Commonly known as ‘woolflower’, Celosia’s generic name is derived from the Greek word κηλος (kelos), meaning ‘burned’, and refers to the flower’s flame-like appearance.
Celosia Cristata’s unusual folded appearance is where the flower gets its common name of ‘cockscomb celosia’, while Celosia Plumosa is often called ‘Prince of Wales feathers’.
Having been cultivated in North America since the 18th century, Celosias are native to the tropical and subtropical Americas, Africa and Asia and are considered to be weeds in their native habitat.
Celosia range in size from 6-inch dwarf varieties, to vigorous types more than three feet tall. Celosias are one of the most eye-catching tender annuals to grow in the garden, with the three types of Celosia being easily distinguishable from one another: plumes, crests, or spikes.
The most commonly seen colours in Celosias are brilliant, saturated hues of red, yellow, cream, orange, rose, deep magenta, pink, green and bronze, while less commonly seen are bicolours, although all possess a delightfully soft, velvety texture
The main season is April to October.
Celosia belong to the family Amaranthaceae and the subfamily Amaranthoideae, with the two principle types being Celosia Cristata, meaning ‘crinkled’. Celosia Plumose (‘feathery’), on the other hand, is a pointed, flame-shaped flower, very fluffy and reminiscent of brightly coloured pampas grass.
Celosia should be grown in full sun and prefer nutrient-rich, well-draining soil, so be sure to add liberal amounts of compost to the ground prior to planting. Keep the soil moist, but not too wet, watering regularly during dry periods.
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While there are no references to its use in ancient Chinese (or otherwise) medicine, Celosia is used as a treatment for intestinal worms (particularly tapeworm), diseases of the blood, mouth sores, infections of the urinary tract and eye problems. The seeds are used to treat chest complaints and the flowers to treat diarrhoea, while the leaves are used as dressings for boils and sores.