Celosia comprises a group of plants, bearing vividly-colored blossom heads, and growing as annuals at U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 2 through 9 and as perennials in zones 10 through 12. Celosia varieties are available in many sizes, from just a few inches up to about 5 feet high. Plants require little upkeep, thriving in drought and heat. Celosia plants are grouped into three classes: a crested type (Celosia cristata), a plume type (Celosia plumosa) and a spike or wheat type (Celosia spicata).
The flower heads of crested celosia (Celosia cristata), also called cockscomb celosia, resemble the structures of a mind, while some of the narrower flower heads seem like a rooster’s comb. An example of a crested celosia is “Toreador” (Celosia cristata “Toreador”), which rises 18 to 20 inches tall and has a bright red 12-inch blossom head. The “Chief Series” (Celosia cristata “Chief Series”) is a mixture of 40-inch tall plants with flower heads up to 7 inches across in brilliant colors of dark red, carmine, gold, rose or red and yellow bi-color.
The flower heads of plume type celosia (Celosia plumosa) are soft, velvety and feathery. Plants , when young, can also create side effects. The plumes come in cream, bright yellow, orange or red, depending on variety. “Sylphid” (Celosia plumosa “Sylphid”) is a 30- to 40-inch plant using green-yellow plumes, while “Apricot Brandy” (Celosia plumosa “Apricot Brandy”) is a 6- to 12-inch plant using reddish-purple leaves and apricot-orange plumes.
Spike celosia (Celosia spicata) can also be called wheat celosia, because its flower heads resemble heads of wheat. This type of celosia looks almost like a shrub, because each plant produces many flower stalks. Flower heads are smaller and blossom colors are muted in contrast to another celosia types. “Flamingo Feathers” (Celosia spicata “Flamingo Feathers”) is a well-branched plant using rose-pink flowers, growing to 4 or 3 feet tall. The “Bright Spears Mix” (Celosia spicata “Glowing Spears Mix”) consists of 24- to 30- inch plants with pink, white and dark red flower heads.
Grow celosia plants by placing seeds directly into the ground. However, in regions with long winters, start seeds indoors or buy nursery plants. Celosia wants a soil temperature of 60 degrees F to germinate and grow. Any sort of soil, such as clay or sandy loam, is suitable. All types of celosia prefer a sunny place, but mild shade is acceptable. All varieties of celosia boom in heat and bear drought, once established. Combined with other plants, the smaller celosia varieties also make attractive container plants. Celosia lasts for a very long time as a cut flower, and when dried, is a beautiful accent in a dry flower arrangement.