Types of cosmos: 15 beautiful varieties to grow

Our guide to the best types of cosmos for flower power, wildlife, and cut flowers

Cosmos bipinnatus 'Sensation Series' is one of the most stunning types of cosmos
(Image credit: Geoff Smith/Alamy Stock Photo)

Not only are all types of cosmos easy and inexpensive to grow, they produce an abundance of pretty, daisy-like flowers that can be cut for the vase during summer and early autumn. They are native to Mexico, where they bloom in swathes of pink, white, and orange in sun-baked meadows and scrub. The name derives from the Greek kosmos, meaning ‘beauty and harmony of the universe’, and was adopted by Spanish missionary priests in Mexico, who appreciated the flower’s evenly arranged circle of petals.  

There are three main types of cosmos widely available to gardeners: two annuals and one perennial. The annual forms (Cosmos bipinnatus and C. sulphureus) are half-hardy, which means they must be sown under cover before risk of frost has passed. Having just one year to set seed, they will bloom with great abundance. C. sulphureus produces zesty-yellow, red, or orange blooms, while C. bipinnatus is usually pink or white. The tuberous perennial form is the chocolate-scented burgundy C. atrosanguineus, which should be grown like a dahlia.

The majority of gardeners tend to grow the pink or white forms of Cosmos bipinnatus. Possessing a cut-and-come-again habit (like a sweet pea), C. bipinnatus ought to be harvested regularly for the vase to maintain its impressive flower power. It’s also an excellent addition if you're looking for wildlife-friendly flowerbed ideas, since its nectar lures pollinators such as bees. Having escaped gardens, C. bipinnatus is now naturalised along the east coast of the US and Canada. 

Enjoy stunning summer blooms with our favorite types of cosmos

All these types of cosmos will inject charm and color and attract wildlife into the garden. They include floriferous annuals that can be cut for the vase, and fragrant perennials that bloom in dark, decadent shades.

1. Cosmos bipinnatus ‘Purity’

white flowers of Cosmos bipinnatus ‘Purity’

(Image credit: Claire Gainey/Alamy Stock Photo)
  • Hardiness: USDA 2-11 (UK H3)
  • Height: 4ft (1.2m)
  • Best for: large white flowers

If you only grow one type of cosmos in your garden borders, it has to be this. Large crisp-white daisy flowers with golden centers bloom above fine apple-green foliage from June into October. It's a superb cut flower and will grow in moist, well-drained soil in full sun. 

In the iconic White Garden at Sissinghurst Castle Garden in Kent, England, ‘Purity’ grows alongside white-flowered and silver-leaved plants (such as Lychnis coronaria ‘Alba’ and ivory sweet peas) in a garden designed to be enjoy at dusk and in moonlight. 

2. Cosmos bipinnatus 'Sonata Pink'

pretty pink blooms of Cosmos bipinnatus Sonata Pink

(Image credit: Jonathan Buckley/Sarah Raven)
  • Hardiness: USDA 2-11 (UK H3)
  • Height: 1.5ft (45cm)
  • Best for: soft, subtle color

This type of cosmos offers generous soft-pink saucer flowers with yellow button centers above delicate, divided foliage. Being compact, it is ideal for filling gaps at the front of the border or for using in your container gardening ideas. Happiest in moist, well-drained soil in full sun. 

It combines well with the orange annual flowers of low-growing California poppy (Eschscholzia californica) or compact perennials, such as blue cranesbill Geranium Rozanne and pink marjoram Origanum laevigatum ‘Herrenhausen’. 

3. Cosmos bipinnatus ‘Daydream’ 

Honeybee feeding on the flowers of Cosmos bipinnatus 'Daydream'

(Image credit: Claire Gainey/Alamy Stock Photo)
  • Hardiness: USDA 2-11 (UK H3)
  • Height: 3ft (90cm)
  • Best for: attracting bees

This is a brilliant bee friendly plant, which would look at home in an English cottage garden. The small shell-pink flowers have a circle of magenta pink around the central golden boss. It likes moist, well-drained soil in full sun. 

