Cosmos bipinnatus is a quintessential summer annual. Drought tolerant, forgiving of poor soil conditions, fast-growing, and easy to sow from seed, these colorful plants do not require green fingers to cultivate with enormous success.
They make a splash when they bloom profusely in early summer and continue putting on a show right up until the first frost. The big, saucer-shaped, daisy-like flowers have a bright yellow center and petals in hues of pink, purple, maroon, white, red, yellow, and every shade in between.
Their leaves are finely and deeply cut, frilly, and almost fern-like. They have tall, slender stems that grow to over 4 feet in height. Cosmos, therefore, make fantastic cut flowers.
Originating from Mexico, they enjoy hot, humid conditions. Plant them in full sun, and water them moderately. They are low-maintenance plants that are widely grown in zones 2 to 11.
Although cosmos are annuals, they will self-seed and perennialize if the flower heads are not picked off. They produce masses of seed that the wind may spread throughout your garden.
Cosmos attract many pollinators to the garden – butterflies, bees, and wasps – so, are great additions to any border, cottage garden, children’s playground, or wildlife garden. Plant them in masses for a colorful impact.
If you are looking for good companion plants or alternatives, here are 25 flowers that are similar to the cosmos:
1. Zinnia – Zinnia elegans
This is another classic summer annual that is easy to grow from seed in zones 3 to 11. Like the cosmos, they originate from Mexico, so they thrive in hot, humid conditions. They have similar water and sun requirements to the cosmos, but they need richer, more fertile, well-draining soil to grow well.
Like the cosmos, each flowering stalk carries a single flower. The daisy-like blooms are vibrant jewel colors – red, purple, pink, orange, chartreuse, yellow, white, and maroon.
The centers are not visible in double-flowering varieties, but single-flowering varieties have an open yellow center, making them better for pollinators. Zinnias attract an abundance of hummingbirds, bees, wasps, and butterflies, so are desirable plants in wildlife gardens.
The leaves are very different from the cosmos. They have long, oval stalkless leaves that are opposite to one another. Their stems are upright, and depending on the variety, can grow up to 4 feet tall.
Indigenous peoples in South America use zinnia leaves and flowers for medicinal and ceremonial purposes. The flowers are edible.
2. Purple coneflower – Echinacea purpurea
Purple coneflowers’ beautiful purple-pink petals and tall daisy-like inflorescences are strikingly cosmo-like. Their long, lanceolate leaves are dark green.
These herbaceous perennials originate from North America. in zones 3 to 8.
They grow from seeds or cuttings or divisions as ornamental plants for their striking flowers. However, they are not as easy to grow from seed as the cosmos.
It is also cultivated commercially for its pharmaceutical use in chemotherapy medications. Echinacea extract is also used as an immune system booster and is available as an over-the-counter treatment for the common cold and flu.
3. Dahlia – Dahlia pinnata
Dahlias’ large colorful flowers on tall 4-foot stems liken them to the cosmos, but some varieties can grow as tall as 8 feet! They are also native to Mexico, so they prefer hot, humid climates.
Unlike the cosmos, dahlias are bulbed flowers grown from tubers. These should be planted in spring. They grow quickly and flower in the late summer and fall.
There are over 20 000 varieties of dahlia, so they come in every color imaginable. The huge blooms have many petals, similar to the cosmos, in shades of pink, purple, white, red, maroon, and orange.
They can be grown as annuals in zones 7 to 10 but may perennialize in very hot climates. Dahlias grow well in full sun and require moist but well-draining soil. Similar to the cosmos, they can suffer from over-watering.
The Aztecs grew dahlia tubers as a food crop, similar to potatoes. They used the flowers to treat epilepsy and the skin of the tuber for its antibiotic properties. Crushed up, the petals relieve the itch or sting from insect bites.
4. Bishop’s Lace – Daucus carota
Also known as wild carrots, these plants produce large white umbels of tiny white, pink, reddish, and purple flowers. They are a classic plant in wildflower meadows, and cottage gardens and are used as companion plants amongst vegetable crops.
They grow relatively tall, up to 2 feet. Pollinators like bees, wasps, butterflies, and beetles love this plant. They attract a lot of wildlife into the garden. Like the cosmos, they are easily grown from seed and can thrive in poor soil conditions.
They are native to Europe and Asia, but self-seed and can thus be invasive. They have naturalized in North America and Australia. Bishop’s lace is easy to grow in zones 4 to 9.
The wild carrot seed oil has medicinal uses, treating digestive issues and urinary tract problems. It is believed to induce menstruation. The seed oil is also used to fragrance soaps, lotions, and perfumes.
