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Celosia: How to Plant, Grow, and Care for Celosia Plants

Multicolored celosia plants in a field

Celosia plants, also known as cockscomb or woolflowers, are vibrant annuals that are members of the amaranth family.

Native to East Africa and the Mediterranean, these compact plants are adorned with unique, brightly colored blooms that are often used as cut flowers. The foliage of celosia plants is just as striking, with leaves that range from green to red.

These plants are tender perennials, but they are often grown as annuals, adding a burst of color to garden beds and pots from early summer until the first frost.

Celosia flowers are available in a variety of forms, including plume celosia, wheat celosia, and the well-known cockscomb, each with its unique shape and texture. These blooms are not only visually appealing but also have a unique taste that is often used in salads.

Celosias thrive in a full-sun location and require well-drained soil to prevent leaf spot, a common fungus that can damage their vibrant leaves.

The celosia seeds have a high germination rate and can be started indoors in a seedling tray before the last frost date to ensure a head start on the growing season.

Despite their exotic appearance, celosia plants are surprisingly easy to grow. However, they can be susceptible to common garden pests like aphids and spider mites.

With proper care and attention, these plants can provide a spectacular display of color in your garden, with their unique blooms and vibrant foliage.

As a master gardener, I have more than a decade’s worth of experience and knowledge that I’ll be sharing with you today in this complete guide to growing celosia.

Red, orange, and yellow celosia flowers

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Botanical Name: Celosia spp.

Common Name: Cockscomb, woolflowers

Family: Amaranthaceae

Plant Type: Annual

Hardiness Zones: 3-11 (USDA)  (10-11 for perennial habit)

Sun Exposure: Full sun

Soil Type: Tolerant of all soils with good drainage

Soil pH: Slightly acidic to slightly alkaline

Bloom Time: Summer through fall

Flower Color: Purple, burgundy, pink, white, yellow, red, orange

Native Area: Africa, North America, South America

Celosia Plant Care

Celosia plants are annuals and tender perennials that thrive in full sun and well-drained soil. As a member of the amaranth family, these vibrant blooms hail from East Africa and the Mediterranean, but they have adapted well to most garden beds.

Celosia flowers are easy to grow from seedlings or seeds; just ensure the soil surface is warm and there is no danger of frost. They require a full-sun location and regular watering, but be careful not to overwater as this can lead to fungus and leaf spots.

With proper care, your celosias will bloom from early summer until the first frost, providing a vibrant display and a bounty of cut flowers.

Light

Celosia plants thrive best in a full-sun location. These annuals require a minimum of six hours of sunlight daily to develop their vibrant, showy blooms.

The more sunlight these members of the Amaranth family receive, the more spectacular their foliage and flowers will be.

If you’re growing celosias in pots, ensure they are positioned in a spot that receives ample sunlight throughout the day. In short, whether you’re cultivating plume celosia, wheat celosia, or cockscomb, remember that these Mediterranean natives love the sun.

Selective focus of a red celosia flower

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Soil

Celosia plants thrive best in well-drained soil. They prefer a soil that is rich in organic matter. Compost can be added to the garden beds to increase the nutrient content of the soil.

The soil surface should be kept moist but not waterlogged as these plants are susceptible to root rot. Celosias are tolerant of a wide range of pH levels, but they perform best in slightly acidic to neutral soil.

Water

Celosia plants thrive in well-drained soil and require regular watering to maintain their vibrant blooms and lush foliage.

While these members of the amaranth family are drought-tolerant, they prefer consistent moisture, especially during the germination of celosia seeds and the growth of seedlings.

Overwatering can lead to fungus and leaf spots, so it’s essential to avoid waterlogged soil.

A good rule of thumb is to water when the soil surface feels dry to the touch. As the celosia blooms mature into the late summer, reduce watering gradually to prepare the plants for the first frost.

Temperature and Humidity

These tender perennials, often grown as annuals, thrive in full sun and high temperatures.

They are heat-tolerant and prefer the warm, humid conditions of early summer. Celosias can withstand a wide range of temperatures, but they are sensitive to frost. The plants should be grown after the last frost date and will continue to bloom until the first frost.

Pink, orange, and yellow celosia in the garden

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

During periods of cool weather or danger of frost, it’s advisable to move potted celosia plants indoors or provide protection for those in garden beds.

Fertilizer

Celosia plants are not heavy feeders, but they do appreciate a little boost. After planting, it’s beneficial to add a layer of compost to the soil surface around the base of the plants.

This organic matter will gradually break down, providing a slow-release source of nutrients to the celosias.

During the growing season, an application of a balanced liquid fertilizer every four to six weeks can help support robust foliage and vibrant celosia blooms.

If you’re growing celosias in pots, they may require more frequent feeding due to the limited volume of soil.

