Flower Tales-Cosmos

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“The flower that follows the sun does so even on cloudy days.”  ~Robert Leighton

 

 

While I wait for spring to come, I thought I would profile a special annual flower I grow in my garden, most summers.  Cosmos are prized in my garden for their daisy-like flowers, and abundant, easy-to-grow nature. I love seeing the wispy foliage of these flowers emerge.  And the bright, cheerful blooms make me smile well into fall as these flowers bravely bloom until the first hard frost. 

The name, Cosmos, comes from the Greek word kosmos, meaning “order or the world.” Also
IMG_9308known as Common cosmos, Garden Cosmos or Mexican Aster, this flower is a member of the aster family (Asteraceae).  It can be found growing in its natural habitat, along roadsides and ‘waste places’.  And I have seen it spring up year after year in harsh spots like hellstrips.

Many species of Cosmos are native to Mexico, parts of the United States, Central America, and South America. And one CosmosC. bipinnatus, has naturalized itself across much of the eastern United States and Canada. 

Here in the US, these herbaceous plants are considered an annual, and can grow from 1-7 feet high.  I had some topping out at 8 feet this past summer.

 

 

 

Growing Conditions

DSCN8346Cosmos thrive in full sun, and do need some protection from strong winds so the tall stems don’t topple over. They tolerate many soil types, but prefer light, poorly fertile soil.  Cosmos need moisture to get started, but once they mature, they are drought tolerant.  And if you want plentiful, large flowers, keep them watered regularly.  They grow and flower better if you don’t fertilize the plants or amend the soil.

Cosmos are easy to grow from seeds.  I sow mine once danger of frost is past, which means they will bloom later in summer.  You can start them 4-5 weeks earlier indoors if you want them to bloom sooner.  But one interesting thing I learned, was that Cosmos are light-sensitive so they won’t bloom their best until late summer, when the days grow shorter. So really starting them early may not be useful.

Make sure to leave lots of room for these plants to grow.  It is recommended you give them 2 feet of space between plants.  I prick out seedlings as they are growing to make sure they have space to grow.  Of course taller Cosmos like to be placed closer together so they can support each other.DSCN6899

And to keep these plants in flowers, pinch off spent flowers or deadhead them to encourage continuous bloom.  Of course I cut mine regularly for vases which works just as well to keep them blooming. I like to leave some blooms on the plants so they may self-sow.  And one of the best reasons I love to grow Cosmos is because pests and diseases rarely affect them.

 

 

 

Folklore and Tales


Cosmos
came to Europe from Mexico in the 16th-century, when Spanish explorers sent hundreds of these IMG_8150flowers back to Madrid.  They finally made their way to England from Spain in 1789.

It is said that Spanish mission priests in Mexico cultivated Cosmos in their gardens, and named it because of its “evenly placed petals.” 

Cosmos are said to attract Faeries to a garden because Faeries are at home in the wild atmosphere created by Cosmos.

In the language of flowers, it is the symbol of innocence, peace and tranquility.

 

 

 

Uses

Cosmos are a staple in cutting gardens, cottage gardens and pollinator or butterfly gardens.  If you are an organic gardener, this flower is useful because it attracts lacewings, tachinid flies, hoverflies, and
IMG_8957many parasitic wasps, which prey on insects that can harm your garden.  Using a flower to combat pesky insects, is better to me than using chemicals to control pests. 

Cosmos has been traditionally used in Mexico and South America to treat Malaria.  

It is also known to be used as a topical ointment for sore muscles and skin issues as it contains antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties.  It is also said to help with fibromyalgia and eczema.  Before using any plant for medicinal purposes, make sure you consult an expert.

Cosmos have been used since pre-Columbian times as a source for yellow and orange dyes.  

And you can eat the young leaves; either raw in salads or cooked.

 

 

 

cosmos collage 

Do you grow Cosmos?  What is your favorite annual flower?

