Celosia ‘Tornado Red’

Celosia Tornado RedMost people are familiar with the dwarf varieties of Celosia. ‘Tornado Red’ is not one of those varieties. Whereas the typical celosia will grow to about 12 inches tall, this one will reach about 2 feet. The comb itself will measure about 6–9 inches across.

We first learned about ‘Tornado Red’ from a neighbor down the road, who kept planting it for several years. Every summer the plant looked good; it didn’t fade, it didn’t go out of bloom and it didn’t get tired. It was a great plant when we passed it on the road, and it was even more interesting when we stopped and asked about it.

‘Tornado Red’ is one of those drama plants used to showcase how interesting the garden can be. The bloom offers great 55 mph impact because of its vibrant magenta color and bold, high-standing presence. It’s also an interesting pedestrian plant because of the intense, complicated folding going on inside the comb. Texture up close and great color from a distance—everything you want in a great drama plant.

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Celosias require virtually no maintenance and ‘Tornado Red’ is no exception to this rule. Once it gets established it pretty much takes care of itself. The combs start in mid-to-late May and keep going until a hard frost, and the performance is excellent in the dog days of August. Surround it with Dusty Miller and watch the silver leaves set off that intense red in the comb. This variety also has a place in the cutting or craft garden because the comb dries nicely.

You do have to water ‘Tornado Red’ in dry spells, but it doesn’t require a lot of water. Overwatering will produce a leggy, lanky, soft kind of plant. It needs more water than a portulaca but less water than a geranium.

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We’ve noticed a trend among breeders that has swung away from dwarves and miniatures. For a while, everyone was breeding for the smallest possible size. Now we are starting to see interest in producing bigger, even giant versions of the familiar cultivars we know.

For a retailer, Celosia ‘Tornado Red’ is a good plant to feature in a display garden and on the bench as something different—something you won’t find everywhere else. In the landscape, it makes a stunning centerpiece in a showcase garden.