Use ‘Daydream’ to fill gaps in the middle of the border alongside perennials such as Campanula persicifolia and Achillea ‘Paprika’, or enjoy it in an annual meadow with cornflowers and opium poppies.  

4. Cosmos bipinnatus ‘Dazzler’

Cosmos bipinnatus 'Dazzler' in flower

(Image credit: Florilegia/Alamy Stock Photo)
  • Hardiness: USDA 2-11 (UK H3)
  • Height: 3ft (90cm)
  • Best for: bold color

Vivid carmine-pink flowers with golden stamens to add rich color to borders. It is also superb in cut-flower arrangements, especially with limes and yellows, such as euphorbia or dill. Grow in moist, well-drained soil in full sun. 

‘Dazzler’ combines well with other intense colors, such as Capri-pink Salvia microphylla ‘Cerro Potosí’, indigo Salvia viridis ‘Oxford Blue’, and chocolate Scabiosa atropurpurea ‘Black Knight’.  

5. Cosmos sulphureus ‘Bright Lights’ 

yellow blooms of Cosmos sulphureus ‘Bright Lights’

(Image credit: Jonathan Buckley/Sarah Raven)
  • Hardiness: USDA 2-11 (UK H3)
  • Height: 3ft (90cm)
  • Best for: combination of colors

A vibrant mix of fiery yellow, orange, and red semi-double flowers that look like marigolds or geums. Easy to grow and floriferous, from June into October, in moist, well-drained soil in full sun. Can be cut for the vase. 

Pair with other happy brights for a vibrant garden color scheme (such as raspberry-pink Knautia macedonica), velvet colors (such as purple Salvia viridis ‘Blue Monday’ and claret Penstemon ‘Raven’), and limes (such as Nicotiana ‘Lime Green’). 

6. Cosmos atrosanguineus

Cosmos atrosanguineus in flower

(Image credit: Major Gilbert/Alamy Stock Photo)
  • Hardiness: USDA 7-9 (UK H3)
  • Height: 2ft (60cm)
  • Best for: unusual scent

The chocolate cosmos is a Mexican native that bears velvet-maroon daisies in summer. Everyone experiences the odor differently – to some, it smells deliciously of chocolate, while others can only detect something reminiscent of raw meat. Unlike most cosmos (which are annuals), it is a tuberous perennial and should be treated like a dahlia, in moist, well-drained soil in full sun. 

Breathtaking with reds, such as Crocosmia ‘Hellfire’, or the lavender tones of blue scabious and perovskia. 

7. Cosmos bipinnatus ‘Pied Piper Red’

fluted red petals of Cosmos bipinnatus ‘Pied Piper Red’

(Image credit: Avalon.red/Alamy Stock Photo)
  • Hardiness: USDA 2-11 (UK H3)
  • Height: 3ft (90cm)
  • Best for: fluted petals

This is one of the most stunning types of cosmos thanks to its unusual fluted petals that are magenta within and pale lavender on the outside. It is a good cut flower, with divided, feathery foliage, and blooms for months. Grow in moist, well-drained soil in full sun. 

Grow en masse in an annual meadow with other types of white and pink cosmos, which look charming bunched together in a vase; or use to fill gaps in borders, alongside perennials such as Achillea ‘Terracotta’. 

8. Cosmos bipinnatus ‘Rubenza’

red blooms of Cosmos bipinnatus ‘Rubenza’

(Image credit: Claire Gainey/Alamy Stock Photo)
  • Hardiness: USDA 2-11 (UK H3)
  • Height: 2.5ft (75cm)
  • Best for: a more compact size

This excellent form fades in color as it matures, so that one flower and those around it can be a medley of wine, ruby, and pink. Being compact, it may not need staking in the border, or can be grown in a garden planter. It needs moist, well-drained soil in full sun. 

