Plumed Cockscomb (Celosia argentea)

Plumed cockscomb, Silver Cockscomb

The herbaceous plant Celosia argentea, sometimes called the plumed cockscomb or silver cock’s comb, is native to the tropics and is distinguished by its very vivid hues. A sensitive annual that is frequently planted in gardens, it blooms from mid-spring until summer. The seeds of the plant are quite tiny. About 1,000 seeds weigh up to 6.5 grams. Read on to learn more about the benefits, uses, and physical features of Celosia Argentea as well as tips for growing and caring for it.

I. Appearance and Characteristics 

Celosia argentea, commonly known as the plumed cockscomb or silver cock’s comb, is a herbaceous plant of tropical origin in the Amaranthaceae family from India and Nepal. The plant is known for its very bright colors. In India and China it is known as a troublesome weed.

Three common names for different flower types of Celosia Argentea are:

  • Plume Celosia: It has soft feathery flowers in orange, red, yellow, magenta, and pink.
  • Cockscomb Celosia: It has crests of wrinkled-looking blooms in red, yellow, pink,  orange, magenta, and bicolors.
  • Wheat celosia: As the name suggests, it slightly resembles wheat. It flowers in shades of red-purple or pink and with the right growing conditions, it often self-sows.

Celosia argentea is a tender annual that is often grown in gardens, it can also grow perennially. It blooms in mid-spring to summer. The plant exhibits dodeca ploidy.

The flowers are tiny and hermaphrodite, they are packed in narrow, pyramidal, plume-like heads 4–10 inches (10–25 cm) long with vivid colors including shades of orange, red, purple, yellow and cream.

It is propagated by black seeds. The seeds come in capsules; they are extremely small, up to 43,000 seeds per ounce.

As these plants are of tropical origin, they grow best in full sunlight and should be placed in a well-drained area. Full sunlight means they should get at least 8 hours of direct sunlight. For healthy growth plant them in the area where they get early morning sunlight and afternoon shade. In the afternoon the sunlight are mostly harsh especially in hot summer. Afternoon shade will save the plant from excessive heat. The flowerheads can last up to 8 weeks, and further growth can be promoted by removing dead flowers.

II. How to Grow and Care

Sunlight

Celosia needs at least six hours of direct sunlight daily to bloom at its best, most colorful self, but if your garden has only partial sun, planting where it receives the most sunlight (whether morning or afternoon) will help keep the blooms vigorous.

Temperature and Humidity

The celosia plants can thrive in warm and humid conditions and grow as tender perennials in colder climates. But for optimal growth, average soil temperatures should be 60°F. For mature plants to bloom, it needs eight hours of direct sunlight.

Watering

As with other annuals grown in the ground, provide the equivalent of an inch of rain a week. Newly planted celosias may need more frequent watering until they’ve grown new roots. If growing celosia in containers, you may need to water daily during the hottest days of summer.

Soil

They need well-drained soil. When grown in full sun, they prefer moist soil, but it must drain well. You can add some sand or compost if you have heavy clay soil.

The celosia plants grow best in a soil pH between 6.0 to 6.5 filled with organic matter.

Fertilizing

Celosias produce their vivid flowers without asking for much fertilization in return, especially if your garden soil or potting medium is rich with compost. If the plants begin to look tired, add some seaweed or fish emulsion to the watering can for a boost of trace nutrients. A basic high-nitrogen, water-soluble fertilizer is also suitable for celosia. Avoid the base of the plant by the roots when adding fertilizer.

Planting 

After all danger of frost has passed in spring, plant your celosia plants in well-draining soil the garden or in outdoor containers. Celosia plants obtained from a nursery in season should be planted as soon as possible. They need full sun to really bloom at their best. If planting in your garden, look at the specifications on the tag for the specific variety to help you determine proper spacing between plants. There’s a wide range of size among celosia varieties, so be sure to give them the room they need.

Tall varieties of celosia require staking. If you plant a tall variety with large flower heads in an open area, winds or storms can cause stem breakage. Planting these large flowering types in a sheltered part of the garden makes staking optional, if as the plants receive the full sun they need to stay vigorous.

Pruning

To encourage branching and more blooms, pinch back young plants by carefully cutting off or pinching out the growing tip of each. After that, continue to cut off old blooms as they begin to form seeds. This encourages the plants to keep blooming.

