Cosmic Cosmos Confusion

It has been written previously that the color orange is a favorite here. Especially during summertime when the hot colors can stand up to the overdose of light produced by the sun’s rays so close to the earth at our longitude and latitude. Easily grown from seed, in fact seed is about the only way to grow this one, is Cosmos sulphureus ‘Cosmic Orange’. You can see from the package that this was not expensive mail ordered from a seed specialty house quality assured product. But still…..The design plan was a filler for the species tulip bed by the edge of the path at the top of the stairs by the garage deck after those bulbs had gone dormant. The shrubs and perennials that share the space include butterfly weed, gaillardias, daylilies, tall garden phlox, shasta daisies, butterfly bushes and a pee gee hydrangea standard, among many other plants. A compact orange flowered long blooming annual would fit the criteria perfectly seedwise and colorwise. The seeds were sown.A few seeds were sprinkled on the tulip bed by the pond along the wall also. There was some squirrel shenanigans in that spot and only one plant was produced. It is lonely but lovely.How can what happened in the path bed be described to you? The health and vigor of the cosmos is not in question. The color is as claimed. There are seeds for saving too.Here is the view from the garage deck ramp. Do you notice anything ususual about this bed and the cosmos?The choice of the Cosmic Orange was a good one. Except for one thing…They are eight feet tall. For perspective, a volunteer came forward to be photographed next to the cosmos. She is five feet four and three quarters inches tall. Our recent houseguest, good and dear friend and fellow Tennessee garden blogger, Gail of Clay and Limestone agreed to help show the ridiculous stature of a plant meant to enhance the stone edging of this path crossroads with a height of twelve inches. Thanks Gail, for making the long drive to come vist the garden and me. I loved having you here.
There will be a proper post about the fun Gail and I had during her stay coming soon.

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35 Responses to Cosmic Cosmos Confusion

  1. Siria says:

    Hello Frances! I am late in reading today, but lucky for me as you seem to have posted later than usual and I am the first one here! So glad you and Gail have had a nice visit. It looks like your soil must be so rich that those Cosmos really thrived. They are lovely! Can’t wait to hear about your shenanigans.

    Hi Siria, thanks for stopping by. I did post late today, having to get Gail off in good order. Our soil has some rich spots, around the deceased ferngully, but not in that spot. I don’t know what happened there or why some of those cosmos grew like trees. Gail and I were very well behaved. ;->

  2. Phillip says:

    I have grown very fond of the color orange recently, in fact I’m totally redoing a border in reds, oranges and purples. I want to add that cosmos to my list. How fun that you got to meet Gail!

    Hi Phillip, glad to hear that you have become an orange fan too, not a big orange fan, that is something totally different! LOL I love those hot colors together, a la Christopher Lloyd. I would be happy to send you some of the seeds from this guy, who knows what size it will turn out to be. I had met Gail in Austin at the spring fling and we really hit it off. I have been to her house to stay a couple of days in Nashville so it was her turn to visit me. Non stop talking!

  3. Randy says:

    It’s always a surprise when you plant Cosmos. I planted five different types and none of them were the described height. I ended up pulling up two very large stands of them. BUT, I did save the seeds because I liked them and I will plant them in the correct area next year.

    Hi Randy, thanks for that tip. I didn’t know the cosmos were so erratic! My offspring grow the purple/white tall fern leaf types. I have grown the yellow/orange before but they were nowhere near this height. I wonder what the saved seeds will do, but they will not be planted at the edge of any paths. ;->

  4. Gail says:

    Frances, hello…safely home and already blogging! I have had tall cosmos but I have never seen it over 8 foot. It was the fattest, healthiest cosmos stem I have ever seen! A great color, too…again, thank you for a wonderful visit. I will post soon! Gail

    Hi Gail, thanks for being the yardstick! LOL So glad you came and also got home safely in this rain. We did at least have good weather while we were out and about the first couple of days. I should have taken a photo of the stem, it was over an inch in diameter. We are getting some good rain now, finally, after sprinkles most of the day. I even went out and watered the slope with the hose to help that salvia leucantha get a good root hold. Hope you can get your plants in the ground this weekend before the cold snap comes through. Wish I could help you with the digging.

