Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Cosmos - Great in the Garden

Cosmos is an annual daisy-like flower that's related to asters. It produces plants with delicate green foliage that create an airy green backdrop for numerous flowers. The plants get tall on this wildflower native to desert areas of Mexico, between 3 and 6 feet high, although there are dwarf varieties. They grow well in many conditions in USDA hardiness zones 3 through 10 in full sun. Cosmos bipinnatus has pink, maroon and white flowers, and cosmos sulphureus has yellow and orange flowers.

Cosmos is very easy to plant and grow. Just scatter seeds on the soil in spring after the last frost in the area you want to grow them, water lightly and watch the seedlings grow. Cosmos produces flowers mid-summer through the very end of fall, until hard frost kills the plants.

The multitudes of flowers produce unique seedheads of long, spiky brown seeds that are easy to pull off the plants and save for the following spring planting. Seeds should be removed as the flowers wither if you want to plant again in spring, otherwise they may sprout as they fall to the ground in the autumn and the tender seedlings will die over the winter. Or package them and give them to friends in greeting cards, as part of  eco-gifts with gardening tools or as part of flower kits with a pot, potting soil, seeds and watering can. I collected 2 full gallon-size ziplock bags full of cosmos seeds from my garden this fall, pulling them from plants each time I arrived home from going out.

While cosmos doesn't have any culinary or medicinal properties, this lovely flowering plant is perfect for naturalizing large sunny areas or as an anchor planting at the back of a flower bed. It is also a great plant for screening undesireable views such as compost bins or utility areas, or for spectacular patio and deck displays in large containers. Try growing cosmos next spring and you won't be disappointed!

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