Cosmos

Cosmos

Cosmos belongs to that vast family of plants known as Compositae. Although there are 20 known species of cosmos, two annual species, Cosmos sulphureus and Cosmos bipinnatus, are most familiar to home gardeners. These two species are most easily differentiated by leaf structure and flower color. The leaves of C. sulphureus are long, with narrow lobes and hairy margins. The flower colors of this species are always shades of yellow, orange or red. The C. bipinnatus has leaves that are finely cut into threadlike segments. The foliage looks similar to ferns. The flowers are white or various shades of pink to dark rose.

Rich, fertile soils tend to produce unusually tall, lanky plants. Yellow cosmos requires full sun. Sow seed of C. sulphureus in early spring since seedlings are not winter hardy. The average planting success with this species is 80 percent. The plant height is 2 - 4 feet depending on culture and variety selected. Plants will germinate in 7 - 21 days when the soil temperature is optimum for germination at 70 - 80 degrees F. Plant seed 1/16 inch deep by raking into the soil. C. sulphureus plants bloom from May - November. Plants should be sheared every 30 days or whenever seed pods predominate. Large areas can be seeded at a rate of 15 pounds per acre C. sulphureus plants bloom approximately 50 - 55 days after germination. Yellow cosmos needs to be replanted each spring for continued success.

Overall plant appearance:
The foliage presents itself as a cloudy mass of fresh green, crowned in the upper reaches by numerous vivid mauve or magenta flower heads, which dance and sway gracefully in response to the wind, even the tightest breeze. The overall appearance of Cosmos is that of a medium-size shrub that is soft, flexible, feathery and fernlike, due to the abundant, graceful, airy, delicate foliage and the equally delicate, fluttering blossoms. In contrast to this general impression of a delicate plant that sways softly in the wind, the main stems in fact can be quite thick tough, and woody. The main stems stand as vertically as possible. All of the subsidiary blossom stems and the individual leaves, grow out of the main stem at a sharp upwards angle of less than 45 degrees.

Size:
Cosmos rarely grows as high as human eye-level (more usually, between knee and chest high), so while large and showy enough to be noticed, it is still in a “lowly” position.

In the observed patch, most of the individual plants that have reached the blooming stage range from 30-40" in height measuring from ground to topmost flowers. The tallest single plant in this patch is actually tilted over and growing somewhat horizontally (away from the wind); if upright, it would stand about 60" tall. Its main stem, at the ground, is 1" in diameter; its largest branch 1/2" in diameter. Individual plants tend to extend their branches out about as wide as they are tall.

Buds are quite small, about 1/8" in diameter when they first appear at the center of the 8-pointed outer bracts, reaching about 1/2" by the time they are ready to open. By the time the outer ray florets have unfolded, the blossom is about 2" in diameter. Since the single-petal ray florets continue growing as the blossom opens outwards, fully opened blossoms are typically about 3" to 3-1/2" in diameter, and a few blossoms in this patch have reached nearly 5" in diameter. The center discs of florets do very little additional outward expansion after the bud unfolds, only ever reaching 1/2"- 3/4" diameter. Leaves are generally 2-3" from base to tip.

Leaf appearance & orientation:
The foliage is feathery and fern-like. “Pinnatus” means feathered or feathery in Latin; so distinctive leaf design gives the plant its second name. From the main vertical stem, the leaves extend outwards, more or less parallel to the ground, and appear in pairs, oriented 180 degrees to each other. Each succeeding leaf pair is oriented on the stem at right angles to the previous pair. There is generally a space of 2­4" between leaf pairs along the length of the stem. The final pair of fully-developed leaves is usually surmounted by a blossom stem of 3-5".

The leaves are formed of narrow, pointed, deeply-cut lobes curving outwards slightly from a central vein or spine. These lobes are arranged as opposed pairs in a symmetrical, bilateral pattern, with a single or twinned lobe at the end. Generally there are 3-5 pairs. Each lobe is, in turn, adorned with several pairs of small, pointed bilateral extensions along its length. The very base of each leaf is broad and flanged, almost like a bract which wraps about halfway around the base of its companion blossom stem. The leaf base is not always the same color as the rest of the leaf. Its color ranges from pale green (on plants with pale mauve blossoms) to light maroon (on plants that have dark magenta blossoms).

Bud/flower appearance & orientation:
The buds appear as tiny flat disks, with 8 long, pointed bracts symmetrically curving outwards. Even at this stage, they are facing upwards, towards the sun and sky. The buds gradually widen and thicken into a button-shape. At this point, faint seams are visible on the “skin” of the bud-button. These soon split apart, to form 8 short, triangular inner bracts. From the midst of these, the deeply-pleated magenta petals of the 8 ray florets begin to push straight upwards. Then as they continue to increase in size, they begin to stretch out from the center composite-floret disk, and form a wide, open cup.

The “cup” of the Cosmos in full bloom is exactly the shape of a dish antenna, and is even “aimed,” at the sky at much the same angle as these wave receivers. The fully-open Cosmos blossom often turns this “dish antenna” somewhat towards the sun. When the wind blows, the blossoms turn their undersides to the direction of the wind so that the inner, fertile disc is sheltered behind a round “parasol” of ray florets.

How to Grow Cosmos
Cosmos give you a big bang for your buck. Growing carefree from seed, these annuals (meaning they grow just one year) fill a flowerbed with color and are great cut flowers. Cosmos grow anywhere from 1 foot to 3 feet high, depending on the variety.


Things You'll Need:

    * Cosmos Seeds
    * Garden Spades
    * Garden Trowels
    * Watering Cans

Instructions

      Check out your local garden center in spring for cosmos seeds and seedlings. Because they're so fast and easy to grow from seed, however, many nurseries don't carry them as seedlings.

      Choose either Cosmos bipinnatus, which has feathery foliage and large daisy-like flowers in all the ranges of white, pink and red, or Cosmos sulphureus, which has smaller flowers in more brilliant, sunset hues and is drought-resistant. (Cosmos also reseed easily.)

      Plant indoors four to six weeks before your region's average last frost date to get earliest bloom. Otherwise, plant outdoors directly in the soil after the last frost date, 8 inches apart in full sun in average soil.

      Trim spent blooms to encourage a longer bloom period.

      Pull out plants, and discard in fall once frost kills them.


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