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Feather cockscomb Celosia argentea

Previously known as:

  • Celosia argentea var. cristata
  • Celosia cristata
  • Celosia plumosa
Phonetic Spelling
seh-LO-see-ah ar-jen-TEE-ah
Description

Cockscomb is a short-lived annual herb that grows to a height of about 1 1/2 to 2 feet tall.  In climates where it is grown as an annual it will reseed itself and return the next year.  In locations that experience warm winter temperatures, such as USDA hardiness zones 10 and 11, it can also be grown as a perennial.

This easy to grow plant makes an excellent cut flower.  It prefers full sun and rich, moist, well-drained soil, but tolerates poor, dry soil.  The stems grow fast but tend to have a weak structure.  The inflorescence absorbs water easily and becomes too heavy for weak stems in tall cultivar selections, causing bending or breakage.  Staking the plants helps.  Regular watering of the root zone is a must as a lack of water will make the leaves appear wilted.  A trend in the green industry to address both of these problems in the last few decades has been to select shorter members and move to dwarf selections. 

Since inflorescence color does not come from the corolla, the inflorescence can be cut, hung to dry, and it retains an attractive color when utilized as dried flowers or in floral arrangements. The genus name comes from the Greek word for burning and refers to the colorful blooms that are shaped similar to a flame. The species name, argentea, means "silvery", in reference to the shiny, white bracts and tepals of the species.

This plant tolerates dry porous soils and thrives in heat and humidity.  Plant it in border fronts, edging, or cut flower gardens. Celosia species do reseed, and they should be sited in a location where their reappearance every year is not unwanted. To prevent reseeding, you can cut off the blooms before seeds appear.

VIDEO created by Andy Pulte for “Landscape Plant Identification, Taxonomy and Morphology” a plant identification course offered by the Department of Plant Sciences, University of Tennessee.

Quick ID Hints:

  • Terminal inflorescence with cockscomb sometimes present
  • Terminal plumose or finger-like spike inflorescence
  • Inflorescence globose, resembling brain coral

Cultivar groups inflorescence:

Childsii Group - terminal inflorescence of globose, bosses consisting of numerous, congested cockscombs; bosses resembles brain coral. 

Cristata Group - terminal inflorescence of several erect, flattened, broad, cristate cockscombs. 

Nana Group - name not retained as there are several cultivar selections of dwarf forms in other groups. 

Plumosa Group - terminal inflorescence of erect, tapering upward, plumose or feathery inflorescence; central axis bearing elongate lateral branches spreading ascending, branches getting shorter upward. Includes Celosia argentea.

Spicata Group - metallic pink or yellow in slender heads; central axis bearing very short lateral branches; resembling one or more raised fingers. 

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems: 

No serious pest nor disease problems, but issues with snails and slugs may be experienced.  Can be susceptible to root rot. Crowding, rain, and high humidity will cause flowers to rot. This plant is frequently damaged by deer.

When grown as a houseplant, it is susceptible to infestation by aphids and spider mites, which can be washed off.  

 

