native to tropical Asia, this erect, summer-flowering annual can
reach 3 ft (1 m) or more in height.
The leaves are mid-green; the silvery white flowers appear in summer
in dense, erect, pointed spikes with a silvery sheen.
There are two groupes.
These are the Plumosa Group, with erect, plume-like heads of tiny
deformed flowers in a range of hot colors, and the Cristata Group
(cockscombs), with bizarre wavy crests of fused flower stalks also
in many colors.
Both have been developed in cultivation with a range of seedling
strains, differing in height as well as size and the color of the
The Plumosa Group in particular are favored for cut flowers.
Some dwarf strains are no more than 6 in (15 cm) tall, while the
old-fashioned bedding strains are about 24 in (60 cm).
Cultivation: They require full sun, rich, well-drained soil and
Propagate from seed.