A favourite of bees and gardeners alike, Cosmos is a regular star of the summer show.
Cosmos belong to the same group as the Daisy family, and on this family tree, Cosmos is the sophisticated older cousin who knows how to work a bold pallet with pizzazz. Cosmos regularly leaves gardeners spellbound with dainty flowers in mellow yellows, carmine pinks and rich, velvety reds.
While they will certainly add a splash of colour to the back of a border, you might want to display these blooms front and centre, particularly the ones that smell like chocolate. Ah, now we've got your attention! Not only are the silky deep maroon flowers of Cosmos atrosanguineus a delight to look at, but they give off a sweet aroma that demands to be inhaled. The smell is caused by the presence of vanillin (so a fine-tuned nose might get a whiff of vanilla rather than chocolate).
Find your perfect colour match in our Cosmos collection:
Cosmos flowers make an entrance with the first blaze of summer warmth and sometimes continue the petal party into early autumn. They certainly aren’t the showiest flowers on the border but don’t hold it against them. With their frothy, lace-like foliage, they'll provide the perfect backdrop for all your other plants and will thrive even if they aren't in the limelight. In fact, we think they look the best weaving in and out of a border.
With the right companions, you can create a lustrous meadow of blooms, ideal for cottage garden devotees and wildlife enthusiasts. Cosmos looks fabulous flirting with Poppies, Verbena, Sea Holly and Cone Flowers. But don’t stress if you don’t have copious amounts of space; Cosmos will grow happily in containers.
And if it’s vases you’re looking to fill, Cosmos makes a long-lasting cut flower for your summer bouquets.
Queen of the cut flower patch, Louise Curley advises picking your Cosmos flowers just as the petals begin to unfurl. For fresh-looking flowers, soak them overnight in buckets of water before unleashing your creativity on the arrangement. You can also leave the foliage on for greenery so long as it isn’t touching the water (as any debris in the water can cause things to get a little funky).
If you're hankering for extravagant plumage, double blooms do exist. The Cosmos craze has spurned a whole host of cultivars.
But all frills and no filler are bad for pollinators, who prefer a simple flower with a ring of petals and an open centre, which can instantly serve up a nectar-rich meal.
Plant Cosmos, and your patch will soon be buzzing with bees and hoverflies. And all that wildlife will more than makeup for the lack of frills.
You can buy Cosmos as annuals
, which you'll need to resow year after year. And bear in mind that it'll take around 7 weeks for your Cosmos to flower if you're growing from seed. If you don't have the patience for that, you can buy Cosmos as tuberous perennials
instead. These will come back again and again, providing you take care of them and protect them from below zero temperatures.
How to care for Cosmos
Cosmos is happiest in full sun and enjoys reasonably fertile, well-drained moist soil. Some can be sensitive to frost, but they’ve been known to survive wet summers.
Sow your Cosmos seeds in spring and plant those babies out after all signs of frost have passed.
A little tip to stop your Cosmos plants from getting leggy (leggy is a bad thing in plant speak), pinch out the growing tips on each stem to encourage bushier growth.
The leggiest Cosmos (ones that grow up to 60cm) might need support in the form of a stake as those slender stems don’t always hold up well in strong winds.
Half-hardy varieties such as Cosmos atrosanguineus will be grateful for a thick mulch if you’re planning on overwintering them in the ground.
To ensure an abundance of blooms, deadhead your Cosmos regularly. When it comes to deadheading, do as Monty Don does and cut the stem right back to the first leaf, rather than just snipping the flowerhead off. This will encourage more blooms, and it just looks better.
Slugs and snails are partial to the young plants. But in the main, the only worries you’ll have with these prolific flowers is running out of pretty vases to put them in.
If you’re looking for a plant with an abundance of beautiful blooms, you can’t go wrong with Cosmos.
Did you know?
Plant enthusiasts have been hypnotised by Cosmos since at least the 16th century. The name is a broad term deriving from the Greek for 'Kosmos', which encapsulates harmony, world order, adornment and ornament. Basically, they're very nice to look at!
Cosmos originally hails from Zimapán, Hildago, Mexico, but that hasn’t stopped it from thriving in our cooler, more unpredictable climate.
William Thompson (one half of plant and seed specialist Thompson and Morgan) is attributed with introducing the species to the UK in 1835. He sent the plant on to Joseph Hooker, the first director of Kew Gardens.
Cosmos was cultivated in the mission gardens of Spanish mission priests in Mexico, and they apparently christened it Cosmos because of its “evenly placed petals.”
The harmonious placement also extends to the foliage. The leaves, for example, always appear as opposite pairs.
Cosmos has suffered in the wild due to logging, copper mining and the spread of agriculture and development. However, while once thought extinct, populations have surfaced in New Zealand and Mexico's oak and pine forests.
Alongside Marigolds, Cosmos is the birth flower for October babies.
Where to buy Cosmos
Fancy creating an out of this world display? You can pick up Cosmos on Candide and support independent UK growers today.
What have you experimented with growing this year? Tag us and use the hashtag #ShowUsYourBlooms.
This article is part of Candide's Festival of Flowers, an online floral take over, aiming to unite the nation in a joyful celebration of gardens, plants, pollinators and people! Read more from the series below.