With vivid colours and showy, plume-like or crested flowers, celosia is immensely decorative for indoors or the summer garden, producing blooms from midsummer to early autumn. Celosia is frost-tender and is best treated as an annual. Vivid flower colours include orange, pink, red and green. Its distinctive appearance and unusual flowers tend to put celosia in the 'love them or hate them' category of plants.
Celosia also makes an excellent cut flower and is particularly popular in Japan, where a number of varieties have been developed for that purpose. Dried celosia blooms keep their colour for at least six months. Celosia height ranges from 30cm to 1m, depending on the variety, with flower heads that can be up to 30cm long.
There are two distinctly different types of celosia: Celosia plumosa is known as plume flower, plume of feathers and Prince of Wales’ feathers, due to the upright and feathery shape of its blooms. Celosia cristata is known as cockscomb for its compressed, unusually shaped, and contorted blooms.
How to grow celosia
Buy ready-grown plants in early summer or raise your own from seed sown in spring. Grow in a warm, sheltered site that gets sun for at least half the day. Keep the compost evenly moist and feed while in flower. Discard and compost plants once flowering has finished.
Where to grow celosia
Celosia make good indoor plants pots in a protected spot such as a conservatory, porch, or greenhouse, but preferably not in centrally heated rooms. Grow outdoors in pots or in the border from early summer to the frosts. Celosias look best in groups or drifts, and make good companions to other brightly coloured plants with an exotic appearance, such as Canna lilies and tender salvias.
How to plant celosia
Celosias that are bought in small pots may need potting up into a larger container and growing on before planting out. Use a good quality, peat-free multi-purpose compost and ensure the top of the root ball is level with the surface of the compost. To grow celosia outdoors, first harden off plants (acclimatise to the outside) for at least two weeks before planting out well after the last frosts.
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How to care for celosia
Water to keep the compost evenly moist at all times but take care not to overwater. Feed with a liquid fertilizer once every 10-14 days whilst in flower.
Cut off faded flowers to keep the plant tidy and encourage more blooms to be produced.
How to propagate celosia
Sow seed in early spring in a heated propagator with a temperature of 20-25°C. Sow in moist seed compost mixed with a third by volume of perlite, covered with a thin layer of the same mixture.
Celosia seedlings dislike root disturbance so the seed is best sown in modular trays or individual pots that can be transplanted with the root ball intact, or in biodegradable pots that can be planted intact.
Growing celosia: problem solving
Celosias growing under cover are more prone to pests than those growing outside. Be vigilant and check regularly for pests, particularly whitefly, which can be combatted using a biological control.
Celosia is prone to problems if overwatered, so keeping the plant moist but not wet is key to success. Symptoms of overwatering are yellowing foliage, rotting stems, or collapsing growth. Again, be vigilant as once plants get to the wilting stage, they are unlikely to recover.
Advice on buying celosia
- Celosia seed is available both as individual colours in named varieties, or as mixtures
- Celosia plants are often available in nurseries and garden centres, usually sold alongside indoor plants rather than in the garden plant sections
- Avoid buying celosia plants that have been stored near an open window or door – they may be damaged beyond repair