  5. tina says:

    I grew this one year Frances. It was SO tall. I saved the seed because it finally came into its own late in the fall. Planted the seed out the following year and have been growing it since. It has NEVER gotten that tall again. Something with that cosmos sulpherous I guess. Definitely does not fit into the 12″ category. I have this problem-how tall??? It never seems to work out. Lovely picture of Gail-good thing she was there to volunteer:)

    hi Tina, thanks. Good to know that the seeds will not produce such a beautiful beast. They would look lovely in the back of that bed, not at the edge blocking the neighbors! LOL Gail helped me out and we had loads of fun. So much talking!

  6. Chloe.M says:

    That color! It’s absolutely magnifique!

    And yes, they tower high, but all the better to view those blossoms. I will definitely plant this in my garden.


    Hi Chloe, thanks, it is a fine plant, just in the wrong place. Something to learn when sowing seeds, don’t believe the packet explanation!

  7. nancybond says:

    I’ve never seen an orange cosmos, and my Dad grew them for years in his garden — they’re extraordinary! Eight feet?! Beautiful, healthy plants, though, and I love orange in the garden, too. How terrific you and Gail were able to spend some time together…I’m pea green with envy! 🙂

    Hi Nancy, I think the orange, yellow, reddish cosmos are all called C. sulphureus, the leaf is less fernlike than the tall purple/white group. But they are supposed to be shorter, I will plant the saved seed next year farther back in the shrub border and watch, they will be very short and disappear, for that it the way of those types of things, isn’t it? ;-> Gail and I had a wonderful time and talked until our throats were sore! Wish you had been there to join us.

  8. Racquel says:

    What did you feed that Cosmos? lol I’ve never seen one get that tall. It is definitely a cosmic wonder. Can’t wait to hear about your visit with Gail! Hope you girls had a good time. 🙂

    Hi Racquel, I don’t know what happened to those turbo cosmos. A few of the plants grew to about three feet, bloomed nicely, are still blooming in fact. There were three that just kept growing taller and with thick stems, like tree trunks. Offspring Semi discussed it with me and thought maybe they were weeds of some kind that got mixed in with the seeds. But the foliage was the same and finally, just now they started blooming, same color and form, just so tall. Gail and I had so much fun, we talk too much LOL.

  9. Dave says:

    Hi Frances and Gail! Don’t have too much fun. 😉 I found a similar issues with our cosmos, it is tall, although not quite that tall. They are great since they bloom so much and are very easy to care for (i.e. I don’t)! A little watering in the beginning and it was off to the races.

    Hi Dave, thanks. Gail is safely back home now, having to drive in the rain. Her car was loaded with plants, she couldn’t see out the back window. I love the cosmos, easy, drought resistant and colorful and they will give you plenty of seeds to sow for the future. They just should not be at the front edge of the bed!

  10. Frances — I think that Cosmos is just awesome! I do have a question for you…do you have deer visit your garden? I’m venturing slowly into annual seeds since most of my deer research has been around perennials and shrubs. I was given a packet of SHORT yellow Cosmos for next spring and I’m trying to decide whether to test the deer or sow those inside my cottage garden fence.

    Glad you had a great gardening get together! 🙂


    Hi Cameron, thanks. We do not have any deer where I live, rabbits, squirrels, skunks, oppossums, snakes, birds, skinks and many insects are our population of wildlife, some doing damage to the plants. Be wary of the so called short cosmos, since that is what these were claimed to be. LOL Gail was a charming guest and we had so much fun. It is nice when someone shares your passions.


  11. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    You lucky ladies, getting to visit. It is wonderful to see Gail in your garden Frances. Those Cosmos look great even though they are too tall. Ha… I didn’t even know they had short cosmos. Obviously someone made a typo on that seed packet.

