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Celosia argentea
The cockscomb is a flower of the dead in Oaxaca, Mexico and is a decoration for Day of Dead celebrations together with marigold. There cockscombs are known as Mano de Leon, Lion's Paw (probably the yellow variety), Cresta de Gallo (cockscomb) or borla de Santa Teresa (tassel of St. Teresa). St. Teresa, who is popular with curanderas, is often shown wearing a hat  with large tassels because the Catholic Church awarded her a doctorate after her death. On some of these doctoral hats, the tassel is more like a big crimson puff and does indeed resemble a cockscomb. In India, people planted cockscombs around their house to repel murderous spirits. I was curious why cockscomb would be considered a Saturn plant, given its large, gaudy flowers, but it made sense when I found out that as an herb, it is cold and dry and constricting/astringent, all Saturn properties. A symbol of longevity on account of the longlasting dried flowers, cockscomb has been cultivated in European gardens since Elizabethan times, although because of cooler summers in Europe, were often grown in greenhouses. Both Washington and Jefferson grew it in their gardens, and in the US in the early 1900s fairs had competitions for the largest blooms. Victorians loved fuzzy things and bumpy textures, so you can imagine this was one of their favorite garden flowers. A member of the Amaranth family, cockscomb is also known as wool flower, brain celosia, floramor, and flower gentle. Top

How to Grow It

Start seeds indoors 4 weeks before your last frost and grow from transplants. Barely cover seeds to germinate with warmth (70-80F/21-27C) in 2 weeks. Water should be room temp instead of cold from the faucet. They will be stunted if they get too cold, so transplant outside when night-time temps are above 55F/13C. If your summers are long, you can plant them directly in warm soil; they take 90 days from seedling to flowering. They can grow in most types of soil as long as they have full sun. Coral Gardens is a short cockscomb variety good for edging, only 10"/25cm tall, and is great for containers. This is a mix of red, crimson, scarlet, orange, and gold "brain" types. For the biggest flowers, pinch off side branches; leave them for more, smaller flowers. It can actually be grown indoors with 8-10 hours of sun/day, but watch out for spider mites then. For cut flowers, harvest after the dew has dried in the morning. You can dry them by stripping off all the leaves and hanging them upside down in a cool, airy place, and they will maintain their color. Cockscomb are grown as annuals in most areas, but they are actually tender perennials  in tropical areas. General growing info. Top

Celosia argentea
150 seeds $3.75

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Uses in Witchcraft & Magic:

Protection from spirits
Honoring the Dead
Saturn herb

2016, 2017 Harold A. Roth; No reproduction of any part without permission.