Many celosia plants will self-sow readily in the garden, so be sure to cut off old blooms before the seeds drop to the ground.

Propagation

The celosia blooms a lot of flower heads filled with seeds. So you can quickly grow celosia from the seed. Or you can grow your plants from cuttings.

Sowing Celosia Seedlings

  • Start seeds indoors, allowing them to grow in summer when soil temperatures warm up.
  • Prepare seed trays with a seed starting mix and barely press the seed into the potting medium.
  • Keep the soil moist, and you should see the celosia seedlings appearing in ten days.
  • When seedlings appear, move the trays into a sunny spot, and if not enough natural lights are present, you can use grow lights.

Seedlings need 16 hours of bright light daily and a dark period to grow, so do not keep the grow lights on the whole time.

Once you notice new leaves, you can thin them out per tray. When the seedlings reach a month old, you can fertilize them.

When the seedlings reach a few inches tall, you can transplant them into the garden after the first frost.

Celosia Cuttings

You can take cuttings from the plant to grow in containers or in the garden. It should take up to four weeks for the cutting to root. These plants can also spread easily through the seed, but if you do not want them to become invasive, you can remove the blooms after fading before the seeds.

Pests and Diseases

Usually, celosia are quite resistant to diseases or pests, especially the newer hybrid varieties. They might occasionally be bothered by spider mites, stem rot, or leaf spot. Spider mites can be controlled in a few different ways. Stem rot is usually caused by a fungus present in garden soil and can be prevented by not overwatering and improving soil drainage. Leaf spot is caused by a fungus and can spread if not addressed immediately. Snip off the affected leaves, let the plant dry out, and watch for any spread on the plant.

III. Uses and Benefits 

  • Culinary uses

The leaves and flowers are edible and are grown for such use particularly in west Africa and Southeast Asia. Celosia argentea var. argentea or “Lagos spinach” is one of the main boiled greens in West Africa, where it is known as soko yòkòtò (Yoruba) or farar áláyyafó (Hausa).

  • Medicinal uses

Among the ailments the plants are used to treat are leucorrhea, dysentery, diarrhea, bloody stool, hemorrhoids, and uterine bleeding. In India, the seeds are frequently used to treat Diabetes mellitus.

It works well as a parasiticide against Trichomonas; a 20% extract can make the parasites vanish in 15 minutes. 

The seed is ophthalmic and hypotensive. It is used to treat bloodshot eyes, blurred vision, cataracts, and hypertension.

However, because it dilates the pupil, it should not be taken by those who have glaucoma.

  • Other uses

It is used in Africa to help control growth of the parasitic Striga plant. It can also be used in soaps.

IV. Harvesting and Storage

Harvest cut flowers when the blooms are fully mature and they’ll last for weeks in a vase. Just be sure to use a floral preservative or change the water frequently to avoid rotting stems. If you just can’t let your celosia go in fall, you can bring some plants inside and enjoy the blooms for a few more weeks. But once they fade, toss the plants — celosia doesn’t overwinter well.

V. How to dry celosia flowers

Dried celosia blooms make a beautiful addition to late-season flower arrangements, imagine them on your thanksgiving tablescape! Follow these simple tips and you should have dried blooms in about a month.

  • Harvest mature blooms that haven’t set seed yet in the morning after the dew has dried.
  • Cut the longest stem you can and place it in a bucket of water until you get back inside.
  • Bundle six to eight stems together with a rubber band and hang them upside down to keep the stems straight in a warm, dry location such as an attic or shed.
  • Position the flowers at different levels in the bunch so air circulates and the blooms aren’t damaged.
  • Keep the flowers out of direct light to help preserve the color.
  • Space bundles to allow good air circulation and avoid mold.

Plumed Cockscomb (Celosia argentea) Details

Common name Plumed cockscomb, Silver Cockscomb
Botanical name Celosia argentea
Plant type Annual
Hardiness zone 2a, 2b, 3a, 3b, 4a, 4b, 5a, 5b, 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9a, 9b, 10a, 10b, 11a, 11b
Growth rate Fast
Height 0 ft. 9 in. - 1 ft. 6 in.
Width 0 ft. 9 in. - 1 ft. 6 in.
Sunlight Dappled Sunlight (Shade through upper canopy all day)
Soil condition Clay
Flower color Gold/Yellow
Leaf color Green