It works particularly well with purples (such as Salvia nemorosa ‘Caradonna’) and other pinks (such as Achillea millefolium ‘Cerise Queen’), as well as different types of ornamental grass, including Stipa tenuissima.  

9. Cosmos bipinnatus ‘Candy Stripe’

multi-colored pink blooms of Cosmos bipinnatus ‘Candy Stripe’

(Image credit: Mathew Taylor/Alamy Stock Photo)
  • Hardiness: USDA 2-11 (UK H3)
  • Height: 2.5ft (75cm)
  • Best for: Unusual markings

White daisies rimmed with pink, above lovely, divided foliage, throughout summer and into autumn. The width of the cerise edging varies, so that sometimes it’s predominantly a white flower, sometimes more of a pink flower. Happy in moist, well-drained soil in full sun. 

Combine with whites, such as Orlaya grandiflora, and pinks, such as Lychnis coronaria. It’s also useful for filling gaps beside shrub roses, such as Gertrude Jekyll. 

10. Cosmos sulphureus ‘Cosmic Yellow’

bright yellow flowers of cosmos sulphureus ‘Cosmic Yellow’

(Image credit: Chiltern Seeds)
  • Hardiness: USDA 2-11 (UK H3)
  • Height: 1ft (H30cm)
  • Best for: growing in pots

Having sun-yellow flowers that resemble coreopsis, this compact cultivar will light up your patio gardening ideas

Grow in well-drained pots in sun, but make sure you keep the compost moist. 

Pinch out tips for a bushy plant and deadhead flowers regularly to keep the blooms coming.   

11. Cosmos bipinnatus ‘Pink Popsocks'

pretty pin flowers of cosmos bipinnatus ‘Pink Popsocks'

(Image credit: Jonathan Buckley/Sarah Raven)
  • Hardiness: USDA 2-11 (UK H3)
  • Height: 2ft (H60cm)
  • Best for: attracting wildlife

An anemone-flowered sugar-pink cosmos that is a really good option for attracting wildlife. 

For best results, grow it in a well-drained container in full sun and keep the compost moist. Pinch out the tips to create a bushier plant and deadhead regularly.  

12. Cosmos atrosanguineus Chocamocha

Cosmos atrosanguineus Chocamocha growing in a pot

(Image credit: Thompson & Morgan)
  • Hardiness: USDA 7-9 (UK H3)
  • Height: 1ft (H30cm)
  • Best for: overwintering indoors

A small version of the species, this chocolate-scented velvet-flowered perennial can be enjoyed in a well-drained container in sun in summer, before being overwintered indoors. 

Make sure you water regularly when its in growth. 

13. Cosmos bipinnatus 'Xanthos' 

primrose colored flower of cosmos bipinnatus ‘Xanthos’

(Image credit: Jane Tregelles/Alamy Stock Photo)
  • Hardiness: USDA 2-11 (UK H3)
  • Height: 2ft (H60cm)
  • Best for: growing as a cut flower

This award-winning primrose-colored cosmos has heaps of charm and is compact enough to grow in containers. It needs moist, well-drained soil in full sun. 

For a stunning display in a vase, combine it with white flowers, such as ammi. 

14. Cosmos bipinnatus ‘Double Click Rose Bonbon’

doble pink blooms of Cosmos bipinnatus ‘Double Click Rose Bonbon

(Image credit: Kings Seeds)
  • Hardiness: USDA 2-11 (UK H3)
  • Height: 3ft (H90cm)
  • Best for: pairing with dahlias in a vase

When it comes to eye-catching types of cosmos, you can't get much better than this variety. Exuding vintage-shop charm, these double-pink blooms resemble satin flowers. Plant in moist, well-drained soil in full sun. 

If you're cutting the flowers to display them in a vase indoors, pair them with scabious, verbena, and ever-popular dahlias. You can find more tips on how to grow dahlias in our guide. 

