How to Grow Cockscomb

Cockscomb plant with bright red comb-like flowers on stem with lance-like leaves in sunlight

The Spruce / Gyscha Rendy

Named after its resemblance to the comb on a rooster, cockscomb boasts brightly-colored blooms with a unique comb-like shape. These flowers are part of the Amaranthaceae family under the Celosia genus. The Cristata Group has taken the common name of cockscomb and features alternating, lance-like leaves that can be found in green or bronze, while its blooms can be red, pink, yellow, or white. The velvety, large flowers keep their colors even when dried, making them a perfect addition to wreaths or dried flower arrangements. Though often planted as an annual, cockscomb can be used as a perennial in warm climates. 

Botanical Name Celosia argentea var. cristata
Common Name Cockscomb
Plant Type Annual, perennial
Mature Size 12 in. tall, 12 in. wide
Sun Exposure Full, partial
Soil Type Loamy, moist but well-drained
Soil pH Acidic, neutral
Bloom Time Summer, fall
Flower Color Red, pink, orange, yellow, white
Hardiness Zones 9-12, USA
Native Area South America, Central America, Asia, Africa

Cockscomb Care

Cockscomb is a great, low-maintenance plant that offers a huge burst of color in the garden. It thrives in warm temperatures but can still be used as an annual in areas with cold winters. Place this plant in an area with lots of sunshine and rich, moist, well-draining soil. 

To encourage more flowers to bloom, deadhead the spent blooms throughout its growing season. If allowed to go to seed, these plants will readily reseed themselves, producing plenty of flowers the following year. To prevent this, simply trim away spent blooms before they go to seed. Cockscomb is resistant to pests and most diseases, though fungal diseases can be an issue.

Cockscomb plant with red comb-like flower clusters hanging on long stems with lance-like leaves

The Spruce / Gyscha Rendy

Cockscomb plant with light green lance-like leaves and red comb-like flowers

The Spruce / Gyscha Rendy

Cockscomb plant with deep red comb-like flowers and buds on end of branch

The Spruce / Gyscha Rendy

Light

Full sun will encourage plentiful growth of cockscomb. These plants can tolerate some shade, but shaded areas can harbor too much moisture and contribute to fungus or rot.  At least 8 hours of direct sunlight will keep these plants healthy.

Soil

Cockscomb thrives in rich, nutrient-dense soil conditions and prefers neutral to slightly acidic pH levels. Well-draining soil is essential since it helps to ward off issues with fungal diseases.

Water

A regular watering schedule will keep these plants healthy, as they prefer evenly moist soil. However, be sure not to overwater. To avoid this, water once the top inch or two of the soil feels dry. Water at the base of the plant to avoid getting the leaves wet.  

Temperature and Humidity

Cockscomb thrives in warm climates but can still be planted as an annual in areas with cold winters. In zones 9-11, it can be kept as a perennial. This plant can withstand both low and high humidity levels. 

Fertilizer

Before planting a cockscomb plant, amend the soil with compost. This will enrich the soil with needed nutrients as well as help the soil drain excess water. During its growing season, apply liquid fertilizer monthly to support blooming. 

Propagating Cockscomb

Propagate cockscomb by means of cuttings:

  1. Using clean garden snips, cut a stem that is at least a few inches tall.
  2. Remove the bottom sets of leaves, making sure the cutting has around two sets of healthy leaves near its tip. 
  3. Dip stem in rooting hormone to help ensure root development.
  4. Plant the cutting into well-draining soil in a pot. Cuttings should root in 3 or 4 weeks.  Tug on the plant gently--if you feel resistance, it has rooted. Transplant in the garden after hardening off, if you've grown the cutting inside.

How to Grow Cockscomb from Seed

When growing cockscomb from seeds, be sure to start the seeds around 8 to 10 weeks before your last frost date for planting. For cold climates where this plant grows as an annual, seed starting will need to be done indoors. For warm climates, this can be done directly in the garden. Here’s how: 

  1. Very gently press the seeds into warm, moist, well-draining soil. The seeds need light to germinate, so don't cover with soil.
  2. Keep the soil moist. A plastic cover may be used to retain moisture. If so, air out the plants daily and mist the soil. Seedlings should appear in one to two weeks. 
  3. Once seedlings appear, remove the plastic cover. Be sure the seedlings are in an area with abundant light. If kept indoors, they may require a grow light. Seedlings need 12 to 16 hours of light.
  4. Once the seedlings begin producing leaves true leaves (not the cotyledon, or first "seed" leaves), thin out each plant to one per pot. If in the garden, thin them out to around 10 inches apart. 
  5. Once indoor seedlings are around a month old and have several sets of strong leaves, harden them off. Hardening off slowly and correctly is important, as changing conditions can stunt this plant’s growth. Make sure outdoor conditions are warm, and there's no chance of frost.
  6. Plant your seedling in their permanent location, keeping the soil line at the same height. Burying them too deeply can cause stem rot, while not burying deep enough can cause the plants to dry out. 

Potting and Repotting Cockscomb

Because of this plant's compact size, cockscomb is a good option for adding bursts of color on patios or in container gardens. Just be sure the pot has good drainage holes to prevent an accumulation of too much moisture.

These plants should not need repotting very often, and it is best to avoid it. Cockscomb does not handle transplanting or changes in its environment very well, so leaving it in its pot unless absolutely necessary will spare this plant from additional stress. If you must repot, gently remove the plant and try not to disturb the root system. Place in a large pot and fill it in with rich, well-draining potting soil, not garden soil, as potting soil drains better. Be sure to bury the plant at the same depth as before.   

Overwintering

The cockscomb cannot handle cold temperatures and is kept as an annual in areas with cold winters. If kept in a container, cockscomb can be brought indoors during the winter if it is provided with enough light. For areas with warm winters, no extra care is required for outdoor plants as cockscomb thrives in warm temperatures.