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Celosia spicata

Can you tell me the name of the plant that was seen growing around the teacup bird feed featured in your show P. Allen Smith Gardens? The plants had a reddish plume-like bloom and seeded themselves yearly.

The plant in question is Celosia spicata. This is indeed a delightful plant. It produces cylindrical flower spikes that resemble wheat – hence the common name wheat celosia.

Aside from C. spicata there are 2 common groups of celosia: C. cristata, also known as cockscomb, and C. plumosa. C. cristata celosia produces a crested bloom and C. plumosa celosia blooms are fluffy and plume-like.

Celosia is an annual that is easily grown from seed, which makes it a great seed saving and pass along plant.

You can sow celosia seeds directly in the garden in late spring or early summer after the soil has warmed up and the last frost date has passed. If need be, you can start the seeds indoors 4 to 5 weeks ahead of time. However, celosia resents being transplanted so extra care is required when moving the young seedlings to their permanent home outdoors.

Celosia grows best in full sun and soil that is humus rich. While these plants can be somewhat drought tolerant, they prefer consistent moisture and suffer if allowed to wilt.

For better flowering, pinch back the first few blooms that appear. This will promote more branching of the stems, which means more flowers.

Celosia is a great flower for drying. Simply bundle 5 to 10 stems with a rubber band and hang upside down in a cool, dry room with good ventilation. Be sure to place a piece of newspaper under the bundles to collect the falling seeds.