Story by Russell Studebaker
Cockscomb (Celosia) plants have a crested form that looks like the comb on a rooster. But newer and hybrid plume types, like the cultivar ‘Dragon’s Breath’, look like ostrich feathers dipped in vivid red paint and are dramatic knock outs in the landscape.
These annuals are in the amaranth family and are warm-weather plants native to the tropics. The genus name Celosiais from the Greek word keleos, meaning burning, for the colorful flowers. These annuals are not only beautiful but also tough. These long-lasting showy plants will grow in poor soils, but thrive in soils with good organic content. They like the heat of summer and the plumes will continue to grow and show intense red from mid or late summer until frost.
The plants make a good background and fillers in larger containers with other summer annuals. And you can keep ‘Dragon’s Breath’ by drying the plumes before frost for indoor arrangements. Once you grow this celosia, the breath of this dragon will haunt you for your future plantings.
Quick Facts and Keys to Success
Common Name: ‘Dragon’s Breath’ cockscomb
Botanical Name: Celosia argentea plumosa ‘Dragon’s Breath’
Type: Summer annual
Size: 24 inches tall, 16 inch spread
Foliage: Oval to lance-like and as dark red as the plumes
Bloom Time: Mid to late summer until frost
Planting Time: Spring when temperatures are above 60 F.
Location: Full sun best, will tolerate light shade, heat, and humidity.
Method of Planting: Purchase plants or sow seed directly in soil; barely cover the seeds.
Soil: Well-drained, organic. Heavy soil encourages rot.
Watering: Normal; will tolerate some drought after establishment.
Fertilizing: May not be necessary; if needed, use 3-1-2 ratio
Pests: Generally free of pests and disease
In the Landscape: Plant in large containers with other annuals, mass or group in beds, borders, or cutting gardens. Use as fresh cut or dried in arrangements.
Photos courtesy of Sakata Ornamentals. (sakataornamentals.com)