15. Cosmos bipannatus ’Velouette’

colourful flowers of cosmos bipinnatus ‘Velouette’

(Image credit: Claire Gainey/Alamy Stock Photo)
  • Hardiness: USDA 2-11 (UK H3)
  • Height: 3ft (H90cm)
  • Best for: bold color

This features pink-crimson and white striped or picotee flowers, reminiscent of raspberry-ripple ice cream. It requires moist, well-drained soil in full sun. 

When displaying this stunning variety in a vase, pair it with with a riot of claret, pink, and red flowers. 

What is the best type of cosmos? 

Arguably, the best variety of cosmos is Cosmos bipinnatus, commonly known as Mexican aster, cosmea or garden cosmos. Incredibly easy and cheap to grow, this half-hardy annual can be sown from seed under cover in March or April, or sown direct into the soil in May. Alternatively, young plants can be bought ready-grown from garden centers in May or June. 

Having a cut-and-come-again habit, if picked consistently for the vase C. bipinnatus will – just like sweet peas – produce flowers for months. As if that weren’t enough, it’s also a great plant for pollinators, providing wildlife and insects with an abundance of nectar.

Cosmos bipinnatus 'Daydream' in bloom

Cosmos bipinnatus 'Daydream'

(Image credit: Claire Gainey/Alamy Stock Photo)

What are the best types of cosmos for cut flowers? 

Cut-flower expert and nursery owner Sarah Raven is a huge fan of using cosmos as cutting garden flowers. 'Cosmos bipinnatus lasts 10 days in the vase, produces two buckets of cut flowers a week from a 3ft (90cm) x 3ft (90cm) patch, and does so from late June until November,' she says. 'So that's nearly 50 buckets of flowers in one season from a small patch. They are impossible to beat.' 

Sarah recommends taking the time to support the taller varieties (such as ‘Purity’), in order to grow the best cut flowers and prevent the plants being flattened by wind and rain. This is best done with a layer of taut pea netting (attached to bamboo or hazel sticks) that the plants grow up through, gradually concealing it. Alternatively, cosmos can be staked individually with bamboo canes. 

Cosmos bipinnatus 'Sensation Series' in bloom

Cosmos bipinnatus 'Sensation Series'

(Image credit: Geoff Smith/Alamy Stock Photo)

How to identify different types of cosmos by color

Want to know what type of cosmos you're growing in your plot? Here's how to work it out. 

  • White or pink flowers: Saucer-shaped flowers that are visited by bees, above attractive, divided green foliage. If you cut the flowers, the plant produces more flower-buds. Since it’s an annual, it only lives for a year. Your plant is Cosmos bipinnatus.
  • Fiery colored flowers: Orange, yellow, or red semi-double flowers, above divided,
    feathery foliage. If you cut it for the vase, the plant flowers again. Being an annual, it only lives for one year. Your plant is Cosmos sulphureus.
  • Wine red colored flowers: Flowers that smell of chocolate. Under the ground, the plant grows from tubers. If you live in a mild area, covered the plant with mulch over winter, or lifted the tubers to store indoors in autumn, the plant flowered again the following year. Your plant is Cosmos atrosanguineus.
Hazel Sillver
Hazel Sillver

Hazel grew up watching and helping her green-fingered parents cultivate their town garden in North Yorkshire in the 1980s. She was especially spellbound by her mother’s long rose bed of Hybrid Teas, which spawned her own obsession with roses. After experience in the fashion industry, Hazel became a health and beauty journalist, and worked for The Ecologist as Green Living Editor. During a period of injury, she studied horticulture and went on to work as a gardener and write about gardening for newspapers, such as The Guardian. Today, she enjoys contributing to brands, including Easy Gardens and Gardeningetc. Currently in rented property, she dreams of soon having her own garden again, to fill with favourite plants: perennials, trees, and – of course – lots of roses.