Here’s a colorful annual for summer flower beds

Richard Bogren, Gill, Daniel J.  |  4/12/2018 7:47:28 PM

By Dan Gill

LSU AgCenter Horticulturist

(04/13/18) The LSU AgCenter has announced that Intenz Classic celosia has been designated a Louisiana Super Plants selection for spring 2018. Its ease of culture, reliable performance and attractive appearance make it an excellent choice for your summer flower gardens and containers.

Celosia plants come in three distinct forms: crested, plumed and wheat. How to classify these three forms has never been settled as far as I can tell. I choose to consider them forms of the same species, Celosia argentea. The plumed types are Celosia argentea var. plumosa. The crested types are Celosia argentea var. cristata, and the wheat types are Celosia argentea var. spicata. However, you may also see these listed as Celosia plumosa, Celosia cristata and Celosia spicata.

Plumed celosias, commonly called celosia or prince’s feather, produce fluffy plumes that are broad at the base and taper to points. They come in a variety of colors, including burgundy, red, magenta, orange, pink, gold and yellow. The mature flower heads dry beautifully, retaining their shape and brilliant color. Depending on the cultivar, heights vary from 12 inches to 3 feet. Plants generally produce a main plume with many slightly smaller plumes on a stocky plant. The leaves are generally green but may also be burgundy or purple or have purple areas on the leaf.

Crested celosias are commonly called cockscombs because the flower heads resemble the combs of roosters. Most cultivated types produce large, rounded, dome-shaped flower heads with a convoluted appearance — looking for all the world like a brain. The colors are similar to the plumed types and are bright and vibrant. The plants range in size from 18 inches to 3 feet or more. They typically produce one large flower head with smaller ones on side branches. The leaves are generally light to dark green.

Wheat celosias look distinctively different from the other two types. For one thing, the plants are very large, growing from 3 feet to over 6 feet tall. This has tended to limit their use in gardens, and most gardeners are not as familiar with them as they are the plumed and crested types. They are also more upright growing and not as shrubby as the other types. Finally, the flower head is narrow and long and shaped like a spike. The color range is more limited, tending toward white, pink and magenta. The leaves are generally green with purple areas and are attractive.

The wheat celosias also tend to be more vigorous and resilient. They have no problem blooming continuously from late spring until late summer and have few pest problems. Indeed, they are among the most care free of garden flowers. They do not need a lot of fertilizer to perform well. Once established, they will rarely need watering. Celosias in generally tend to be drought tolerant, but the wheat types are especially tough.

The main reason you have not heard of or grown these great plants or seen them at area nurseries is their size. It can be hard to find a spot for a plant that grows 6 feet tall and 2 r 3 feet wide. And bedding plant growers could not produce small blooming plants in cell packs or 4-inch pots for the market.

Intenz Classic celosia

That brings me to the new Louisiana Super Plant selection: Intenz Classic celosia (Celosia argentea var. spicata Intenz Classic). This compact version of wheat celosia only grows about 18 inches tall and 12 inches wide. The spiky flower heads are generally rich purple. Although the color may fade some in the heat of summer, the lighter color is also beautiful. Each flower spike blooms for a long time, and the plants produce lots and lots of them. The foliage is green with some purple tints.

Performance of this celosia in Louisiana has been outstanding. Heat and humidity have no effect on the vigor. Pest problems are few, and the plants do not have to be pampered. They do fine with only occasional irrigation during pronounced dry periods. Old flower spikes can be removed as needed to keep the plants looking neat.

If you plant butterfly, bee or pollinator gardens, you definitely want to include Intenz Classic celosia in your plantings. While the flowers are small, they are rich in nectar and attract butterflies, bees and hummingbirds.

Plant Intenz Classic celosia transplants into sunny (eight hours or more of direct sun), well-prepared beds with good drainage. They also look great planted into containers alone or combined with other summer bedding plants.

Two new colors have been released in the Intenz series — Intenz Dark Purple (deep purple) and Intenz Lipstick (red purple). They are likely just as good as Intenz Classic, and the colors are slightly different.

The Louisiana Super Plant program is an LSU AgCenter educational and marketing campaign that highlights tough and beautiful plants that perform well throughout the state of Louisiana. Each spring and fall, AgCenter horticulturists announce the Louisiana Super Plants selections for that year. Louisiana Super Plants have a proven track record with many years of reliable performance in Louisiana landscapes or have gone through several years of university evaluations and observations. Look for these plants at local nurseries.

Intenz Classic celosia is an excellent new addition to the Louisiana Super Plants. You should find it in local nurseries, garden centers, and feed and seed stores. Give this outstanding bedding plant a try. I think you will be pleased and impressed with its performance.

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Intenz Classic celosia is a Louisiana Super Plants selection for spring 2018. Photo by Dan Gill/LSU AgCenter

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