    Hi Lisa, we were lucky! I wondered about that being a typo also, but when I did a google search on the name, the Park’s link said 12 to 22 inches, still quite a bit shorter than eight feet! The orange/yellow C. sulphureus is normally shorter than the tall purple/white fern leaf ones. Except in this case. LOL

  12. Robin says:

    Now I planted these same cosmos this summer, and mine behaved just as they should. You have obviously recieved a wild bunch of seeds that thought they could do whatever they wanted to, like grow 8 feet tall instead of 12 inches!

    Hi Robin, now I’m really confused. Yours grew to the desired 12 inches? Hmmm, I am wondering now what the saved seed from these plants will do next year. While I appreciate a streak of rebellion as much as the next gal, eight feet was way off the graph of acceptability. Thanks for letting me know it is possible for them to be twelve inches tall in a perfect world. ;->

  13. Patsi says:

    Didn’t that pack say 12 inches tall?
    I prefer short but there are some occasions I like tall.

    Hi Patsi, it did. If I had known it would get that tall it would not have been planted at the edge of the path, blocking everything behind it from view, LOL


  14. Joy says:

    Frances .. I had to say I was highly suspicious of the 12″ estimate .. I have yet to find a short Cosmos except for Sonata .. coming in with pinks and reds and about 18 to 20″.. but I love the orange you have .. and perhaps I can find a patch for a tall tall cosmos so I can have that fantastic orange too ! .. it is funny what is described .. and what REALLY happens with a plant ? haha

    Hi Joy, me too. I should have known it would not be that short, not in this area anyway, maybe the desert or something. Although with our drought we have felt like the desert this year, but with clay soil. It was suspected that the roots hit a vein of something in the soil, something dead perhaps? Just to get into the Hallowe’en spirit we both love. ;->


  15. Frances – this made me laugh out loud – as I was NOT expecting you to say 8 feet. What a wonderful colour the cosmos is.
    Might have to try it – mind you with the wind we have here – it will have no chance of getting to that height. 🙂

    Hi Karen, thanks. I love to hear that. Is a strong wind a deterrent in height? I was wondering where this plant might grow to be 12 inches tall, or about 30 centimeters I should say. The color is a good one for that spot, next year the seeds will be sown deeper inside that border, not at the edge blocking everything.

  16. Brenda Kula says:

    I have not had any luck this year with the seeds I’ve planted. I figured later rather than sooner that I had planted some seeds that got plenty of sun before the trees leafed out. But in summer, far less. So next year am planning better. Love your orange!

    Hi Brenda, thanks, we had to sow some of the seeds several times too. We get excited when the weather warms up in the spring and plant things like squash and zinnias and cosmos and the soil temp is too cool even though the air temp is warm and the seeds rot. We have to learn to wait until late May or June to get those heat lovers in the ground. Planning is key!


  17. It looks like you got the genetically enhanced cosmos, with a dose of steroids. Nobody is kicking sand in their face at the beach.
    I especially like the way their dainty description entices you to plant them at the front of the bed for an edging.

    Hi shade, HA! These are cosmos not to be taken lightly, let’s hope they use their power for the good of mankind. We shall see how their seed carries on the family tradition. It will not be sown at the edge of the border however.


  18. Hi Frances!
    Lucky you! 6′ tall cosmos 🙂 I plant this one every year for its amazing hue of orange. I would be so delighted if grew that tall for me. I wonder if it’s your awesome green thumb that made it grow so tall. Can’t wait to hear how next years crop performs from the seeds.
    Just gorgeous!

    Hi Karrita, thanks, hmmm, not so tall for you? Do you save seeds from year to year? That is a fabulous color, it will look at home near the back of this border with the gold mops chamaecyparis backing. I wonder what is beneath the soil in that particular spot, squirrel graveyard perhaps? ;->

  19. Oops 8′ tall cosmos

    Six, eight, it hardly is a difference compared to the twelve inches it was supposed to be! LOL

  20. Titania says:

    Hi Frances,the Orange colour is beautiful. I made once a post “Orange makes the garden glow” and that is the case with your Cosmos. I have enlarged the picture and I thought the tall one was an other plant. It happens to me too. I have planted a cutting Purple knight or something Salvia. In the first year it only grew to about 60 cm and this year I have a plant in the front row 1.50 m (5′)LOL

    Hi Titania, thanks, it is a great color for that bed. My post was called “Orange You Glad”, we think along the same lines! LOL Who can predict what these plants will do in our gardens, not us apparently! Glad to know it’s not just me. ;->

  21. Oh! Until I got to the eight foot bit, I was thinking precisely where I might like some flowers like this -re-think!

    Hope mentioning you in my ‘Mustard Autumn’ post is ok. If not, let me know and I’ll change it.


