Is Your Celosia Fading? Here’s Why, and How to Fix it!
Is your celosia fading, but you aren't quite sure why it's happening? There are actually a number of different causes that make celosia lose its color. In this article, gardening expert and cut flower farmer Taylor Sievers examines why celosia flowers start to fade, and how you can fix it once it starts happening!
Celosia is one of those filler plants in the garden that provides unique texture and incredible color in the landscape. It’s equally beautiful in a patio pot, or in a fresh cut flower patch. Gardeners love celosia because they’re easy to grow and provide a great conversation piece for the landscape. They are also oftentimes extremely prolific.
Unfortunately, sometimes these beautiful flowering plants will have their color start to fade. If you’ve ever tried growing celosia to find that those vivacious colors you were hoping for are fading way too fast, you aren’t alone. It’s a common problem amongst gardeners, no matter your experience level.
The good news is that there are primarily a few reasons why this happens. Some causes are fairly easy to correct if you act early. Let’s explore why your celosia is fading and dive into some tips for how to revive them!
Celosia species are tender warm-season annuals that love heat and full sun! Depending upon the species, their flowers can have either a spiky, wheat-like appearance (C. spicata), a fiery plume (C. argentea var. plumosa), or a woolly brain-like or fan-shaped appearance (C. argentea var. cristata).
Their bright, fiery colors provide a splash of spicy color to the garden in Summer and Fall, and if left to their own devices, they’ll self-sow readily. The most commonly seen colors for their blooms include pink, red, and orange.
Why Celosia Flowers Fade
There’s a few reasons why celosia may be fades in color. Some of them are a bit more serious, while others are treatable if they are caught early. So, let’s explore those reasons, and the best way to address them.
While Celosia species are typically not bothered by disease, given the right conditions, there are a few diseases that may infect plants and cause fading or dieback of your celosia plants. The first disease to look out for is a fungal disease known as Botrytis blight. Botrytis blight, also known as gray mold, can cause buds and flowers to develop abnormally and/or turn brown. When the weather is exceptionally cool and damp, you may notice a grayish mold growing on the plant.
Rhizoctonia root or stem rot is an additional disease that may cause celosia to appear as if they’re fading away. Rhizoctonia is a fungus that lives in the soil. It usually will attack the plant at the soil line first, and as a result, you may notice brown lesions on the stem close to the soil.
The lesions will enlarge until they girdle the plant, causing wilt and dieback of the plant tissues above the infected area. Sometimes Rhizoctonia can infect leaves that may touch the soil and cause an aerial blight. This blight will spread from leaf to leaf in times of high humidity causing the leaves to appear yellowed and then later turning necrotic (or brown) as the plant tissue dies.
Too Much or Too Little Moisture
While celosias prefer conditions on the drier side, like most plants, they cannot withstand a prolonged drought. Extremely dry conditions in the garden can cause wilting of the plant, browning around the edges of the leaves, and ultimate dieback of the plant.
Oftentimes once a plant has been subjected to severe drought-like conditions, even if you’ve provided the plant with water as soon as wilting is noticed, it may never fully recover.
Another reason celosia plants struggle is because there’s too much moisture. Overwatering can cause symptoms such as yellowing of the plant, necrosis (dead plant tissue that is typically brown in color), and ultimate dieback of the plant due to lack of oxygen for the plant roots or root rot diseases that are caused due to excess moisture.
Not Enough Sunlight
Celosia plants require full sun exposure in order to thrive in the garden. A location that receives full sun is considered to receive at least 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight per day.
Symptoms of insufficient light can be “leggy” plants (plants that are tall, lanky, and have increased space between nodes), dropped leaves, failure to produce flower buds and blooms, and pale plants that have either pale green, yellow, or white plant tissue.
Your Plant is Setting Seed
There comes a time when plants begin to put all of their energy into developing seed. That’s what flowers are for, after all! If you leave celosia completely alone, they will eventually begin to fade in color, often turning yellow or brown as they fade.
