Cosmos for your garden

March 1, 2023

By Leora McTall, Master Gardener Washington County

February is here, and it’s time to start planning our gardens. Most of us probably don’t plan with paper and pencil, or even use our trusty computers for diagrams and lists, but we do have a general plan or wish list for the 2023 garden season.

A flower well-worth adding this year is Cosmos (C. bipinnatus), which is a daisy-like annual flower on wiry stems with fern-looking leaves, is 2’ – 5’ tall in shades of pink to rose, white or yellow. Cosmos seeds are available locally at nurseries or discount stores and may be planted — in the sun — after the danger of frost is past, which is approximately April 15 in our 4-county area (Washington, Marion, Clinton and Jefferson).
If you are finding it hard to reach the ground, why not plant the seeds in pots. They are easier to plant, may be moved around according to the sun or shade, and enjoyed up close.

Deadheading (cutting off spent flowers), is probably all the maintenance needed for Cosmos, and that may or may not be necessary.

Our neighbor, Janet, plants Cosmos in the front gardens by their driveway entrance. She said she “likes the wispy, brightly colored tall flowers peeking over the decorative picket fence. Cosmos are hardy, but delicate.” Since Janet noticed butterflies attracted to the Cosmos, she has also turned her attention to planting other flowers including sunflowers to attract butterflies, and milkweed plants for the Monarch butterflies.

Wouldn’t you know there would be a “Chocolate Cosmos”? It is a separate species named “Cosmos atrosanguineus,” grown from tubers rather than seed. This dark red flower is about 30” tall and really does have a chocolate scent. However, it may be a challenge to grow it successfully. But — we do like a challenge! It is quite the opposite of the common Cosmos bipinnatus planted from seed, which is considered a never-fail plant.
So why not try a few Chocolate Cosmos in your favorite container to sit out on the patio, sow some colorful Cosmos bipinnatus seeds nearby, and wait for your neighbors surprise as they notice a chocolate fragrance coming from your flower garden!

For your calendar: Friday, March 10 and Saturday, March 11 is the 33rd Annual Herb and Garden Show at the Times Square Mall in Mt. Vernon with over 30 vendors and several speakers, all free of charge.

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