10 Neat Things About Cosmos
by Dorothy Dobbie
by Dorothy Dobbie

The Local Gardener magazines, Ontario Gardener, Manitoba Gardener and Alberta Gardener, are published by Pegasus Publications Inc.

Drawing on her 30 years' experience as a senior executive in the magazine publishing industry, Dorothy launched Manitoba Gardener in 1998, initially running the business out of her home. Two years later, Dorothy's daughter Shauna, living in Ontario, jumped into the fray with Ontario Gardener. And two years after that, they started Alberta Gardener. Visit us at and register for our "Ten Neat things" newsletter. Watch Shaw TV for garden tips and Listen to CJOB for the Gardener Sundays at 9:08

May 31, 2015

1. King's salad.

When we think of cosmos, we think of the pretty delicate flowers once so common in the gardens of our grandparents. Not so in Malaysia and some other Southeast Asian countries. They think of food. Cosmos caudatus, known there as ulam raja, or King's salad, is a two-metre tall plant with soft, pungent leaves that form a popular vegetable eaten both raw and cooked. They taste like mango. At night, the leaves fold up as the plant goes to sleep.

2. Better bones.

Studies are underway to confirm the positive effect Cosmos caudatus has on the formation of human bones in post-menopausal women. While this plant has long been known to have anti-fungal and anti-oxidant properties, its ability to stimulate bone formation is exciting scientists.

3. Garden queen.

Other varieties of cosmos are better known for their beauty. Cosmos bipinnatus is the most common and the one that comes in the familiar pink, rose, red and white. They can range in height from 12 inches (30 cm) to 47 inches (120 cm), with a few varieties as tall as six feet (180 cm).

4. Twice divided.

The word "bipinnatus" refers to the feathery foliage that is twice divided.

5. The sulphur cosmos.

This cosmos, Cosmos sulphureus, comes in yellow, gold and orange-scarlet. It is not as likely to self-sow in northern gardens as it is considered half hardy, but even so, it was declared an invasive species in the United States in 1996. 'Polidor' is bright orange and grows 35 in. (75 cm) tall.

6. Chocolate cosmos.

The rarest cosmos, Cosmos atrosanguineus, smells a bit like vanilla which people relate to chocolate. Not only that, but its petals are a rich mahogany, almost chocolate-red-brown. This cosmos has been extinct in its native habitat for the past century. It is kept alive through tissue propagation. It has a fleshy root and grows 16 to 21 in (40 to 60 cm) tall.

7. Mexican aster.

Although cosmos are found all around the world now, they originated in Mexico and part of the southwest United States and Central America. They are also known as Mexican asters.

8. Likes it rough.

Don't be too kind to cosmos. They flower best in un-rich soil without too much water or fertilizer. Sow them ┬╝ inch deep, 12 to 18 inches apart, and expect flowers in seven weeks. Dead head to keep them blooming. Left to themselves, they bloom in spring and then again in fall.

9. Butterfly magnet.

Cosmos are very attractive to butterflies and birds. Cut them just as they open and they will stay fresh in a vase for up to a week.

10. All the beauties.

In florigraphy, cosmos stands for ornamental and orderly. Cosmos also mean beauty. Look for picotee, with a crimson border - 'Sweet Sixteen' is a good example. It grows 90 cm (35 in.) tall. Sea shell cosmos have tubular-shaped petals. 'Double Click Rose Bonbon' is an excellent example, rising again as high as 90 cm (35 in.) Xanthos (means yellow in Greek) is a lovely pale yellow bipinnatus that is early-flowering. It is 60 cm (24 inches tall).

Dorothy Dobbie Copyright┬ę Pegasus Publications Inc.

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