Amish cockscomb (Celosia cristata) is a tropical native with blooms clustered tightly together to form a shape that resembles a rooster’s comb. Orange, pink, purple, red and yellow blooms are available, providing a wide range of color options for both garden enjoyment and brightening indoor spaces with cut flower arrangements. Cockscomb is typically grown as an annual plant in the United States but is technically a tender perennial and may come back in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 10 and 11 or during particularly mild winters. The plant is easy to grow and requires very little care.
1 Choose a planting location where your plants will receive full sun and be protected from wind. Cockscomb will tolerate light shade if necessary.
2 Spread 2 inches of compost over the planting area and till it into the soil to a depth of 8 inches. The compost will provide all the nutrients your cockscomb will need for the entire growing season. Skip this step if you know your soil to be nutrient rich.
3 Sow Amish cockscomb seeds in the spring when the outdoor temperature is consistently above 60 degrees Fahrenheit and the soil temperature is 55 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. Space the seeds 8 to 12 inches apart and plant them 1/4-inch deep. Cover the seeds completely when planting, as light will interfere with the germination process.
4 Water the seeds immediately after plating and continue watering as needed to keep the soil moist but not soggy or damp. Water needs vary from one location to the next depending upon soil type and weather conditions, so check your plants often until you learn how often your soil dries out. Cockscomb is drought tolerant once established, so don’t worry if you sometimes forget to water.
5 Prune away spent blooms as you notice them, to encourage more blossoms.
6 Remove occasional slugs and snails by hand. If these pests become a problem, sprinkle crushed oyster shells or sharp sand around your plants to protect them from damage.
7 Tie cockscomb plants to stakes loosely with old pieces of nylon stocking to keep the stems straight. Staking is not absolutely necessary but is helpful if you intend to use the plants in cut flower arrangements and desire straight stems.
Items you will need
- Pruning shears or sharp scissors
- Crushed oyster shells or coarse sand (optional)
- Stakes (optional)
- Used nylons (optional)
- Mix different heights and colors of cockscomb in a single bed to add interest.
- If desired, start cockscomb seeds indoors six to eight weeks before the last expected frost date. Be aware, however, that seeds planted directly outside often have larger blooms than plants started indoors.
- Red varieties tend to work best for dried arrangements.
- Smart Gardener. Inc.: Amish Cockscomb, Soil Prep
- Missouri Botanical Garden: Celosia Argentea Var. Cristata (Cristata Group)
- Cornell University: Celosia, Crested
- Fine Gardening Magazine: Celosia Cristata 'Century' (Plumed Celosia)
- University of Florida Cooperative Extension Service: Celosia Cristata
- Smart Gardener, Inc.: Amish Cockscomb, Problems
- Smart Gardener, Inc.: Amish Cockscomb, Planting Guide
- Medioimages/Photodisc/Valueline/Getty Images