New Celosia Varieties

by Debbie Lonnee

Celosias are not what they used to be. Whether grown from seed or bought from the nursery, celosias offer more colors, sizes and types than they did 20 years ago and are well worth including in your gardens and containers.

 

Easy to Grow

Celosia is a small genus of edible and ornamental annual plants that are in the amaranth family (Amaranthaceae). The most commonly grown types here are the plumed and cockscomb.

An ounce of seed may contain up to 43,000 seeds so they are easily started indoors, and you can buy seed from many different online nurseries or your local garden center. You’ll want to start your seed about four weeks before the last frost date in your area. Seedlings are very sensitive to cold, so be patient and wait for the danger of a hard frost to be over and soil temperatures to warm up before moving seedlings outside. Plant celosia at the same time as your tomatoes.

Celosia is easy to grow, especially if you can provide even soil moisture. They won’t tolerate wet feet and also grow poorly in droughty soil. They love sunny and dry conditions. They are resistant to most pests and diseases, but do watch out for the occasional aphid or mite and, sometimes, powdery mildew. Celosia is truly a low-maintenance annual.

Depending on the size of your young plant and when you plant, celosias bloom from June through the first hard frost in autumn. Some taller varieties may need staking, especially the heavier cockscomb types.

Mature heights on all celosias can range from 6 to 12 inches all the way up to 1 to 3 feet. Check the seed packet or plant description in the catalog so you can pick the right height for your garden plan. If you pinch your young seedling back before planting, you will stimulate more branches to the mature plant, thus more flower stems.

 

Best Cultivars for Northern Gardens:

 

Plumed (Celosia plumosa)

‘Arrabona Red’ – Consistently listed as a favorite variety among gardeners, this beautiful red with orange tones variety blooms consistently all summer long on plants that reach a mature height of 14 to 18 inches. It can be used as a cut or dried flower. It won the FleuroSelect Gold Medal award recently, very high praise indeed.

 

‘Fresh Look’ series – You can buy seed that is a mix of colors, or you can buy the colors individually, depending on your design. While not the newest series on the market, it is a strong performer, reaching heights of 12 to 18 inches. You’ll find this series commonly available in local garden centers.

 

First Flame series – From PanAmerican Seed Co., this mid-size series is very quick to bloom. You can buy seeds as a mix or separate colors. The purple is an amazing change from the classic reds and yellows of celosia. Matures around 14 inches.

 

Ice Cream series – Also from PanAmerican Seed, this dwarf series matures at 10 to 12 inches. Look for the unusual Ice Cream Salmon color.

 

Bright Sparks series – From Syngenta, this mid-size plant is available in a mix of red, yellow, burgundy and deep rose colors. While most plumed celosia have green foliage, the Burgundy has foliage in contrasting red tones.

 

Cockscomb (Celosia argentea var. cristata)

This plant reminds me of my childhood. My mom loved growing cockscomb types, and we children were fascinated by the fasciated flowers. We called them “brains.” Some cockscomb plants may need staking because of their heavy flowers.

 

‘Gypsy Queen’ – Complemented by dark burgundy foliage, the purple/crimson 6-inch flower plumes of Gypsy Queen are sure to delight. Ranging in height from 8 to 16 inches, these make great cut flowers and can be tucked into mixed containers.

 

‘Red Velvet’ (may also be listed as ‘Red Velvet Cake’) – Dark red, fuzzy cockscomb flowers top plants reaching a mature height of 12 to 14 inches.

 

Concertina series – Only 10 to 12 inches in height, there is a large range of colors, including yellow, pink, red and red with reddish foliage.

 

‘King Coral’ – Each small plant, topping out at 10 to 12 inches, produces only one monstrous, coral pink flower that can be up to 12 inches wide.

 

‘Crested Armor’ – A very uniform series from seed house American Takii, with flowers in orange, purple, red, yellow and a mix of colors. Grows 12 to 15 inches tall.

 

New and Unusual

Sol Gekko Green and Lizzard Leaf – If you want some unusual foliage, and perhaps a substitute for coleus, look at the Sol series from PanAmerican Seed. These plants were introduced solely for their foliage, which is a combination of green and purple. They are best grown in full sun to bring out those purple tones and are being promoted as container plants. Long days actually delay the flowering, so in our short Minnesota season, you may not see flowers until autumn, depending on when the first frost hits. These are funky and different plants for you adventurous gardeners and will be available as seed this spring.

 

Longtime gardener Debbie Lonnee works in the horticultural industry.

Grow Spring 2022 Celosia

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Celosia as Cut Flowers

We have a thriving cut flower industry in Minnesota and breeders are creating varieties with long stems that are perfect for the mixed bouquets you see in local garden centers and farmers’ markets.

Here are five terrific celosias for cut flowers according to Rachael Ackerman at Blue Sky Flower Farm in Lakeville. You may have to ask for these from your favorite seed purveyor.

  1. Celosia ‘Chester Copperpot’ – Perfect long stems for cutting. Available from pepperharrowfarm.com.
  2. Celosia ‘Act Diva’ – From Evanthia Genetics in the Netherlands, a new cut flower cockscomb type with a unique copper-red color.
  3. Celosia Sunday™ Yellow – One of many colors from Ball Seed Co., this yellow reaches a mature height of 28 to 40 inches. Great for large bouquets!
  4. Celosia ‘Sylphid’ – From Japan, this lime green celosia is 30 to 36 inches in height and contrasts beautifully with other colors.
  5. Celosia ‘Coral Reef’ and ‘Pink Champagne’ – From Floret Flower Farm, unusual cockscomb flowers of pastel shades on very long stems. These may be a bit hard to find this year.

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