A big beautiful bed of orange cosmos decorates the lawn of the Butterfly Center at Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain, Georgia.
The orange cosmos (Cosmos sulphureus) has become increasingly popular in the last decade as more have come to appreciate its ease of growth, spectacular flowers and attractiveness to butterflies. Orange cosmos has rich green feathery foliage that is coarser than that of the common cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus) but is just as pretty. Like its cousin, orange cosmos is also a frost tender annual that is rugged and easy to grow. Depending on variety and conditions, yellow cosmos will grow anywhere from 1 to 7 ft (0.3-2.1 m) in height. Whatever the height, each plant will produce quantities of solitary, bowl-shaped yellow to orange flowers that are 2-3 in (5-7.6 cm) in diameter. 'Bright Lights' is a popular collection of single and double selections in colors that range from bright canary yellow to orange to a beautiful dark mahogany.
Location Cosmos sulphureous is native to Mexico.
Well-drained, sandy soils are preferred but yellow cosmos is adaptable. Light: Bright sunlight. Moisture: This is a desert plant and it will survive droughts but will be stunted. Orange cosmos requires adequate moisture for best appearance. Hardiness:USDA Zones 5 - 10. Orange cosmos will reseed if contact is made with bare soil. Propagation: In frostfree areas sow seeds directly into garden in fall or spring. In cooler climates sow seed only in spring. In areas with short growing seasons, start indoors and transplant in garden when danger of frost has past.
Try cosmos for quick easy color all summer long.
The yellow cosmos is a garden beauty perfect for beds and borders. It is a also a robust grower able to survive harsh conditions in urban gardens and roadway wildflower plantings. Orange cosmos along with common cosmos (C. bipinnatus) are musts for most butterfly gardens. Note, however, that in some areas like southern Michigan, orange cosmos is NOT a good nectar source for that region according to research by the North American Butterfly Association.
The yellow cosmos is showy and easy to grow. I sow it along fence rows and the edge of the property where it fends for itself and contributes color during the deep green days of summer. It is able to withstand drought and harsh conditions. I planted some on a very dry patch of sand where they germinated, grew to a height of 6 in (15 cm), produced small 1 in (2.5 cm) diameter flowers and then went to seed. They overcame harsh environmental difficulties to dutifully complete their life cycles - what a survivor!
Before planting orange cosmos check locally to make sure that it is not invasive in your area. In places like Tennessee orange cosmos is naturalizing in "disturbed" areas but so far is not disrupting native plant communities.
Jack Scheper 6/28/03
Copyright 1996 - 2012
Tallahassee, Florida USA