Big, bold and colorful, it is easy to see why the cosmos flower is such a popular member of the flower garden. Part of the Asteraceae family along with zinnias, daisies and chamomile, these colorful daisy-like blooms are a vibrant choice. The showy blooms in shades of pink, white, maroon, red and white are guaranteed to draw scores of pollinators such as butterflies to the garden. In addition to the single colored flower cultivars, bicolored or patterned blooms are also available.
The cosmos flower genus comprises around 25 separate cultivars including both annual and perennial types. This is a versatile plant. Many specimens are suitable for growing in containers as well as in flower beds. As well as providing lots of visual attraction, these are low maintenance plants that are largely pest and problem free. A herbaceous perennial, single, semi-double and double flowering types are also available. Most specimens reach a height of between 3 and 6 ft, however smaller or dwarf cultivars are also available.
The open, colorful blooms are a pleasing addition to the garden.
Easily identified by their large colorful blooms which sit on slender stems above finely cut leaves, these long lasting plants can bloom throughout the summer months. The following 15 cultivars are amongst the most attractive and versatile cosmos flower cultivars currently available.
Different Cosmos Flower Types
All cosmos flower cultivars are derived from one of the 3 main species:
- C. Bipinnatus,
- C. Sulphureus
- C. Atrosanguineus
- Bipinnatus, also known as the Mexican Aster, is a herbaceous plant which is native to America. Considered a half-hardy annual, like other cosmos flower types it is capable of self sowing.
Bipinnatus specimens tend to be bushy plants with an average height of 3 to 4 ft. The plants typically flower in shades of pink, purple and whitehowever other colors are available. These large blooms, measuring around 8 cm wide, are identified by their colorful petals which surround a central disc of yellow florets. The open blooms sit on branching stems, which can be hairless. Beneath the blooms masses of wispy, sessile foliage forms.
Most home grown cultivars including the pink flowering Dazzler, Fizzy Pink and Gazebo Red, a reliable dwarf variety, are part of the C. Bipinnatus family. C Bipinnatus specimens are also easy to grow from seed.
Bipinnatus specimens are the most commonly cultivated. Source:
- Sulphureus, commonly known as the Yellow, Orange or Sulfur Cosmos is native to Central America, Mexico and the northern parts of South America. Today the plants are also naturalized to other parts of the world, including Europe, Australia and Asia. In fact they are a common sight along roadsides in Japan and Korea.
Half-hardy annuals, C. Sulphureus specimens can grow to a height of anywhere from 1 to 7 ft. Displaying a reliable, upright growth habit the stems are usually hairy. The daisy-like blooms emerge in shades of red, orange and red-orange and have prominent yellow centers. The pinnate leaves with lanceolate leaflets closely resemble the foliage of the marigold plant.
As well as the large specimens, dwarf cultivars are also available. Bright Lights is an early flowering C. Sulphureus type, blooming in shades of red, yellow, gold and orange. Bright Lights is popular for its eye-catching blooms. Other popular cultivars include Cosmic Orange, which produces bright orange blooms, Cosmic Yellow and Cosmic Red.
C Atrosanguineus, also known as Chocolate Cosmos, is rarely found outside Mexico. The name refers to both the dark chocolate-like color of the blooms and their chocolate-like fragrance. A perennial herbaceous reaching 2 to 3 ft in height, and spreading around 18 inches.
Atrosanguineus is a compact specimen producing dark green pinnate foliage. Above this sits dark red, maroon and dark brown blooms. In the center of the bloom an inner disc of florets protrude, providing further interest. Perennial in USDA Zones 9 to 11, the plants can also be hardy in USDA Zones 7 and 8 with lots of winter mulching and care. Otherwise the tubers will need to be lifted and stored over winter, the process is similar to storing dahlia bulbs overwinter.
A reliable container garden choice, C Atrosanguineus is ideal for a range of planting styles, including cottage gardens. It is also a good choice for a cut flower garden.
The following are 15 of the most colorful and versatile cosmos flower specimens currently available.
1 Bright Lights
The Bright Lights cultivar is one of the best cosmos flower choices if you want to draw pollinators such as bees and butterflies to the garden. A mix of C. Sulphureus plants, these semi-double blooms sit above fern-like foliage and emerge in eye-catching shades of yellow, gold, orange and scarlet.
The large blooms, measuring 2.5 inches across cover the plants. Typically Bright Lights grows to a height of 3 ft tall. When in flower, these warm blooms work well alongside purple or blue flowering plants such as asters. Easy to grow from seed, germination usually takes around 2 weeks.
Yellow flowering plants add warmth to the flower bed and attract pollinators.
2 Apricot Lemonade
Apricot Lemonade is popular for its cool pastel colors. The delicate apricot colored petals have a lilac blush. As they fade the petals turn a buttery-yellow shade with a deeper pink blush. Further adding to the attraction, the underside of the petals is a contrasting lavender color.
