of­fers tough­ness and beauty

Austin American-Statesman Sunday - - HOMES/JOBS/CLASSIFIEDS - By Nor­man Win­ter

As spring ap­proaches, I wanted to put a bug in your ear, so to speak, for a plant you prob­a­bly have not tried, the Intenz celosia. You might think of it as a celosia with the look of a lit­tle rocket or per­haps a col­or­ful wheat ear.

The Intenz series has been comin­gout in some drop-dead gor­geous colors or va­ri­eties like Clas­sic, Dark Pur­ple Candy Pink, Lip­stick and White Cream. Celosia spi­cata and the Intenz series won my heart last year in Sa­van­nah.

Sa­van­nah was kind of the fre­quent trop­i­cal storm or hur­ri­cane watch path, and the celosia is not typ­i­cally a plant that ap­pre­ci­ates such oc­cur­rences. Not only did Intenz celosia keep per­form­ing but sur­prised me by be­ing regu- larly vis­ited by but­ter­flies like long-tailed skip­pers and Amer­i­can ladies.

This out­stand­ing per- for­mance cou­pled with the fact it has scored 4 or above on a scale of 5 in just about ev­ery trial in the coun­try means this plant is a win­ner and cer­tainly wor­thy of your gar­den dol­lar ex­pen­di­ture. What it means to you is that dur­ing a long hot sum­mer of over three months this an­nual will most likely be daz­zling in your mixed con­tain­ers or land­scape.

The Celosia spi­cata orig­i­nates from East Africa, and its flow­ers are pro­duced from sum­mer through fall, with­stand­ing drought and ex­treme sum­mer tem­per­a­tures. They of­fer a great source of color in the land­scape when other flow­ers ar elo ok­ing weary or sum­mer tired. They will reach 18 inches or taller with a spread of 12 to 15 inches.

Like many other flow­ers, there is one key in­gre­di­ent to be­ing happy with the Intenz celosia, good drainage. Wet soggy soils are lethal to celosia so amend if soil drainage is sus­pect. Se­lect healthy grow­ing trans­plants with few buds show­ing. Prior to plant­ing, in­cor­po­rate 2 pounds of a slow re­lease 12-6-6-fer­til­izer, with mi­nor nu­tri­ents, per 100 square feet of bed area. Space plants 10 to 15 inches apart.

The celosia is not a flower to be spot planted. In other words, one here and one there does not do this plant jus­tice. Plant celosia in mass in in­for­mal clus­ters, drifts or sweeps. Plant them in com­bi­na­tion with other drought tol­er­ant flow­ers hav­ing the same wa­ter re­quire­ment. Be sure and add a layer of mulch.

Com­bine them with plants like gom­phrena and or­na­men­tal grasses. The sturdy struc­ture of the Intenz series al­lows them to be used in mixed con­tain­ers or as sin­gle spec­i­men or mono­cul­ture.

We used ours large mixed con­tain­ers with blood­leaf bananas and or­na­men­tal pep­pers. The look was trop­i­cal and ex­cit­ing. But I could see them just as eas­ily in a large bed geared for pol­li­na­tors, with plants like Chapel Hill yel­low lan­tana and blue salvia.

There will be a lot of good choices of high-qual­ity bed­ding plants avail­able at your gar­den cen­ter this spring, just re­mem­ber the Intenz celosia is a good buy for color and long-sea­son per­for­mance.


Left: Intenz Lip­stick plants will reach about 18 inches in height. Right: Intenz celosias are fre­quented by a va­ri­ety of but­ter­flies in­clud­ing the Long-tailed Skip­per.


Intenz Lip­stick celosias are great for mixed con­tain­ers or stand alone mono­cul­ture.


Left: Intenz Clas­sic celosia blooms non-stop dur­ing the long hot sum­mer. Above: Intenz celosias excel in the land­scape or large sized con­tain­ers.

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