 

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I collected rose petals from late fall roses, and kept them in this small ceramic dish from Spain; a gift from a dear friend.

 

 

rose petal vase collage

I thought it would make an unusual and lovely vase for this week.  Maybe a bit outside the rules, but flowers from my garden, just displayed a bit differently.

 

I am joining in with a few memes this week as I prepare this vase:  Cathy@Rambling in the Garden for her wonderful meme, In a Vase on Monday,Today’s Flowers hosted by Denise@An English Girl Rambles and Judith@Lavender Cottage who hosts Mosaic Monday.

 

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Next up on the blog:  

Next Monday, I will have my plans for the veg garden.  I am anxious to get started sowing seeds indoors soon.

 

I am linking in with Michelle for her Nature Notes meme at her blog, Rambling Woods.  It is a great way to see what is happening in nature around the world every Monday. 

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I am also joining in I Heart Macro with Laura@Shine The Divine that happens every Saturday.

 

All original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Gardens Eye View, 2010-2016.  Any reprints or use of content or photos is by permission only.

96 comments

  1. Sandra says:

    Thanks for all the info about Cosmos, I’m particularly interested to learn that the leaves are edible. I have the seeds at the ready and plan to grow it for the first time, this year. Sweet ‘vase’.

  2. Sara - My Woodland Garden says:

    Oh, Donna, I adore Cosmos! It would be lovely to have them naturalized, but our climate of course is too cold. They are very picturesque flowers. I haven’t grown them every summer, but when I do, I take very many photos of them. 🙂 At least one year I noticed some aphids on them, but I was able to pick the insects away.
    Thank you for the lovely post! Have a great week ahead!

  3. Christina says:

    Cosmos really are a very generous flower; I can’t say that I’ve noticed that they flower better as the days shorten, something to look out for. I know they shouldn’t be sown too early as they need ample light to grow well. I usually sow in the greenhouse and then plant out, but I and others have noted that plants that grow from seedlings from the previous year appear to be much stronger. I like your vase and I don’t think you are breaking the rules.

  4. Annette says:

    What a beautiful portrait of the Cosmos! Yes, I love and grow them too and found out that they quite like to choose their own places so I let them get on with it. One of my favourite annuals is Cerinthe major ‘Purpurascens’ which are all over the place and start to flower now. In Southern Europe they can be found in the wild and if they like you and the climate is mild, they’ll never leave you. Just my kind of thing! Happy Monday 🙂

  5. Cathy says:

    Outside the box but not outside ‘the rules’, Donna – and what a lovely gentle offering it is. Do they still have any fragrance? Always interesting to read your flower-tales too

    • Donna says:

      Thanks so much Cathy! Sadly no fragrance as they are mostly from Knockout roses. I hope to gather more from fragrant roses this year, and see how long they keep their scent.

  6. Susie says:

    The gifted dish is a great way to present the rose petals. I’m also curious if the flowers are fragrant. The first year I grew cosmos was among my most successful. Appreciate your growing tips–I’ve been crowding them too much for one thing. Here in NC cosmos seem to be a their best late summer to autumn.

  7. Shirley says:

    I planted bright orange Cosmos a few years ago and now they self seed each year. These are very tall with ruffled flowers like marigolds and they do seem to bloom best in the fall garden. Some are still blooming in warmer spots around town.

    Drying rose petals in a dish is one of my favorite things.

  8. Eileen says:

    Hello, I love the Cosmos. I would love to add Cosmos to my garden this summer. The rose petals and dish look pretty, I am sure the aroma is heavenly. Happy Monday, have a great new week ahead!

  9. Noelle says:

    Nice to learn so much about cosmos..I grew two plants last year…but they did not do too well. It will be well worth my learning more…for instance the two plants I bought in April must have been started too early! Thank you so much for bringing all the little details to our attention.

    • Donna says:

      Kylee, I love that your husband has a favorite flower. I think my husband’s favorite is the tomato flower because it brings him his favorite tomatoes! 🙂 I also love the quilled-petal ones….so big and so unique! Thank you for stopping by!