Profile Video:
See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Eternity Improved'
    Scarlet flowers
  • 'Flamingo Feathers'
    Grows to 2' tall
  • 'Jewelbox Mix'
    Variety of colors, including magenta, fuchsia, coral, apricot and gold
  • 'New Look'
    Bright red flowers.
'Eternity Improved', 'Flamingo Feathers', 'Jewelbox Mix', 'New Look'
Tags:
#purple#full sun tolerant#heat tolerant#annuals#drought tolerant#pink flowers#frost tender#flower arrangements#summer flowers#deer browsing plant#annual flowers#border planting#self-seeding#cutting garden#arrangements#pollinator plant#fantz#dried arrangements#poor soils tolerant#border front#humidity tolerant#dry soils tolerant#butterfly friendly#bee friendly#non-toxic for horses#non-toxic for dogs#non-toxic for cats#tropical#tropical annual#butterflies#butterfly#weed#butterfly garden#pollinator garden
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Eternity Improved'
    Scarlet flowers
  • 'Flamingo Feathers'
    Grows to 2' tall
  • 'Jewelbox Mix'
    Variety of colors, including magenta, fuchsia, coral, apricot and gold
  • 'New Look'
    Bright red flowers.
'Eternity Improved', 'Flamingo Feathers', 'Jewelbox Mix', 'New Look'
Tags:
#purple#full sun tolerant#heat tolerant#annuals#drought tolerant#pink flowers#frost tender#flower arrangements#summer flowers#deer browsing plant#annual flowers#border planting#self-seeding#cutting garden#arrangements#pollinator plant#fantz#dried arrangements#poor soils tolerant#border front#humidity tolerant#dry soils tolerant#butterfly friendly#bee friendly#non-toxic for horses#non-toxic for dogs#non-toxic for cats#tropical#tropical annual#butterflies#butterfly#weed#butterfly garden#pollinator garden
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Celosia
    Species:
    argentea
    Family:
    Amaranthaceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    It is used as animal food, a poison and a medicine, has environmental uses and social uses and for food.
    Life Cycle:
    Annual
    Perennial
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Seed
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    India and Nepal
    Distribution:
    Throughout Africa, Central and South America, Southern and Central United States, Asia
    Wildlife Value:
    Attracts butterflies, bees and other pollinators.
    Play Value:
    Attractive Flowers
    Attracts Pollinators
    Colorful
    Easy to Grow
    Edibility:
    The leaves and young shoots are cooked and used in soups and stews. The seeds yield edible oil.
    Dimensions:
    Height: 0 ft. 9 in. - 1 ft. 6 in.
    Width: 0 ft. 9 in. - 1 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Annual
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Erect
    Growth Rate:
    Rapid
    Maintenance:
    Low
    Texture:
    Medium
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Dappled Sunlight (Shade through upper canopy all day)
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Soil Texture:
    Clay
    High Organic Matter
    Loam (Silt)
    Soil pH:
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Available Space To Plant:
    12 inches-3 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    2a, 2b, 3a, 3b, 4b, 4a, 5a, 5b, 6b, 6a, 7a, 7b, 8b, 8a, 9a, 9b, 10a, 10b, 11a, 11b
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Black
    Fruit Type:
    Capsule
    Fruit Description:
    Smooth, glossy, shiny capsule contain 1 to 5 seeds.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Orange
    Pink
    Purple/Lavender
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Cyme
    Head
    Spike
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Good Cut
    Good Dried
    Long Bloom Season
    Showy
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Fall
    Summer
    Flower Shape:
    Irregular
    Flower Size:
    > 6 inches
    Flower Description:
    Terminal, spicate cymes, heavily bracteated, fasciated, cristate, of carentoid pigments of bold red to yellow. Blooms from late spring to first frost.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Purple/Lavender
    Red/Burgundy
    Leaf Feel:
    Smooth
    Leaf Value To Gardener:
    Edible
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Elliptical
    Lanceolate
    Linear
    Ovate
    Leaf Margin:
    Entire
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    3-6 inches
    Leaf Width:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Description:
    Simple, alternate, linear-lanceolate to lanceolate-ovate leaves, light green in color but darker on flowering shoots.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Green
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Form:
    Straight
    Stem Description:
    Multi-branched
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Container
    Hanging Baskets
    Houseplants
    Patio
    Small Space
    Walkways
    Landscape Theme:
    Asian Garden
    Butterfly Garden
    Cutting Garden
    Pollinator Garden
    Design Feature:
    Accent
    Barrier
    Border
    Mass Planting
    Small groups
    Specimen
    Attracts:
    Bees
    Butterflies
    Pollinators
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Drought
    Dry Soil
    Heat
    Humidity
    Problems:
    Weak Wood
    Weedy