Types of Celosia

  • Bombay Series: The Bombay series is a compact variety of celosia plants, known for their vibrant and showy blooms. These annuals are a member of the amaranth family and are native to East Africa and the Mediterranean.
Celosia Bombay Pink flowers in the garden

Bombay Series – Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

  • Castle Scarlet Series: The Castle Scarlet Series is a type of cockscomb or woolflower celosia, characterized by its unique, brain-like flowers. These plants are tender perennials but are often grown as annuals.
Castle Scarlet Celosia

Castle Scarlet Series – Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

  • Flamingo Feather: Flamingo Feather is a type of plume celosia, named for its feathery, plume-like blooms that resemble the elegant feathers of a flamingo.
Selective focus on the pink flowers of Celosia Flamingo Feather

Flamingo Feather – Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

  • Fresh Look Series: The Fresh Look Series is a type of celosia that is celebrated for its long-lasting, vibrant blooms and lush foliage.
Yellow and maroon Fresh Look Series

Fresh Look Series – Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

  • Sunday Gold: Sunday Gold is a variety of wheat celosia, known for its golden-yellow blooms that resemble heads of wheat.
Celosia Sunday gold closeup view

Sunday Gold – Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

How to Plant Celosia From Seed

Step 1: Choosing Your Celosia Seeds

Celosia seeds come in a variety of types, each with their unique blooms.

You can choose from the plume celosia, known for its feathery appearance, the wheat celosia with its spiky, wheat-like blooms, or the cockscomb celosia, named after the comb of a rooster.

Step 2: Starting Your Seeds Indoors

Start your celosia seeds indoors 6 to 8 weeks before the last frost date. Fill a seedling tray with well-drained soil and sprinkle the celosia seeds on the soil surface.

Do not cover the seeds as they need sunlight for germination. Place the tray in a warm, full-sun location. Keep the soil moist but not waterlogged.

Celosia Seedlings on black plastic pots

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Step 3: Transplanting the Seedlings

When the seedlings have at least two sets of true leaves, they are ready to be transplanted. They are not frost-tolerant, so wait until all danger of frost has passed before transplanting them to your garden beds or pots.

Choose a location that gets full sun as celosia plants thrive in sunlight.

Step 4: Saving Seeds for Next Year

If you want to save seeds for the following year, allow some of your celosia blooms to dry out on the stem.

Once dry, you can easily collect the seeds for next year’s planting, continuing the cycle of vibrant, beautiful blooms in your garden.

How to Propagate Celosia

Most people purchase celosia plants from a nursery to add a beautiful and colorful touch to their gardens and containers. However, propagating celosia plants from cuttings is also possible.

Gardener cutting celosia

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

To do this, cut the top four to six inches of the plant and remove the leaves from the bottom half of the cutting.

Place the cutting in water, ensuring that the leafless area is submerged. Within three weeks, roots should appear.

Once the roots have developed, you can transplant the cuttings to potting medium in containers or directly into the garden.

It is essential to wait until the danger of frost has passed before planting them outside.

Common Pests and Plant Diseases for Celosia

Aphids

Aphids on a green leaf

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Aphids are small, soft-bodied insects that can become a problem for celosia plants. They feed on the sap of the plant, weakening the stem and leaves, and can stunt the plant’s growth.

Aphids also produce a sticky substance known as honeydew, which can lead to the growth of sooty mold fungus on the foliage of celosia.

Spider Mites

Spider mite on a green leaf

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Spider mites are tiny pests that can cause significant damage to celosia plants. They are particularly attracted to plants in full sun, which includes celosias.

Spider mites feed on the plant’s leaves, causing them to turn yellow and fall off. In severe cases, this can lead to the death of the plant.

Leaf Spot

Leaf spot is a fungal disease that can affect celosia plants. It presents as brown or black spots on the leaves of the plant and can lead to premature leaf drop.

The fungus thrives in warm, humid conditions and can be controlled by improving air circulation around the plant and avoiding overhead watering.

Fusarium Wilt

Fusarium wilt is a soil-borne fungus that can affect celosia plants. It causes the leaves to wilt and turn yellow, and can eventually lead to the death of the plant.

This fungus can persist in the soil for many years, so it’s important to practice good crop rotation and to remove and dispose of any infected plants promptly.

Common Plant Problems and Solutions for Celosia

Brown Tips

Celosia plants can sometimes develop brown tips on their vibrant foliage. This is often a sign of insufficient watering or a lack of humidity.

To combat this, ensure your celosia is in a full-sun location and keep the soil surface consistently moist.

Yellowing Leaves

Yellowing leaves on celosia plants can be a symptom of a fungus called leaf spot. This disease often occurs when the plant doesn’t receive enough sunlight or is kept in overly wet conditions.

To prevent this, plant your celosias in full sun and well-drained soil. If the problem persists, you may need to use a fungicide.

Failure to Bloom

If your celosia plants fail to produce their characteristic blooms, it could be due to a lack of nutrients.

Celosias are annuals, meaning they complete their life cycle in one year, so they need plenty of nutrients to produce their spectacular flowers.

To encourage blooming, feed your plants with a balanced compost throughout the growing season.

Germination Problems

If you’re growing celosias from seed and they’re not germinating, it could be due to incorrect sowing techniques or poor soil conditions. Celosia seeds need light to germinate, so they should be sown on the soil surface.

They also prefer well-drained soil and a full-sun location. If you’re starting your seeds in a seedling tray, transplant the seedlings to garden beds or pots after the danger of frost has passed, usually in early summer.

Remember, celosias are tender perennials in their native climates but are often grown as annuals elsewhere, so they won’t survive a frost.

 

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