Usually, the lower florets will turn tan and papery. This will continue up the flower head as seed is formed. You may even notice tiny black seeds that drop from the flower head whenever you shake it. This is a sign that your plant is ready to complete its mission of reproduction.
Many celosias, especially the cockscomb varieties, will come into full glory from mid-Summer into Fall. Because celosia is considered a Summer blooming annual in most climates, when the first Fall frost comes to call, this will signal the end of the season for the plant. Frost damage results from ice crystals that form within the plant tissues, causing damage to the plant cells.
Typically leaves or tender new growth will be affected first by frost. The affected plant tissue will then begin to turn brown or black and shrivel. Sometimes the first frost is light enough that it will only damage part of the plant, but after a few frosts or a hard freeze, eventually the whole plant will succumb to Mother Nature’s whim.
How to Revive Celosia
Depending on the reason your celosia plants are fading, you may be able to revive them! Here are some common actions you can take that can help celosia get some color back into their beautiful blooms.
Dealing with Disease
Unfortunately, diseases are no joke. Oftentimes, the best course of action is to remove the infected plants from the area immediately. Fungicides may be effective in combating disease as well. Make sure to read and follow all instructions on the fungicide label, and oftentimes it is best to use fungicides only as a last resort (especially for annual plants; a fungicide may be more warranted for a special perennial plant).
The best disease control, however, is prevention. Rhizoctonia root and stem rot and Botrytis blight both love moisture and/or humidity! So, the first step is to make sure you plant celosia in an area of full sun with either well-draining soil or potting mix (if planting in a pot). This will help drop humidity significantly.
Spacing your plants adequately will help increase air circulation throughout your garden and also help drop humidity around your plants. Additionally, make sure that you plant celosia after the soil has warmed sufficiently. Soil temperatures need to be at least 55 degrees F before planting celosia in the garden.
Removing old plant residue and keeping your garden tidy will also help with disease control. Many diseases will survive on dead plant tissue and then resurface the next year. Weeds can also harbor diseases as well. Mulching the surface of the soil may help prevent soil from splashing up onto the plant during times of rainfall, and mulching will also help suppress weed germination.
Water Your Plants Well
If it has been extremely dry and you notice wilting of your celosia plants, water immediately! Plants should perk up if they aren’t too far gone. If the leaves have begun to become crunchy it is likely that even if the plant recovers it may not thrive. You can try to prune off dead parts of the plant after the plant has regained hydration to encourage new growth.
On the converse side, do not overwater your plants. Overwatering can be just as damaging as underwatering. Celosias like to be on the drier side compared to other plants.
If you’re planting celosia in pots, make sure to plant them with other heat-loving plants that prefer soil on the drier side also, so that the plants’ needs are the same. Also, only water when the top 1 to 2 inches of the soil is dry. You may need to water pots more often than the landscape because pots are typically faster-draining than soil in the garden.
Plant Celosia in Full Sun
Celosia is a perennial in warmer climates. You’ll want to plant celosia in full sun (at least 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight per day) to avoid symptoms of insufficient light exposure.
You can easily move pots around your patio, but it may be harder if you planted celosia in the ground. Try digging up plants and moving them to a sunnier location if you unknowingly planted them in a shady area and you’re anxious for your celosia to survive and thrive.
Deadhead Spent Blooms
Lastly, deadheading your celosia is extremely important to maintaining fresh, vibrant flower color in your flower patch! Once you notice the flower color beginning to fade, simply clip off the flower just above a set of leaves. I like to snip off the stem deep into the plant to promote long, strong stems.
Deadheading will stimulate the axillary buds to begin growth of new stems and thus, new flowers! Keep the plant deadheaded until late Summer and you’ll have vibrant celosia all Summer long.
Celosias are fun, colorful plants that jazz up any garden with their spicy hues and funky textures! They’re relatively easy to grow and mostly disease-free. However, there are a few instances when you might notice your beloved celosia fading away.
Whether its fungal diseases, lack of water and sunlight, frost damage, or the fact that your celosia is setting seed, the main essential steps to keeping these heat-loving plants looking fresh are to plant in full sun and deadhead throughout the season!