A single flowering C. Bipinnatus cultivar, the blooms typically measure 3 to 4 inches wide. Apricot Lemonade is a compact plant growing to a height of 2 to 2.5 ft tall. They typically spread 18 inches wide. The attractive bicolored blooms sit on sturdy stems and typically emerge 75 to 90 days after sowing.
A bicolored C. Bipinnatus type, Candystripe is a stunning addition to the floral garden. Candystripe’s white petals are decorated with crimson edges and faint red-pink stripes.
The blooms, 3 to 4 inches wide, sit on stems reaching between 3 and 6 ft in height. Candystripe is, like many cosmos flower types, a low maintenance choice that delivers heaps of colorful interest. Candystripe works well when planted in mass groups or alongside other tall plants such as Bee Balm at the back of a mixed flower bed. Candystripe seeds typically germinate in 14 to 21 days.
Candystripe’s pink edges add interest to white petals.
4 Choca Mocha
Choca Mocha is a dark flowering cosmos flower that belongs to the C. Atrosanguineus cultivar. As the name suggests, Choca Mocha blooms have deep brown-red petals with dark centers. They also emit a fragrant chocolate aroma. The fern-like green foliage adds further interest.
Like other C. Atrosanguineus cultivars, Choco Mocha plants are commonly cultivated from live plants or tubers. A compact cultivar, Chocha Mocha reaches a height and spread, when mature, of around 12 inches.
5 Cupcakes White
Cupcakes Whie is another of the Mexican Asters. A white flowering type, the blooms, 4 to 5 inches wide, are made up of petals that seem fused into an open chalice shape. This gives the blooms the appearance of a cupcake wrapper. Adding further interest, a ring of tufted petals sit in the center of the blooms.
Reaching a height of 2 to 3 ft, Cupcakes White are open pollinated bushy plants that provide a great way to add floral interest to gaps in your garden beds. Easy to grow from seed, germination takes 7 to 15 days.
Chalice-like petals curve upwards creating a unique bloom.
6 Cupcakes and Saucers
Cupcakes and Saucers is a variation of the Cupcakes White cultivar. An eye-catching specimen, like Cupcakes White the outer petals of Cupcakes and Saucers are fused into a chalice shape. Inside the outer layer, a second ring of frilly petals sit around a bright yellow center.
Reaching a height of 4 ft and spreading over 2 ft in width, this is a great choice if you want to fill flower beds with lots of double and semi-double blooms. As well as white flowering cultivars, Cupcakes and Saucers also produce pink and lavender colored blooms. Like Cupcakes White, Cupcakes and Saucer is easy to grow from seed. Germination takes 7 to 15 days.
Producing large, fiery red-orange blooms, Diablo is a C. Sulphureus heirloom cultivar. A great way to add warmth to your planting scheme, the 2 inch wide blooms sit on surprisingly sturdy wiry stems above the rich green foliage. Germinating within 10 days, Diablo can reach a height of 4 to 5 ft in favorable conditions.
Diablo is a large flowering variety.
Providing a dreamy display that lasts throughout summer and into fall, Daydream fills the garden with masses of large blooms with rich yellow centers. The petals are deep pink at the center of the flower, contrasting nicely with the yellow center. This gradually fades to a lighter pink at the tip. A C Bipinnatus cultivar these colorful blooms reach a height of 5 to 6 ft when in full bloom. Seeds take around 14 days to germinate.
9 Double Click Bicolor Violet
Bicolor Violet is part of the Double Click series of plants. Part of the C. Bipinnatus family, these attractive blooms look more like a carnation than a cosmos flower. The semi-double or double bicolored blooms emerge in shades of violet, lavender, cream and white. Further adding to the attraction are the blooms ruffled petals.
This is an open pollinated plant reaching a height of 42 to 46 inches. Flowering 75 to 90 days after sowing the seeds, the blooms, when fully open, are 2 to 3 inches wide. These colorful cultivars are best planted alongside other flowering plants that like the same growing conditions such as Alliums.
Also in the Double Click series is Cranberries, which produces burgundy double and semi double blooms on sturdy stems and White Knight. This is an attractive ruffled semi-double or double white flowering cultivar.
Double or semi-double blooms add interest and texture to a planting scheme.
10 Psyche White
Producing pure white semi-double and single blooms, the Psyche White cosmos flower is a glistening addition to the garden. The large wavy blooms sit on stems above deep green fern-like foliage. Further adding to the attraction, the bright yellow center is surrounded by flouncy inner petals.
A C. Bipinnatus cultivar, Psyche White reaches a height of 2 to 4 ft. With a little encouragement and some sun Psyche White blooms start to emerge 8 to 12 weeks after sowing the seeds.
Purity is another white flowering C. Bipinnatus plant. During the summer months pure white, single saucer-shaped blooms sit above bright green feathery foliage. Purity can reach a height of 3 to 4 ft. Purity’s typically large blooms measure 4 to 6 inches in width. Quick to germinate, Purity can start flowering 75 to 90 after sowing the seeds.
