I remember the first time I saw Celosia as a kid. I instantly wanted to grow ‘brain flowers’ in our garden. I loved the way it looked, and I loved the way it felt – like ruffled velvet. However, I was not in charge of the garden – my mother was. And so we planted impatiens and begonias. My mother said the celosia seeds would spread all over the garden and we’d be infested with it year after year.
“And the problem with that is what, exactly? They’re so cool!” This was my response.
Well, now that I’m in charge of my own garden, I can finally embrace my childhood fancy of growing ‘brain flowers.’ Or in more adult terms: Brenda Celosia.
As it turns out, mother was partially right. Celosia is grown from seed but the plant is not considered invasive. (I think she just wanted more room for begonias.) Celosia is an annual plant and will only grow for one year. You can either start celosia from seed or purchase young plants for your garden. Options abound when it comes to varieties of celosia. It is available in a wide array of colors, plant sizes and flower shapes. Choose the one (or more!) that appeals to you. For my own taste, I like a large flower head.
Growing Celosia From Seed
Start seeds indoors about four weeks before your last frost date. Place seeds in a small container with drain holes. Fill three quarters of the container with a seed starting mix or flower potting soil. Drop in a few seeds, cover them with soil, and add enough water so that the soil or starting mix is damp, but not over saturated. Be sure to cover the seed completely with soil as light will prevent the seed from germinating. Once the sprouts have emerged after 10-20 days, place them under grow lights or in a sunny southern exposure window and keep them watered. Seeds will germinate and sprout at the highest rate if the temperature is kept warm-but-not-hot…about 70 degrees Fahrenheit, or 21 degrees Celsius.
Celosia seeds can also be sown directly into the ground after the danger of the last frost has passed. Follow the directions on your seed packet. Dwarf varieties can be grown close together and need about ten inches between plants. Larger varieties will need two feet between plants. When the plants are a few inches high, you can thin to the correct distance. Just snip extra plants down near the ground with garden scissors.
Celosia grows best in well-drained, compost-amended soil. Transplant young, hardened off plants in the evening to prevent shock. Hardening off celosia plants will get them acclimated to the outdoors and transplanting them in the evening will help them get established in the garden before the heat of the day. Keep new transplants well watered for a week, then reduce watering to once a week.
Routine Celosia Care
Celosia plants, once established in the garden, are quite hardy. Some of the largest varieties will need to be supported. Otherwise, just keep the bed free of competing weeds, and try to keep the stem, leaves and flowers as dry as possible when watering to prevent disease.
PS: Begonias and celosia are companion plants and grow quite well together, Mom!!!!
Celosia Growing Guide – Quick Reference
Annual – can tolerate light frost
Grows from seed
Can be transplanted or sown directly into the ground
Summer to fall
Bloom colors – red, pink, orange, yellow, purple and white depending on variety
Bloom size – most varieties have large flower heads, dwarf varieties tend to be smaller
- Planting Location
Outdoor plant, does not do well indoors
Full sun, plants in full or medium shade may not flower
Good for growing zones 2-11 (if growing below zone 6 direct sowing is not recommended)
Well drained with organic matter
pH range 6.0-6.8
Medicinal (for more info click here since I have no medical training)
Grows well in containers
Flowers can be either dried or used in fresh arrangements