COSMOS PRODUCES COSMIC BEAUTY
(please click on any
image to enlarge)
How would you like
to own a universe? This will probably never happen but you can
grow a plant which produces "showy flowers" in an "orderly arrangement
of cosmic proportions". Cosmos is the flower you should grow.
Spanish priests grew cosmos in their mission gardens in Mexico.
The evenly placed petals led them to christen the flower "Cosmos,"
the Greek word for harmony or ordered universe. Cosmos, like
many of our warm weather annuals such as marigolds, originated
in Mexico and South America.
Cosmos belongs to
that vast family of plants known as Compositae. Although there
are 20 known species of cosmos, two annual species, Cosmos sulphureus
and Cosmos bipinnatus, are most familiar to home gardeners.
These two species are most easily differentiated by leaf structure
and flower color. The leaves of C. sulphureus are long, with
narrow lobes and hairy margins. The flower colors of this species
are always shades of yellow, orange or red. The C. bipinnatus
has leaves that are finely cut into threadlike segments. The
foliage looks similar to ferns. The flowers are white or various
shades of pink to dark rose.
(Yellow Cosmos) - the species native to the Americas - is my
favorite and the one I recommend
you try if you have never grown cosmos..
Plants of yellow cosmos can range in height from 4 to 7 feet
but the cultivated varieties such as 'Crest Red', 'Ladybird
Dwarf Red', 'Ladybird Dwarf Gold', 'Ladybird Dwarf Orange',
'Ladybird Dwarf Lemon', and Yellow Cosmos - Klondyke Mix are
not as tall. The flower heads are composed of disc and ray
flowers. The disc, or center flowers are yellow: the ray, or
outer petals range from pale yellow or mustard to orange-scarlet.
Red is a relatively recent addition to the color range of C.
sulphureus. The native species is golden-yellow to orange.
Is C. sulphureus cosmos
easy to grow? You bet they are! Here is the cultural information
provided by John Thomas of Wildseed Farms who rates C. sulphureus
cosmos with an 80 percent planting success: YELLOW
COSMOS INFORMATION FROM WILDSEED FARMS
Rich, fertile soils
tend to produce unusually tall, lanky plants. Yellow cosmos
requires full sun. Sow seed of C. sulphureus in early spring
since seedlings are not winter hardy. The average planting success
with this species
is 80 percent. The plant height is 2 - 4 feet depending on culture
and variety selected. Plants will germinate in 7 - 21 days when
the soil temperature is optimum for germination at 70 - 80 degrees
F. Plant seed 1/16 inch deep by raking into the soil. C. sulphureus
plants bloom from May - November. Plants should be sheared every
30 days or whenever seed pods predominate. Large areas can be
seeded at a rate of 15 pounds per acre C. sulphureus plants
bloom approximately 50 - 55 days after germination. Yellow cosmos
needs to be replanted each spring for continued success.
Yellow cosmos is easy
to start from seed. Rich, fertile conditions are not necessary
to grow yellow cosmos, but adequate drainage is. The seeds may
be sown outdoors after all danger of frost is past and the soil
has warmed to at least 65 degrees F. Scatter the seeds right
where the yellow cosmos are to be displayed. Firm or rake seeds
into a loose soil -- if the seed is planted too deep, germination
can be affected. Keep the soil moist for 5 - 10 days after seeding.
Seeds will germinate in 7 -
21 days. If the early spring has been cold, soil temperatures
will remain cool also. If the soil temperature is below 65 F.,
seeds may not germinate as rapidly. Thinning is really not necessary.
Yellow cosmos is a
sun - loving annual; it will not produce as many blooms if grown
in the shade. Choose a location that receives at least 8 - 10
hours of direct, sunbathing sunlight. Cosmos will perform best
if grown in well-drained soil. Yellow cosmos is not a heavy
feeder. Excess fertilization will cause plants to produce excessive
leaf growth at the expense of flower production.
Yellow cosmos needs
only basic care to provide a colorful abundance of blooms all
summer long. After the seedlings emerge, water VERY SPARINGLY.