  10. Kris P says:

    I think the rose petals are a lovely idea, Donna! Six-packs of Cosmos showed up in my local garden center last week. I picked them up and put them down a few times before leaving, feeling it was just too early to plant them this year. However, as our temperatures soared and it now feels a LOT like summer outside, I may reconsider that decision – if we’re not going to get any more winter rain, I might as well go with the flow!

  11. Leora says:

    Oh, I haven’t thought about what to grow this year. Maybe I will grow some cosmos. Yours are so lovely! I will have to remember to prune the seedlings so they don’t grow too close together.

  12. Diana Studer says:

    Spanish bowl is lovely!

    Cosmos grow ‘wild’ up North.
    When we were house hunting we saw an ensuite bathroom with an exquisite mural of a field of Cosmos … and the adjoining bedroom painted in an alarming combination of stop sign yellow and fire engine red. Eww!!!

  13. Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti says:

    Cosmos are so pretty and delicate looking, Donna. I am also dreaming about spring, but I know it’s still a long way off. Our weather has been nice since our big snowstorm and we may hit 60 degrees again this week. I usually plant perennials in my garden, as they seem very hardy and able to withstand our extremes. My biggest success so far has been lavender! The deer and rabbits don’t bother them, I love the smell of lavender and dry the buds to use in sachets and also for cooking. Have a wonderful week!

  14. rickii says:

    Zinnias are my faves but Cosmos run a close second. Thanks for all the info. I love the unusual approach to ‘In a Vase’…pretty sure Cathy will too.

  15. Michele says:

    Oh, how interesting – I have seen this flower many times but didn’t know much about it – thanks for the enlightening information!

    I don’t really go the annual route except in pots, so I guess my favorite annual would the mounds of wildflowers my husband sews from seeds every year. It is always a surprise, and a gift from him AND our Maker.

    My favorite perrenial in our garden is hydrangea and my lavender – big fan of both equally. I want my favorite to be roses but I am a miserably lazy ineffective newbie gardener whom is quite frustrated by them, though I love them dearly.

    Thank you for stopping by and for your sweet comments!

    Have a wonderful week full of love! ♥♥♥

    • Donna says:

      I love your choices for favorites especially wildflowers and lavender. Roses can be frustrating to grow so I started with Knockouts…virtually infallible.

  16. Sallie (FullTime-Life) says:

    Cosmos grew very very well in Oregon and we had them in our flower beds (in our previous life of course). I loved them when the kids were little and we were swamped and busy with jobs and kid stuff; any flower that grew almost by itself would have been my favorite in those days; it is just a special wonderful gift that these are so beautiful too.

    We used to make rose petal potpourri — I hadn’t thought of that in years.

  17. Debby Ray says:

    Donna, I do love cosmos and I had some that would come up volunteer year after year…after planting a package of wildflower seeds in a prairie garden area. And I also love taking a shot from the under side of any kind of flower…it’s such a neat perspective. Beautiful photos!

  18. Beth says:

    I love cosmos; your pictures scream “summer!”
    You asked about a favorite annual and mine is verbena bonariensis. It’s a butterfly magnet.
    I’ll be growing cosmos, zinnias, verbena b. and many other annuals this year. Soon I’ll be ordering my seeds. 🙂
    Happy days coming!

  19. eliza waters says:

    I ordered a Sensation mix to plant next summer. I haven’t had cosmos in a couple years and have always loved them, particularly as they come on strong in the late summer. I’ve heard that staking twiggy brush near them helps support the stems from the wind.

  20. Hannah says:

    Cosmos were one of those annuals that were stunted and didn’t do well for me maybe they didn’t like our cold nights. Poached Egg flowers have reseeded for me. My favorites have been Ageratum, Browallia, and Nasturtium.

