Currently, Plant of the World Online lists 47 accepted species of Celosia. Version 1.1 of The Plant List updated in 2013 named 51 accepted species names, 60 synonyms (plus 20 infraspecific synonyms), and 47 names that are still unresolved. The Celosia are members of the Amaranthaceae Family, along with 177 other genera.
The exact origin is unknown, but they are found growing in the wild in Africa, India, North and South America (and anywhere seed comes up in your yard).
I think there is still some argument about the classification of Celosia… Everyone knows what a cockscomb is… That is the common name given to the Celosia with the flowers that look similar to a rose-comb of various breeds of chickens (Wyandotte, Hamburg, etc.). But there are other types of flowers produced by different species of Celosia. That is where the different classifications come in.
Now, when I first started getting into Celosia, I had bought seeds from several different sources of two different types of Celosia. I bought “Cramer’s Amazon”, for one, which was then Celosia argentea spicata ‘Cramer’s Amazon’. I also bought “Heirloom Giant Burgundy’ which was Celosia argentea cristata ‘Heirloom Giant Burgundy’.
WELL, now it is different. The species name “cristata” doesn’t even appear in The Plant List in the genus Celosia. Now we have the PLUMOSA GROUP and the CRISTATA GROUP.
The CRISTATA GROUP is where the “crested” or “cockscomb” flowered ones are placed. They say they are “suggestive” of a highly colored brain… That is a VERY weird description in my opinion. Are they suggesting that the rose comb of a chicken resembles a brain? Well, actually, a cockscomb Celosia doesn’t look much like the rose comb of a chicken either, well kinda sorta maybe. Anyway, I think all Celosia in this group are Celosia argentea cultivars and hybrids.
Then we have the PLUMOSA GROUP which, in one description, says they have fluffy, feather heads composed of hundreds of tiny flowers. Ummm… I think these are also Celosia argentea cultivars and hybrids. BUT!!!!!!
Besides the two “MAIN” groups, there is also the “WHEAT” type. They are the species Celosia spicata. These are my favorite, I think. They have the tall, narrow flowers, or inflorescence, that some say resemble heads of wheat. Well, that is also their common name, Wheat Celosia. Wonder why they didn’t use WHEAT GROUP or SPICATA GROUP?
Celosia are easily started from seed and will also readily self sow. SO, in some cases, you just better be prepared. The different species or cultivars come in a variety of sizes and sizes of flowers. They are GREAT annuals and attract bees and a variety of pollinating flies, and butterflies. The plants will branch out and ultimately will need a little space. For the taller varieties, you can pinch when 8-10” tall and they will branch out sooner and better. They prefer to be grown in full sun.
The flowers are great in arrangements and bouquets and can also be used as a dried flower (just remember, you will have hundreds of tiny seeds falling out).
There are many NICE cultivars available from seed in many seed catalogs and websites. You can also find them in garden centers. SO, if you haven’t given Celosia a try, I suggest you do.