Celosia Caracas – The Cockscomb Flower
Celosia caracas, often referred to as the Cockscomb, is a showy annual plant whose blossoms could be best described as feathery or fluffy plumes. While they can be used as cut flowers, they are especially attractive outdoors where the blossoms will move and dance to the slightest of breezes. The blossoms also dry easily, so their beauty can be enjoyed throughout the winter season. The cockscombs add color and freshness to floral arrangements as well. In the United Kingdom, celosia caracas is more commonly known as the Prince of Wales’ feathers.
Celosia – An Extensive Species
Celosia caracas is just one of many cultivars of the celosia plant, which comes in many colors, and in different sizes as well. Although all celosias are annuals, some of the different types are often treated as perennials. The plant produces copious seeds, and in seeding itself, produces new plants the following growing season, thus acting somewhat as a perennial would do. Celosia caracas can also seed itself, but the results are sometimes spotty. For the best results, the seeds should be collected by hand, then carefully dried and stored. When done correctly, the germination rate should be high enough to guarantee success the following growing season.
Save Your Seeds
First-time growers can purchase either seeds or seedlings from a nursery. Once the plants have bloomed, it is easy to become somewhat addicted to their beauty, making collecting the seeds a joy rather than a chore. Many growers of this plant purchase seeds or seedlings only once. Future generations come from seeds that have been collected, dried, and stored each year. The plant blooms from mid-summer on into the fall, and often survives a first frost if it is not too heavy a frost.
The nature of celosia blossoms, celosia caracas being no exception, allows a carpet of seemingly solid color to be achieved when the plants are planted closely together. Seemingly all hues of the rainbow are represented, from pink and purple to yellow and burgundy. Celosia caracas blooms are most often a shade of purple.
Insofar as growing this plant is concerned, it requires no more of an effort than most flowering plants do, and much less effort than some. The plant does like full sun and decent soil, although it is not terribly fussy about the soil type, be it loamy, sandy, or clay. Whatever the type, the soil should be well-drained. It is most attractive when planted in clumps, rather than as solitary plants, and as mentioned above, can be breathtakingly attractive when planted as a solid carpet. Easy to grow, the celosia is fairly resistant to diseases and pests. A good bit of advice is to locate the plants where they are somewhat protected from strong winds. The beauty of the plumes is most evident when they are subjected to a light breeze, but the plant may not fare so well if subjected to sustained, strong winds. Taller varieties of celosia may require staking. Those who have had some experience growing this plant will suggest you pinch off the initial blooms. This will encourage further and more profuse blooming, and at the same time result in a bushier plant.
A Bit Of Controversy
The name celosia caracas is somewhat controversial. There are those who say the correct name of the cultivar should be celosia Venezuela. Furthermore, there appears to be several types of celosia caracas, including celosia dark caracas and celosia red caracas. There are some who maintain that there is no such thing as a true celosia caracas, because there are so many different colors or hues associated with that name. In other words, if you purchase seeds or seedlings, you might not get the color advertised. The safest approach seems to be to save the seeds of a plant that is giving you want you want. You can then call that plant whatever you wish.
To further add to the confusion, the Prince of Wales’ feathers, usually considered to be one and the same as the celosia caracas is also the name given to the cultivars celosia argentea and celosia plumosa. All of this is enough to stress out the most patient and easy-going gardener, since most gardeners like to know what they are putting in the ground. Unless the plant is to be exhibited during the next State Fair, where a correct classification is usually a must, the recommended approach to growing this plant is to ask for a mix of cockscomb seeds and save the seeds produced from your favorites in the fall. You might even come up with a scientific name of your own!