    Hi Lucy, of course any mention is okay, welcome even, thanks for the link love. I do love your sycamores. From the comments so far, the eight footers are an aberration. The stated height on the seed packet, twelve inches, (about 30 CM) is unrealistic as well. Do give them a try, the color is unique and the butterflies loved them.


  22. layanee says:

    It must be the soil! What fun you must have had with Gail. Sharing the love of gardening with a compatriot is a wonderful thing. I also loved walking the trail with you in the previous post. I can smell fall.

    Hi Layanee, thanks. It might be something that the roots hit in the soil! As you well know, Gail is a dear sweet person and a true gardener. We never run out of things to talk about and had to just turn our voices off to go to bed at night. Thanks for joining me on the trail too.

  23. Kim says:

    How nice to see Gail in your garden. Like Dave, I’m green. As for the tall cosmos, I’ve found them so unpredictable, too. I’ve never grown the orange ones, but I had some shell ones get about 7 feet one year. And the Sonatas – hmph. One year, they were 4 feet tall, the next year, they got barely 8 inches high. It must be alien radiation . . . . But it’s not just cosmos. My oriental lily clump is typically about 4 feet tall. Last year they were 3 feet, and the year before ALL of them, even the 24-36″ ones were almost 6 feet. And this year, my normally 3 foot coneflowers were taller than me. So, I don’t know. You expect perennials to be more predictable, but I’d never expect that from cosmos. That said, that’s a knockout of an orange, so I think I’d tempt the unpredictable nature.

    Hi Kim, thanks, it was a treat to have Gail here and show her my garden. She was very interested in it, always so nice to have someone who knows what you are talking about when you give them the tour. That is comforting to know that you have had differences in sizes too, from various plants. I think we should continue to grow the cosmos, just planting them in the back rather than the front of the beds. The color is perfect with the blue asters.

  24. marmee says:

    how is your visit with gail going? i have been so busy i don’t have time to think let alone comment. lovely orange cosmos. mine have gotten at least this tall on the second blooming. i was ready to cut it all down when i had a burst of cosmos. now they are all leggy but still beautiful.

    Hi Marmee, Gail has returned home and I am going back to my normal routine. Those silly cosmos, they like to put a wrench in my well laid plans. Next year they will go in the back rather than the front edge of the bed.

  25. chuck b. says:

    The C. bipinnatus will easily reach 8′ with water and good soil. My acquaintance with the sulfureus is slight, but I’m not at all surprised.

    Hi Chuck, I think there must have been some crossing between the two in this seed strain, that would explain it. The comments have included people with the same experience in height differential. Normally, Sulphureus is about three feet max.


  26. deb says:

    I enjoyed the hike very much. Especially since I did not have to get off of my ball (I sit on a ball) and do any actual hiking. Great pictures.

    Hi Debbi, thanks. That is my kind of hiking too. I am not a good hiker because I like to get down and study every little thing, I would not get many miles under my hiking belt. LOL

  27. Cindy says:

    Love that orange cosmos but he got a little out of control – lol. Watch, you’ll put them in the back next year and they’ll only be two feet tall! At least that’s what would happen to me 🙂

    Hi Cindy, I agree. That is probably what is going to happen. Life is full of surprises though, and that’s part of the fun.

  28. Kathleen says:

    Interesting Frances. The unpredictability keeps us on our toes, doesn’t it? I bet you could give those seeds to ten gardeners and we’d all get different results. The orange color can’t be beat tho. I’m glad you’re saving seed to try again (in a different location). Lovely pic of Gail.

