Because of their Mexican heritage, these bright annuals meet high heat and drought conditions with native beauty and vigor. Spanish conquistadors searching for gold discovered these flowers on their journeys through Mexico. Mission gardens often included these flowers, which priests gave the name “cosmos,” the Greek word for a harmonious whole, because of their neatly spaced petals. Cosmos flowers made their way to England with Spanish ambassadors in the late 18th century, and to the United States in the following century.
Sowing: In early spring or after the last frost, scatter the seeds on the surface of loose soil. Keep the soil lightly moist until germination, which should take place within 10-20 days at soil temperatures from 65-75 degrees F. Cooler soil temperatures may delay germination. Seedlings do not need to be thinned, but can be transplanted if they appear too crowded. Since these seeds germinate quickly in warm soil, they can be sown at any time before midsummer for another crop of flowers. To start the seed indoors, sow on the surface of a flat 6-8 weeks before the last frost of spring; keep the soil evenly moist and at a temperature of 70-75 degrees F until germination. When there is no chance of frost, transplant them outdoors.
Growing: Water these plants regularly until they begin to bloom; at this point they become quite drought tolerant. This flower must not be over-watered, and grows well in drought conditions and heat; if prolonged drought occurs, give the plants occasional deep watering. If blooming begins to decrease, cut the plant back to 12″ for new growth; more blossoms will come in about 4 weeks. Tall plants may need support or staking. If allowed to self-seed, this flower will produce a new crop of flowers next year. This flower attracts birds, butterflies, and bees.
Harvesting: Cosmos blossoms make lovely, long lasting cut flowers. Cut long stems of blossoms that have just opened, and remove any foliage that will fall below the water level. These flowers usually have a vase life of 7-10 days. Cosmos blossoms also make attractive dried flowers.
Seed Saving: Allow the flowers to drop their petals and develop into spiky seed heads. When ripe, the heads will be brown or dark brown and easily broken apart to reveal the narrow, sharp seeds. Remove the ripe seed heads and spread them out to dry away from direct sunlight. When they have completely dried, break apart the heads to separate the seeds from the husk. Store the cleaned seed in a cool, dry place.
Latin Name: Cosmos bipinnatus
Species Origin: Mexico
Type: Garden Flowers
Life Cycle: Annual
USDA Zones: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12
US Regions: California, Mountain, Arid/Desert, Plains/Texas, Midwest, Northern, Northeast, Southeast
Seeds per Ounce: 4,000
Stratification: No Stratification
Germination Ease: No Stratification
Sunlight: Full Sun
Height: 48 Inches
Bloom Season: Blooms Early Summer, Blooms Late Summer, Blooms Early Fall
Uses: Cut Flowers
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