Nothing can compare to Cockscomb for a showy flower display that lasts and lasts. Plants can reach three to four feet and may spread laterally with many side branches and lots of stunning flowers. The lush leaves come in many color shades from lime green, lush deep green, red and dark red. Main flower heads can be reach 8-10 inches (20-25cm) across and come red, burgundy, many shades of pink and yellow. Flowering begins in early to mid summer and lasts until frost, has excellent heat tolerance but does need watering to achieve maximum sizes. Large plants will also need staking as head become very heavy. Un-watered plants tend to be much smaller. The leaves are edible and this plant is grown as a leafy green crop in many parts of Africa leaves takes like mild spinach without the bitter aftertaste. Flowers act like everlasting flowers and make great flower arrangements with color that does not fade for years. An extremely versatile plant that gives easy bright color to any garden.
Description of Cockscomb Kurume (Celosia cristata).
Fast growing annual that can reach 3-4 feet (1-1.2m) in height. Leaves are lance shaped with pointed ends and mostly smooth edges. Leaves at the base of the stem tend to be larger and broader and become more narrow and pointed as they reach the top of the stem. Stems are wide and stiff and may branch out in the top two thirds of its length or they may be branchless. Each stem or branch ends in a flower head the largest begin on the main stems with smaller ones appearing on branches. Flower heads are large and showy with stiff convoluted patterns making it resemble a brain for the larger heads and a cockscomb for the smaller more narrow heads. These velvety sections come in bright colors red, purple, maroon, many shades of pink and yellow. The stiff bright colored part is not in fact the flower but just an attractive lure the actual flowers are very small and located beneath the flower in small almost unnoticeable pockets which is why for the most part insects are never seen to land on the 'flowers' because the flowers are mostly hidden from view.
Due to the stiff nature of the combs these 'flowers' make excellent dried material for flower arrangements and other craft projects. Seeds drop from the underside of the combs over a period of time as they mature and can often be dropping weeks to months after the first seed drop. In the right ground flower heads can reach 8-10 inches (20-25cm) across and be very heavy so staking is required to hold the flower head up.
Growing Cockscomb Kurume (Celosia cristata) from Seed.
Very easy to grow. We recommend starting indoors around four weeks or more before last frost to get larger plants are early flowers. However they can be sown directly into the ground after all danger of frost has passed and the soil has warmed to at least 65F (18C). For more information on starting seeds see our General Growing Instructions.
Location and Care of Cockscomb Kurume (Celosia cristata).
For best results plants need to receive at least 5 hours of direct sunlight per day. In cooler zones more is required while hotter zones (8+) less is possible but not required. This plant is originally from tropical Africa so its very happy in hot weather. Needs a well drained solid does not do well in waterlogged soils but does need regular watering for best results. A soil with good organic material is best and regular feeding with liquid fertilizer throughout the growing season will create larger plants and flower heads.
In cooler zones plants will flower right up until killing frost in warmer zones plants can continue to flower for months and act more like a biennial than an annual. However plants can become too branched and flower heads will reduce in size so its best to replace plants with younger ones.
Plants will need staking. While the stems are stiff and fairly strong the heads are very heavy often weighing in at 8-10 ounces (226-283gms) or more. Even the stiff stems cannot hold up such weight and if plant has branched the weight becomes too much. Often stems work well until a strong wind appears then it can flatten all the plants. Since the stems are stiff they are often brittle at the base so this can snap off stems if they are not staked to begin with.
If desired side branches can be removed as plant grows, this will increase the size of the single remaining central bloom if done early enough. Stakes will be needed if this method is used.
Harvesting Cockscomb Kurume (Celosia cristata).
Leaves. Can be harvested when large enough. Best to take the lower leaves before they begin to age these can easily be taken from plants without harming the plant. Leave smaller stem leaves to help feed the flower head.
Flowers. Whenever they are large enough for you purpose. Cut stems as long as you need them and strip off leaves - which can then be used if desired. Be aware that removing large blooms will cause the plant to branch out and produce smaller side flowers.
Culinary Uses of Cockscomb Kurume (Celosia cristata).
leaves and young shoots are cooked and used as spinach. This plant is cultivated in African countries as a easy leafy green staple. It is an important and very nutritious vegetable. It behaves like spinach when cooking and the leaves soften rapidly so care should be taken not to overcook. Tastes similar to spinach but there is not residual bitterness. Can also be used in soups stews, sauces and other dishes. An edible oil can be obtained from the seeds.
Medical uses of Cockscomb Kurume (Celosia cristata).
A very versatile medicinal plant. The flower heads and seeds are astringent and aid with blood clotting. They are often used in the treatment of bloody stool, uterine bleeding, haemorrhoid bleeding, dysentery and diarrhea. It is also used to help expel parasites especially Trichomonas where it is reportedly very rapid and effective. The seeds are antibacterial and are effective against the growth of Pseudomonas. In India the plant is used to treat diabetes mellitus, and the whole plant is used for snake bites. Externally preparations are used to treat the eyes, mostly blurring vision, bloodshot eyes and cataracts. It dilates the pupils so should not be used in people with glaucoma. A wash and poultice is used to treat sores, wounds, eczema and other skin eruptions.
Other uses of Cockscomb Kurume (Celosia cristata).
The flower heads dry very well and keep their color for very long periods of time. They act more like an everlasting flower and can be used in flower arrangements, and other craft projects. Used in flower displays they last very well in hot weather. To this end they are commonly used in Mexican Day of the Dead celebrations where the red ones are used to symbolize the blood of Christ.