Is this a move in the right direction? I certainly think so because Cosmos is bedding plant of 2016!
Over the years there has been a tendency for bedding plant varieties to be low growing, uniform and like peas in a pod. That’s fine when you want to plant up flower borders on a roundabout! I don’t know about you but I’ve tired of this uniformity and neatness and I’m looking for a more natural look.
2016 is the year of Cosmos and this is the perfect plant to shake off all this regimentation.
Plant some Cosmos in your garden and not only will you get a looser and more natural look but you’ll also get months of colour.
Easy and rewarding
Cosmos are one of the easiest, most rewarding flowers you can grow. Their simple, open flowers have a friendly, summery demeanor and can be planted in beds, borders, pots and containers with simply stunning results.
The plants are mostly annuals that grow, flower and set seed in the same season and are easy to grow from seed. Seedlings quickly develop into strong sturdy plants with an abundance of flower stems. The flowers are delicate, pretty and mostly in shades of pinks, red and white. There are yellow and orange varieties but you may need to grow those colours yourself from a packet of seed. It doesn’t matter which colour; with Cosmos one plant can quickly fill a gap in the border and will flower for weeks on end!
Now that we are in the month of June, you are likely to want to plant out young plants rather than sow seed but this is actually a fast growing plant that can be sown in situ and will still be performing long after many other bedding plants have run out of steam in autumn!
Cosmos are not only beautiful but they are great for pollinators by providing a rich source of pollen and nectar. Add to this that they have very few pest and disease issues you can see just what a good garden plant this is!
Cosmos for containers
If you prefer to grow Cosmos in containers, do so either on their own or mixed to blend perfectly with other annuals and tender perennials. Unless you are growing the shorter varieties, don’t attempt to grow these in small pots. They need plenty of root run and, because they can end up as high as 80-90 cms, you need a large pot to get the scale right.
Cosmos originate from Mexico. This gives us lots of clues regarding their cultural needs. These flowers like the sun. They need an open site and well-drained soil, and they don’t like the cold. The annual plants are frost tender so if you grow from seed, don’t sow them early. They grow pretty fast when they get going, so they need some feeding. Use a flower food such as Phostrogen to boost flower production and water container grown plants regularly. Planted into the border they are great gap fillers but in hot weather and if they start to wilt do soak the soil around them. Remember that removing the old flowers as they fade will certainly encourage your cosmos plants to continue to produce more flowers.
Cosmos as cut flowers
Cosmos makes a fantastic cut flower. If you love having bunches of flowers in the home Cosmos are a great plant to grow! The taller varieties generally have longer flower stems, but even the compact types are good for posies. Grow them from seed and plant them out all over the garden to pick the flowers all summer long. The more you pick the flowers and remove any spent flowers, the more flowers your plants will produce. Mix cut Cosmos flowers with roses and lady’s mantle, the feathery Cosmos foliage helps to fill the arrangement with texture and soft hues of green, so you need little extra greenery and have a charming bouquet, prefect for the lunch table or an impromptu gift for a friend.
Cosmos as companion plants
When you are growing fruit and vegetables that need pollinating you need to ensure your garden is attractive to insects. Grow clumps of Cosmos around the vegetables and fruit to attract pollinating insects to the area. They will move in quickly and pollinate the flowers as they collect pollen and nectar. The types of crops that benefit are beans, peas, courgettes, strawberries and raspberries.
Cosmos flowers for bees
Contrary to popular belief, many garden flowers are excellent sources of food for insect pollinators. Beneficial insects don’t eat the flowers but they visit for nectar and collect pollen from the yellow centres of the flowers. Cosmos plants grown from seed and free from pesticides are a perfect source of vital food for our gardening friends. The sugar rich nectar provides energy, while the protein rich pollen is perfect food for baby bees. Grow single varieties where the nectar and pollen is easily accessible and then sit back and enjoy the entertainment. Cosmos flower until the first frosts of autumn, making them a vital source of bee food late in the season; that’s another great reason to grow them en masse!
Tender perennial Cosmos
Most cosmos are annuals; that is they die after they have finished flowering and need replacing every year with fresh seed of young plants. But some are actually perennial, albeit requiring frost protection. The most popular one that you are likely to come across and one that we grow every year in our production nursery at Cleeve is Cosmos atrosanguinea or varieties of this. The flowers are relatively small, chocolate brown in colour and amazingly chocolate scented! They look more like floppy spreading small flowered Dahlias than the annual cosmos. Try growing this chocolate scented type with a grey foliage plant for contrast and plant them in a pot on a hot part of your patio to really enjoy the scent in summer!
The International Organisation for the Ornamental Plant Industry Fleuroselect has chosen Cosmos to be the flower of 2016 and, whilst you might think that this is largely a marketing ploy, this is the organisation that reviews all bedding plants and is therefore in a good position to make this judgement! Whether you take a cynical view or not, there is no question in my mind that in choosing Cosmos this year, they have made a very good choice and I recommend that you try them!