Purity is popular for its pristine, white blooms.
The pristine white blooms of Purity make it a great companion plant for dark flowering plants such as chrysanthemums and dahlias. Purity, like many other cultivars on our list, is also a good cut flower.
A brilliant cut flower, or tall container garden choice, Velouette produces dark, rich crimson single blooms. These luscious petals are marked with white slashes, lightening the blooms and adding further interest.
This bicolored cultivar is a C. Bipinnatus cultivar. Quick to germinate, blooms usually set 70 days after sowing the seeds. Velouette reaches a height of 25 to 32 inches tall and produces masses of long lasting, large blooms.
Another of the heirloom C. Bipinnatus plants on our cosmos flower list, Radiance is a single flowering type. Popular for its reliability and heavy blooming habits. Here rose-pink petals surround red-purple or magenta centers. These are long lasting blooms, often flowering until the first true frosts of fall.
Reaching a height of 3 to 5 ft tall, the blooms measure 3 to 4 inches wide. Radiance starts to set blooms 60 to 90 days after sowing the seeds.
Radiance produces lots of large, open blooms.
Xanthos is another C. Bipinnatus cultivar. A dwarf variety, rarely exceeding 2 ft, Xanthos is a compact specimen which is ideal for container gardens and small spaces. A half hardy annual, like all cosmos flower cultivars, Xanthos blooms in its first year.
Xanthos starts to produce its long lasting soft yellow blooms around 70 days after the seeds are sown.
15 Rose Bon Bon
Rose Bon Bon is one of the more distinctive cosmos flower cultivars. The ruffled multi-layered double blooms can resemble a carnation. An ideal choice for floral bouquets, as well as a great addition to the floral garden, the blooms measure 3 inches wide. Flowering 60 to 90 days after sowing the seeds, Rose Bon Bon can reach a height of between 3 and 4 ft.
Part of the Double Click series, the rose colored pom-pom blooms sit on strong stems above rich green foliage. Rose Bon Bon is a reliable way to add height and interest to the summer border.
The multiple layers of petals create a showy bloom, providing lots of interest.
The cosmos flower is not only a colorful, vibrant addition to the garden, it is also an easy to care for, low maintenance plant that is easy to grow from seed.
Considered a flowering annual, many varieties are considered hardy in USDA Zones 2 to 11. Depending on the cultivar the plants can grow to a height of between 1 to 6 ft in height and spread 1 to 3 ft wide. Take the size of the cultivar into consideration when selecting your planting position.
Wait until the last chance of frost has passed before planting. Remember to harden off your plants before transplanting. The cosmos flower does best in full sun and well draining soil.
If your soil is heavy, work in lots of compost or sand before planting. This lightens the soil, improving drainage. While these resilient specimens also grow in partial shade, it is often less vigorous. Fewer blooms are also produced. In general the cosmos flower likes hot, sunny weather.
If your soil is good, there is no need to fertilize it prior to or during planting. Too much fertilizer can cause the plants to grow tall. This extra height often comes at the expense of flower production. While fertilization is rarely necessary, if your plants are growing in poor soil or appear to be struggling a dose of Miracle-Gro Liquafeed can be applied.
When planting the soil pH should be 6.0 to 8.5. Try to keep the soil pH in this range throughout the growing season.
Once established the cosmos flower handles drought, neglect and poor soil well. You need only water these resilient plants if there is a prolonged drought or your soil is drying out. Additionally, there is no need to fertilize the cosmos flower unless the plant appears to be struggling.
If you don’t want the plants to self sow, deadhead the spent blooms before the seeds can mature. Deadheading also encourages more blooms to form, prolonging the flowering season.
One of the tallest garden flowers, this is a top heavy plant, particularly when in bloom. They may require support, such as loosely tying to a Natural Garden Bamboo Stick. Alternatively, planting in mass groups enables the plants to support each other.
While they are largely problem free, aphids, thrips (thunder flies) and flea beetles can sometimes target the plants. Wash away any infestations with a blast of water from a garden hose. You can also wipe the foliage with an application of homemade insecticidal soap.
Powdery mildew and bacterial wilt can sometimes be problematic. Correctly spacing out the plants and watering the soil, keeping the foliage as dry as possible, helps to prevent these issues.
If you want to learn more about caring for these colorful blooms, our guide to caring for cosmos has all the information you need.
These are attractive and versatile plants.
Great on their own you can also plant cosmos flower cultivars alongside other flowering plants such as Coneflowers, Goats Beard and Black-Eyed Susan to create a vibrant, colorful bed. Smaller cosmos flower types can also be used for edging.
Bright and colorful, the cosmos flower is one of the easiest plants to cultivate. Ideal for a range of planting schemes and conditions, these large, open flowers draw bees, birds and butterflies to your garden filling the space with long lasting interest and vibrancy.
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.