    Hi Kathleen, thanks. Those seeds are probably prewired to be variable. We shall see what happens with them next year, for they must be planted again, I love the color. It was wonderful to see another gardener climbing around the hill and what she was drawn to, so fun.

  29. Rose says:

    I’ve never grown cosmos before, but thanks to Tina’s generosity I’ll have some for next year. Thanks for the warning–I will plant mine at the BACK of the garden:)
    It must be your magical gardening touch that produced such a tall specimen, Frances.

    Hi Rose, how sweet of Tina to give you seeds. That is really the only way to grow the cosmos. I would plant them at the back, rather than at the edge like I foolishly did. We need a little less magic used to get a shorter plant that doesn’t block everything else LOL

  30. Oooh… how fun! I had some truly short orange cosmos last year (purchased in trays/flats from the garden center, actually) but I think I could handle growing the toweringly tall variety, too. 🙂

    Can’t wait to hear about your visit with Gail… bet it was fantastic!

    Hi Kim, thanks. Truly short was what we were expecting LOL, if I had only known these were going to be so tall, another choice could have been made at the path’s edge that would not have blocked the rest of the shrubs and flowers there. I have been working on the post of Gail’s visit and will post it Monday. We had a fabulous time with non stop talking. ;->

  31. Frances, I grew orange cosmos (in a very sunny bed at a different house) a long time ago. It got tall… but NOT That tall! ha. That’s extraordinary. Did you fertilize it? Perhaps you talk to it more than I did? lol!

    Hi Shady, no fertilizer, no water, but lots of sun. There must have been some vein of goodness that the roots found to grow themselves so large. The sowing of the saved seed will probably not reproduce that height, I think it was environmental rather than genetic, just a guess. I did talk to it, but not in a kind way, tough love maybe LOL

  32. DP says:

    Hi Frances– What a wonderful color for fall–and perfect for Halloween. The orange cosmos is so pretty!

    Hi DP, thanks, so nice to see you. The color is the main reason to grow these, and they are super easy, the soil must be warm for germination. Give them a try next year!

  33. kate says:

    Cosmos on steroids, it sounds like. The size of these must have been a shock. I wonder how the company could have got it so wrong.

    Hi Kate, so nice to see you. It was a surprise, especially since I had planted them right at the edge with hopes of little cheering orange discs that one would look DOWN upon. LOL

  34. Robin says:

    I planted those too! I loved them even though I’m not really fond of orange in the garden. Mine were normal height, and not in the best soil. I think things just thrive in your well tended garden, Frances.

    Even though I did nothing to pamper them, (I just sprinkled seeds on the ground), they were so easy to grow and looked fabulously healthy all summer.
    I collected lots of seed and will plant them in multiple locations next year.

    I had forgotten what they were, and since the leaves aren’t as thin and feathery as regular cosmos, I wasn’t even sure this was the orange cosmos. I’m so glad you posted about them!

    Hi Robin, you did? And yours were the normal height? Sigh. That is what I was hoping for. The soil where the seeds were planted here was unimproved by me, but who knows what is beneath the top layer. I did keep the weeds away when the plants were small, that is key. You are so good at seed starting, too. I didn’t used to like the color orange in the garden either, but now like to mix all the colors with abandon. Maybe it is the failing eyesight needs stronger colors to see. ;->

  35. Cheryl says:

    Hi Frances–Maybe it IS our Tennessee soil! I’m over in Chattanooga and mine grew to 6ft tall too with stems 2″ or more thick! My plants are from some freebie seeds and I had begun to think I’d gotten hold of some mutant seed. So glad to see similar plants and blooms in your yard. The blooms are still coming despite dips in temperature. I hope I’ll have some return next year from the abundance of seed they have cast. What fun they’ve been!

    Hi Cheryl, maybe you got the same batch of seeds as I did. Ours had stems like tree trunks, over a year later they are still there. I had to cut them rather than pull them out because there are tulips in the area. I still think they were mutant seeds. The ones this year were normal, thank goodness, from seeds from the giants of last year.

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