Cockscomb (Celosia cristata) was developed by the Chinese from C. argentea, which is native to India. It is also called purple amaranth, floramor, and flower gentle. It has been grown in American gardens since the eighteenth century. Cockscomb come in three main types: crested, plumed, or spiked. You should only grow one type at a time or they will cross breed and you will have the inferior “prince’s feather” types instead.
The flowers of the cockscomb are usually red, but can also be yellow, pink, orange and white. Cockscomb blooms in late summer through late fall. Cockscomb prefers full sun, but will grow in partial shade. It will not bloom as much there, however. Cockscomb likes rich, well drained soil. In order to prepare a bed for your flowers, till down to a depth of six inches. Spread three inches of compost on the dirt, then till well to mix the two together.
Cockscomb are commonly planted from seed. Six to eight weeks before the date of the last frost in your area, place some sterile potting soil in your peat pots. Place two or three seeds in each peat pot. Water and keep moist but not soggy until the seeds germinate. Keep the seed pots in the sun. Put plastic wrap over the peat pots and keep it there except for when you water the soil. You should do this daily. The seeds should germinate in ten to fifteen days. When they do, remove the plastic wrap from the peat pots. Place them under florescent lights with the lights six inches above the plant. Pinch off the weakest seedlings and leave one seedling to a pot. When the plant has two true leaves, it is ready to be set outside in the flower bed. Harden off the plants by putting them outside for a few hours the first day, then leave them out longer each consecutive day until they are out all the time. Then you can plant the in the flower bed. Plant them eight inches apart and water them in well.
If you live in a warm climate, you can sow the seeds directly into the ground after all danger of frost has passed. Plant the seeds one half inch deep. When they germinate, thin the seedlings by pinching off the weaker seedlings and leaving only the strong ones to grow. Short varieties should be twelve inches apart while tall varieties should be eighteen inches apart. Keep the soil moist but not soggy so they can grow well. Make sure you do not get the leaves and flowers wet when you water. This promotes fungal infections and can ruin your plants.
Cockscomb makes nice cut flowers. They have a vase life of five to fourteen days. They can also be cut and dried for placement in a dried flower arrangement. Simply cut the flowers and then hang them upside down until they are dry, then place in an arrangement.