In lieu of any rainfall during an entire month, give the planting
bed a long, slow drink. Cosmos is drought tolerant, providing
abundant blooms with less water than most other annuals. Herein
lies the "problem" which many people encounter when growing
cosmos -- they "over-care" for their cosmos plants. "Over-care"
means too much water, too much fertility and too much shade.
When "over-care" occurs, cosmos becomes tall and spindly (even
when the new, lower-growing varieties are used), and blooms
sparsely. John Thomas says that the best growers of cosmos practice
"tough-love" plant culture. "Tough-love" watering means only
watering when the cosmos foliage begins to wilt. "Tough-love"
fertility means very little if any soil fertility. "Tough-love"
location means no shade and in direct, all-day blazing sunlight.
grows best in the worst conditions Texas has to offer -- hot
and dry. This is why cosmos is the best possible annual for
Texas. When not exposed to "tough-love" growing conditions,
this otherwise beautiful flowering plant becomes tall, spindly
and sparsely floriferious. Cosmos sulphureus (Yellow Cosmos)
is not as sensitive as Cosmos bipinnatus to pampering and "over-care".
However, if you can discipline yourself to do some "tough-love"
growing of Cosmos bipinnatus, you can produce the lovely pastels
which the ladies really like. Gardeners also have the added
advantage of the naturally smaller growing Cosmos bipinnatus
varieties such as 'Gloria' pink, 'Tetra Versailles' red, 'Candy
Stripe' white with red veins, 'Day Dream' white with red halo
around yellow stamens, 'Picotee' white petals with red margins,
'Sea Shells', 'Dwarf Sensation Mix' and 'Psycho White'.
Because cosmos is
so easy to grow in the worse conditions spring and summer have
to offer, it can be seeded in the spring for early summer
bloom or in mid-summer (June) for late summer (August) - until-
frost bloom as well. Since cosmos seed actually sprout faster
in hot soils and the plant grows best in hot, dry summer temperatures,
you can increase your plant population and bloom display by
cutting back spring-planted cosmos. When the spring-planted
cosmos begins to look as if there are an abundance of dried
seed pods, do not remove the plants -- encourage re-bloom simply
by cutting the plants back to 12 - 18 inches high. They will
be back in bloom in a month and the seed cut off will fall to
the ground, germinate in the hot soil and increase the density
of your plant population and subsequently, the eventual bloom
THE TOP TEN REASONS EVERYONE SHOULD BE GROWING COSMOS ARE:
#10 -- Cosmos is one
of the easiest-to-grow flowers in Texas and is generally a pest-free
# 9 -- Cosmos is THE
BEST annual for Hot, Dry Locations
# 8 -- Cosmos is THE
BEST annual for Poor Soils
# 7 -- Cosmos is a
# 6 -- Cosmos is an
annual which can be direct - seeded into the planting area
# 5 -- Cosmos flowers
can be used as Cut Flowers
Freshly cut cosmos blooms make a bright airy bouquet. An arrangement
of cosmos can last for 7 - 10 days. Select flowers whose petals
have just unfolded; they will open fully once cut. Cut the flowers
in the morning when their water content is highest and immediately
place them in a deep container of tepid water. Before arranging,
strip foliage from the lower portion of the stems. If leaves
are submerged under water, they will decay quickly, shortening
the life of the bouquet.
4 -- Cosmos flowers are suitable for drying There are many summer
flowering annuals which are excellent for drying. Marigold,
salvia, cosmos, zinnia, coreopsis and gloriosa daisy are among
the most popular and make fine dried specimens. A complete description
of how to dry flowers can be found at:
# 3 -- Cosmos are
suitable for backgrounds and screens
Mid-sized varieties add an airy note when interplanted with
evergreen shrubs. Edge a garden path or driveway with medium
height cosmos in pastel or bright hues. Because they bloom so
freely all summer and into early fall, cosmos is recommended
for these highly visible areas.
# 2 -- Cosmos attracts
birds and butterflies such as (Monarch - Danaus plexippus)
AND, THE NUMBER 1
REASON everyone should grow cosmos is -- Growing cosmos is as
close as any of us will ever come to actually causing a "cosmic
event" but it will be easy for ANY of us to produce showy flowers
in an orderly arrangement of cosmic proportions.