Cockscomb is a low-maintenance plant that offers a burst of thick, vibrant blooms. Cockscombs are taller plants, reaching 12 inches tall, and are perfect as a backdrop to any flower garden. Below, we'll discuss everything you need to know to grow cockscomb and enjoy the colorful flowers!
What Is Cockscomb?
Cockscomb, also known as Celosia cristata, is given its name because the upright, ruffled flowers resemble the appearance of a rooster's cockscomb, particularly the red varieties. The blooms are also available in eye-catching shades of purple, pink, orange, white, and yellow. The blooms keep their vivid colors, fresh or dried, making them a popular feature of dried flower arrangements. You can encourage more flowers by deadheading spent blooms through the growing season.
Cockscomb Care Requirements
For the thickest flowers, place your cockscomb plant in the sunniest part of your flower bed. Cockscomb can tolerate dappled shade, but the plant is prone to fungal diseases. Shaded gardens tend to hold on to moisture and create issues with your cockscomb. Cockscomb will happily soak up 12 to 16 hours of direct sunlight a day! Not many plants can make that boast, so take advantage of it!
It's important not to overwater cockscomb, but they like their soil to be kept moist. This can be a tricky balance to strike. Always check the soil of the garden around your cockscomb before watering. Water your plant if the top inch or two of the soil is dry. Try to keep the leaves from getting wet by watering around the base of your cockscomb plant.
Temperature + Humidity
Cockscomb thrives as perennial in USDA zones 9 through 11 but is treated as annuals in cooler areas. They will readily reseed themselves, returning year after year.
Cockscomb does not have humidity preferences, growing healthy in both high and low humidity levels.
Cockscomb prefers a well-draining soil with neutral to slightly acidic pH levels. A boost of nutrients when you first plant your cockscomb will get it off to a great start, so mix some organic compost into the soil before planting. The compost will also help aerate the soil, which will keep root rot and fungal diseases at bay.
The compost mixed into the well-draining soil will provide a good base of nutrients, but you can further encourage flower growth by using liquid fertilizer. Apply this fertilizer every month. You can also top-dress your cockscomb once throughout the growing season by spreading compost around the base of the plant.
Cockscomb can be propagated using both cuttings and seed collection. Seed collection is the most common way, but for zones with shorter growing seasons, it can be a significant jumpstart to propagate cockscomb rather than grow it from seed!
Here's how to do propagate:
- Cut a stem a few inches tall using clean garden shears.
- Clip away the bottom leaves, leaving two pairs of strong, healthy leaves at the top.
- Dip the cutting in a rooting hormone, which helps encourage a healthy root system. You can skip this step, but the rooting hormone does make a big difference in how vigorously your cutting will set out new roots.
- Plant the cutting in a pot filled with rich soil. You'll start to feel roots after 3 to 4 weeks.
Growing Cockscomb From Seed
While cockscomb can be grown from a cutting, it is not a plant that handles being transplanted particularly well. If you grow it from seed in warm late spring, you may find more success.
In cold climates, where this plant grows as an annual, you will need to sow seeds indoors 8 to 10 weeks from your last frost date. Otherwise, your growing season will be too short to enjoy many blooms! Feel free to sow the seeds directly into your garden in warm zones.
- Fill a pot with warm, rich soil that drains easily. Press the seeds gently into the surface - don't cover them!
- For the next 1 to 2 weeks, keep the soil moist. You can cover the pots with plastic to help trap moisture. If you cover them, make sure to air the seedlings out every day, and then remoisten the soil.
- Once you see seedlings, remove the plastic cover and set the pots under a grow light. Cockscomb plants need 12 to 16 hours of light if sown indoors!
- After true leaves have appeared, thin out the seedlings to one per pot. If you sowed the seeds outdoors, thin them to 10 inches apart.
- When indoor seedlings have multiple sets of leaves, you can begin to harden them off by setting the pots outdoors for increasing periods of time each day.
- Hardened off cockscomb plant can then finally be planted in its permanent location. Be sure not to disturb its root system, or it may not handle the transplant process well.
Cockscomb is a hardy plant and is resistant to pests and most diseases. However, as a sun-loving, drought-tolerant flower, it can struggle with various fungal diseases when the soil is kept too moist. These include:
- Fungal leaf spot
- Powdery mildew
- Root rot
- Stem rot
It's easier to prevent fungal diseases than to treat them. Keep your plants healthy by placing them in well-draining soil, not placing plants too close together, and watering the base of the plants rather than the leaves.
Is Cockscomb Pet Friendly?
Yes, cockscomb plants are non-toxic and will cause no health problems if pets or children happen to eat them.
Different Varieties Of Cockscomb
Cockscomb is part of the celosia genus, and there are over 50 known species in this genus. Celosia is usually divided into three groups:
Celosia Spicata is also known as spike or wheat celosia. This variety produces distinctive, erect flower spikes that resemble a head of wheat.
Often called plumed celosia, the feathery flowers of this cultivar usually form in the shape of an arrowhead and offer very bright colors.
Originally native to India, this group produces flower heads similar to a roosters comb. Celosia Cristata or cockscomb celosia produces flowers that come in shades of orange, red, yellow, pink, and white.