When you think of Cosmos, you may be reminded of grandmotherly gardens from yesteryear~warm and sunny retreats with bees happily bumbling, butterflies dancing, brooks gurgling and birds singing. Kind of like a perfect Anne of Green Gables afternoon in the garden. In Greek, Cosmos means beauty and harmony, which isn’t surprising, since Cosmos seem to conjure up just those feelings.
Native to Mexico and South America, this casual, cottage garden heirloom is often planted toward the back of a garden, where its height, bright flowers and tapestry of delicate, feathery foliage can provide a living screen for a garden sanctuary. Cosmos are equally at home peeking over a picket fence, softening an old stone wall, consorting with wildflowers in a meadow or standing at the ready in a colorful summer cutting garden.
Just Plant the Seeds and Step Back
There’s no need to start Cosmos in a greenhouse or under lights~they actually prefer being planted from seed directly into the garden after the last frost date. Plant ½" deep in well-draining soil with full sun (although they will tolerate partial shade.) Keep the seeds uniformly moist until the seedlings emerge, about ten days after sowing. Once the plants are 3" tall, spread them out a bit so they are 9" to 24" apart in the garden. Cosmos are forgiving and undemanding. They will be perfectly happy growing in infertile or dry soil with nothing more than a drink of water now and again during a dry spell. Adored by butterflies for their sweet nectar and by songbirds for their abundant seeds in the fall, Cosmos flowers profusely until the first frost and may even self-seed for next year. What more could you ask of a little flower seed?
The best time to plant Cosmos is after your average last frost date. You may find your reliable Frost-Free Date by using a chart from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Go HERE and select your State from the pull down menu. This will generate a PDF file with a list of NOAA data collection sites in your State. In the left column, choose the location nearest or most similar to where you live. Then read across. Use the middle threshold number (32°F) and right next to it, in the Spring column, will be the 50% probability date. This is your all-important average Frost-Free Date.
A Bevy of Beautiful Choices
Cosmos have such a carefree, agreeable nature that it’s easy to plant a couple different varieties in and around the garden. Early Sensation Cosmos Mixture is an heirloom favorite that was developed in the 1930s. The 3' to 5' tall plants have fine, feathery foliage and bear a profusion of 4" to 6" blossoms in bright white, pink and rose-magenta, all with yellow centers. The flowers are great for cutting, with long, strong stems and a good vase life. Our charming Seashells Cosmos Mixture also grows 3' to 5' tall and has slightly smaller, 3" to 4" daisy-like blooms with delicately rolled petals in shades of white, pink and deep mauve. Our Psyche Cosmos Mixture grows to a height of 3' to 4' and is comprised of large, 4" flowers with a center tuft of spiky petaloid segments ranging from white to pink to magenta. Our Double Click Cosmos Mixture features a frilly blend of 3" cranberry-red, rose-pink and snow-white blossoms of the prized double and semi-double types. This delightful French strain grows to about 4' tall. A more compact option is our Sunshine Cosmos Mixture, which stands just 12" to 15" tall yet produces a non-stop display of 2½" semi-double, daisy-like flowers in red, yellow, orange and gold.
We also offer two sparkling white varities. Growing from 3' to 5' tall, Purity Sensation Cosmos has lovely 4" to 6" snow-white flowers with yellow centers and delicate, thread-like foliage. White Psyche Cosmos is a bit shorter, with a mixture of single and semi-double 4" white flowers with yellow centers and fern-like foliage. Imagine these two surrounding your terrace on a moonlit summer night!
Other fabulous, easy-to-plant direct-sow flowers include:
Love Lies Bleeding * Bachelor Buttons * Balsam * Bee Balm Mixture * Bells of Ireland * Black-Eyed Susan * Calendula * Cardinal Climber * Cathedral Bells * Catmint * Chinese Lantern * Spider Flowers * Columbine * Corn Cockle * Euphorbia * Forget-Me-Nots * French Crested Marigolds * Globe Thistle * Baby's Breath * Heuchera * Hollyhocks * Hyacinth Bean Vine * Larkspur * Tree Mallow * Blazing Stars * Blue Flax * Love-in-a-Puff * Lupines * Signet Marigolds * Four O'Clocks * Moonflowers * Morning Glories * Nasturtiums * Nigella * Balloon Flower * Poppies * Painted Lady Runner Beans * Shasta Daisies * Sweet Alyssum * Sweet Peas * Sunflowers * Sunset Hyssop * Black-Eyed Susan Vine * Mexican Sunflower * Zinnias