Garden column: Add color, life to yard with cosmos

Published 12:05 am Wednesday, April 15, 2015

If you are looking for a showy plant that is easy to grow, cosmos is for you.

The most common is orange cosmos (Cosmos sulphureus). It is member of the aster family and is native to Mexico and Central America. Legend has it that Spanish priests grew it in their mission gardens and named it cosmos, which is a Greek word meaning “ordered universe.”

It is actually quite chaotic at its peak which is one of the reasons I like it so much. It reaches up to seven feet tall and looks great in a cottage garden, along a fence or at the back of a border. The blooms are a yellowish orange, about two inches across.

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If yellows and oranges are not your favorite, you are in luck. Cosmos bipinnatus have beautiful blooms in shades of burgundy, pink, lilac and white. Or try Sunny Red, a dwarf variety with dark red flowers and a deep yellow center.

Now for the easy part. You will find cosmos seeds in most garden stores in the spring. Sow the seeds after the first frost for summer blooms. If you sow more seeds in the summer you will have blooms in the fall until the first frost. If you deadhead in the summer and let your cuttings fall to the ground, they will reseed. Cosmos need full sun and are drought tolerant. As with most annuals, an application of fertilizer is recommended to get through the long, hot summer.

If you aren’t convinced yet, here are a few more reasons to grow cosmos. They attract birds and butterflies. They make good cut flowers and are suitable for drying.

Good companion plants for the yellow and orange varieties are shorter blues and purples like Mexican Bush sage (Salvia leucantha) or verbenas like Biloxi Blue or Homestead Purple. If you are looking for a shorter cosmos, try some of the cultivated dwarf varieties like Sunny Gold, or those in the Lady Bird series.

Quick tip — my favorite garden tool is a table knife. It is great to loosen dirt a little when you are pulling weeds. It is easy to handle and with one quick motion you can slip the knife under the weed and lift it up by the root with one hand while grabbing the weed and throwing it into your bucket with your other hand.

It is not sharp so you don’t have to worry about tossing it on the ground and cutting yourself when picking it back up as you work.

I will answer your questions in this column and also share fun tips and gardening stories. Let me hear from you at


Karen O’Neal is an Adams County Master Gardner and Natchez resident.