Celosia……oh the Amaranth that grows among us!!! I bet you did not know that Celosia is in the Amaranth Family did you??? Velvet brain flower, woolflower or cockscomb – no matter what you call it, this annual from Asia and Africa seems to be gaining in popularity all over again. In some areas, it also is considered a herb and is utilized for medicinal purposes…and not just its exotic beauty alone. From eye problems to treating tapeworms and even some parasites, Celosia offers unique benefits in so many ways.
Edible? You bet it is. In parts of Nigeria it is one of the most important leaf vegetables and is known as Soko Yokoto (means “make husbands fat and happy”…..hmmm) among the natives. We might see celosia seed sales increase in the Spring….or not!! In SE Asia and other parts of Africa it is also used as a cereal crop.
How easy are they to grow??? Quite easy – You Can Grow this !!! Simply sow the minute seeds in a tray or pot and cover them with soil – not too deep of course. In zone 6 – do this at least 5 – 8 weeks before last threat of frost in the Spring. In about 15 to 20 days the little sprouts will appear. Thin them out when the second set of leaves appear, keep them at a warm 70 degrees and your exotic forest of colorful brains or flames will be ready to set out when the outdoor temperatures are right!!! By adding compost at planting time and regular feeding every 4 weeks during the growing season – Celosia in its many forms will thank you by providing abundant blooms!!
Pest – no problem!!! While aphids might add a lacy effect to the foliage, the normal repellents will curb their appetite. If you remember to keep the blooms and the leaves dry by watering at the base of the plant you will surely have a summer filled with colorful blooms to be used alone or in arrangements!!! In fact , if mulched, Celosia’s are traditionally grown in drier, rockier regions, so watering as needed is key. Need more blooms?? Pinching back the buds on the main plant will cause branching – which will result in prolific but smaller blooms.
On a personal note – summer was not summer if we did not have Celosia in the garden when I was growing up. We would sow them from seed in the backyard beds at our Riggs Park, NE home front. My mom would make sure that we understood how to sow seeds, water them, feed them and watch them grow. The four of us thought our Mom was awesome because she helped us grow brains year after year…..ah the simpler times!!! It was a terrific activity to look forward to year after year.
Whether you call it Cockscomb, Rooster Combs or Flame Flowers…. Celosia – YOU CAN GROW THAT!!!!