Photo: F_studio/ Shutterstock.com]

Celosia propagation

Celosia is propagated by sowing seeds in spring. First prepare a container or pot with a drainage layer and growing medium. Our Plantura Organic Herb & Seedling Compost, which was specially developed for growing seeds, is ideal for this. Our peat-free soil contains fewer nutrients than our other substrates to encourage root growth. After preparing the container and substrate, sow the seeds individually. Press the seeds down very lightly and sprinkle a fine layer of sand over them to weigh them down − as celosia seeds need light to germinate, do not cover them completely with soil. The optimal conditions for the seeds to germinate are at 20 to 22 °C and constant humidity. To keep the environment around the seeds humid, place a transparent plastic bag over the container. Keep the pot in a bright place with plenty of sunlight. As the seedlings grow, you can slightly reduce the moisture in the soil and fertilise it a bit more. Repot the celosia plants when they are large enough. The roots are quite sensitive, so handle them with care.

Young, bright green celosia seedlings
Once two pairs of leaves have formed, celosia can be pricked out [Photo: Ahmad danang/ Shutterstock.com]

Is celosia poisonous?

Celosias are not poisonous to cats, dogs nor humans. The plants can be kept in any home without any problems. In its native regions, celosia is even used in medicine and cooking.

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