Cosmos are native to the meadowlands and scrub lands of Mexico, where Spanish priests grew them in mission gardens, christening them with the Greek word meaning “harmony” or “beautifully ordered.”
These exquisite flowers with the perfectly arranged petals spread all over the Americas — and beyond — but most species can still be found in their native range.
Cosmos attract a myriad of pollinators, especially Monarch butterflies. In the wild, they grow in very dense colonies, with their long, wispy stems intertwined so as to hold the flowers’ heavy heads. Cosmos’ genetic makeup helps explain such close quarters; they are self-sterile and they only produce seeds if exposed to pollen carrying genes other than their own. (In botanical terms, this is known as self-incompatibility.) They are also short-day plants, meaning that they flower late in the season, when the daylight hours are fewer.
Cosmos spread to European, American and Japanese gardens in the 19th century, but because of these factors most varieties remained virtually unchanged from their wild form.
Cosmos began their climb to garden stardom in the 1930s, when plant breeders came up with varieties that could flower earlier in the season. They also developed dwarf plants and a range of beautiful new colors.
In 1997, Van Hemert Seed Company, a Dutch company with a long tradition of breeding and seed exporting, decided to breed cosmos. Flower breeder Rob van der Voort, who counts cosmos as one of his favorite flowers, created two exquisite selections, Velouette and Rubinato. Baker Creek is proud to offer them.
Velouette is a traditional tall plant. Its striking crimson blooms are striped with white, and no two flowers are quite alike.
The award-winning Rubinato is a dwarf variety with a more classical burgundy magenta color and perfectly round blooms.
Cosmos are beloved wherever they grow, but the Argentinian town of Villa Giardino, at the foothills of the Andes and the edge of the pampa desert, has a special affection for the flowers. Locals introduced cosmos to their gardens in the 1970s, but the seeds quickly escaped and began to colonize large expanses of fallow land in the valley. Each year, when the flowers bloom extravagantly at the end of the austral summer, from mid March to late April, Villa Giardino hosts “Cosmosfiesta” to celebrate their beauty. Invite this “harmonious flower” into your garden!