  21. Pam's English Garden says:

    I love cosmos but don’t grow them because they haven’t done well for me in the past. I think, from reading your article, it may be because I sowed them in heavy clay soil or areas where I use a lot of rich amendment. Seems they don’t like either. My favorite annual is probably the zinnia. It’s very reliable for me. P. x

  22. Elizabeth Worthington says:

    Love Cosmos, Donna, not just for the pretty flowers but their foliage with it’s light, airy fronds. I like the Robert Leighton quote – a fact I didn’t know about Cosmos. And your flower arrangement for this week is inspired! I, too, collect rose petals in a bowl but they have long gone and now I’m eagerly waiting the first rose of summer 🙂

  23. Susan Clark says:

    I love Cosmos. Last year I planted a “shorter” version said to grow to 4 feet. Nobody told the plants and they still made it to 5-6 feet.

  24. Cathy says:

    Lovely information and photos of Cosmos Donna! I also grow Cosmos from seed, but it took much longer for mine to flower than usual last summer. Interesting to hear the leaves are edible – I must try them! I wonder if the flowers are edible too… I have been looking at seeds the past few days and would like to grow a yellow one called Xanthos this year. Your rose petals are a very pretty idea for a vase this week. Lovely post altogether!

  25. Cath says:

    I love your vase, the colours of the petals are still so strong. Seeing it made me grab a pile of petals from a deep red rose and set them to dry, so maybe I’ll have a bowl full next winter. 🙂

  26. ann says:

    Ah cosmos, a love-hate relationship here, even though they are one of my favorites, especially the pink ones. I love to sprinkle their seeds about and just watch what happens then the next year wonder why there are are so many more that get in the way. Loved your folklore.

  27. Kathy Sturr of the Violet Fern says:

    Oh Donna you have reminded me that I used to have the most beautiful crop of Cosmos. I think I will need to make some more space along my Nice Driveway so I can grow them again! Without a doubt, the annual I grow the most is Nasturtium. I grow it among my cucumbers and squash as a companion and I grow it among the salad because I do enjoy the peppery leaves and the flowers add so much punch to a salad. This year I have some more new types to try! And this year I hope, hope, hope to have Sunflowers again – another favorite!

  28. Beth @ PlantPostings says:

    Yes, Cosmos are definitely favorites in my garden, year after year. They amaze me with their delicate look but sturdy structure. I’ve never had to stake them, even though they grow very tall. They have a very long vase life. Great post and photos, Donna. That first capture is magical!

  29. Aaron Dalton says:

    Cosmos is one of my favorite annual flowers.

    And yes, it self sows very reliably here in Tennessee.

    The bees visit the flowers and the birds (especially finches) pick off the seeds.

    The first year I grew them, I deadheaded them regularly. Now, I typically don’t bother. Usually, the most vigorous plants in each year’s crop seem to flower for months regardless of whether I deadhead or not 🙂

  30. catmint says:

    I love the idea of the rose petals and they look perfect in that vase. Cosmos used to be quite common but for some reason it seems to have gone out of fashion here. I do love annuals and biennials, for one reason it doesn’t matter so much where you place them! I had no idea you could eat the young leaves.

  31. Janet/Plantaliscious says:

    One of my favourite flowers, but I had no idea that they were light sensitive like that, or that the leaves were edible! We tend to have them flowering here from early summer from an early sowing, and they just keep going, I adore them, particularly ‘Purity’.

  32. debsgarden says:

    When I struggled to grow wildflowers on a hillside, this is the one flower that did best, happily reseeding itself and growing with abandon each year. I want to find another spot for it, since I planted shrubs on my difficult hillside. The butterflies and bees love it!

  33. Ginnie says:

    Do you remember the movie “Moonstruck” with Nicholas Cage and Cher? We watched it the other night, so your post has reminded me of the Cosmo character (father of Cher in the movie). HA! No connection of course, but it’s funny how things remind us of each other. Anyway, who knew a flower could be so hardy and versatile!

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