5. Shasta daisy – Leucanthemum × superbum
Shasta daisies are a hybrid species that was developed in the 1890s. They are named after Mount Shasta in northern California, near the place they were bred. The parent species are native to Europe and Asia.
They are grown as herbaceous perennials in zones 5 to 9. Their tall rigid stems grow 3 to 4 feet tall. Similar to the cosmos, they make a great cut flower
Shasta daisies have masses of classic daisy flowers with a bright yellow center and white petals. Their showy blooms are similar to the cosmos, and they are just as low maintenance. They have low water requirements.
They bloom for a very long time during summer and fall and attract flutters of butterflies to the garden.
Medicinally, the plant is used as an anti-inflammatory, a sedative, to reduce fevers, and to aid digestion. The petals are edible and have a very strong, distinctive taste.
6. Marigold – Tagetes erecta
Like the cosmos, marigolds are also native to Mexico and can thrive in harsh conditions. They are heat tolerant and do not require rich soil to grow and flower profusely, much like the cosmos. Marigolds are easy to grow from seed in zones 2 to 11. Some varieties can grow as tall as 4 feet.
These cheery, drought-hardy annuals will surprise you with how long they can keep producing their red, orange, and yellow daisy-like flowers.
They are a staple in garden borders and cottage gardens, and vegetable gardens because their strong scent repels pests. They attract beneficial insects and pollinators to the garden.
Agriculturally, they are used as a cover crop to control soil nematodes. Marigolds also have medicinal uses. Their stems, leaves, and flowers can be ground and used as medicine to treat problems of the digestive tract, coughs, colds, and mumps. Used externally, it can treat eczema, ulcers, and sores.
7. Black-eyed Susan – Rudbeckia hirta
Black-eyed Susan is native to North America. The plant was used medicinally by Native American people. It was used to treat intestinal worms, colds and flu, earache, and snake bites.
This upright annual (sometimes perennial) flower puts on display throughout late summer and autumn. Their bright, daisy-like flowers are similar to the cosmos, especially in yellow, orange, and red. Plants reach a medium height of 3 feet.
Requiring full sun, but tolerating partial shade, they are popular plants in borders, beds, and cottage gardens with a more informal planting style.
While they can be grown from seed, they are not as easy to sow as the cosmos. Once established, they are hardy and grow well in zones 4 to 9.
8. Chrysanthemum – Chrysanthemum x morifolium
Native to East Asia, these perennial daisy-like flowers can grow into small shrubs. They bloom throughout the fall rather than in summer, like the cosmos.
They are one of the most popular cut flowers due to their long, straight stems and colorful flowers. Like the cosmos, they produce numerous flower heads with white, yellow, red, orange, and pink blooms.
Like the cosmos, they can suffer from overwatering. They require rich, well-draining soil and thrive in full sun. Growing best in zones 5 to 9, they can be grown in zone 4 if kept well mulched.
Chrysanthemum tea is a popular summer beverage in China. They are also used medicinally to treat headaches, colds, fever, dizziness, high blood pressure, and chest pain.
9. Gerbera daisy – Gerbera hybrida
These popular cut flowers are perennial daisies that are yellow, orange, white, pink, or red. They attract pollinators like bees, butterflies, and beetles.
They are native to southern Africa, South America, and Asia and enjoy hot, humid conditions. Happiest grown in full sun, they require well-draining soil. Gerberas can be grown from seed in trays.
Unlike the cosmos, they have a short-growth form. Gerberas are a great addition to a rock garden or naturalistic, grassy area.
In southern Africa, Gerberas have medicinal uses. In Zimbabwe, root infusions are used to treat angina, and stomach pain in babies. In traditional Zulu medicine leaf infusions are used to treat stomach pain and tapeworm, and root infusions for coughs.
10. Anemones – Anemone x hybrida
Japanese anemones have large, colorful blooms. They are perennials that are cultivated from corms in zones 4 to 9. There are many varieties available in a wide range of colors.
Their flowers are open and poppy-like with mauve, pink, purple, red, and white petals. The stems are tall, making them fantastic cut flowers. Like the cosmos, they are low-maintenance plants that are easy to grow and produce masses of flowers.
If corms are planted in the fall, blooms will appear in early spring. Other varieties will flower in summer and even through to the fall.
Anemones are toxic if ingested. Their sap and hairs may irritate the skin, causing blistering or dermatitis.
11. Blue marguerite daisy – Felicia amelloides
These fabulous ornamental plants produce masses of blue flowers amidst a backdrop of blue-green foliage. They are small perennial shrubs that grow to about 4 feet in height. Like the cosmos, they are low-maintenance and are easy to grow in zones 8 to 11.
Native to South Africa, they are heat-tolerant, can grow in poor soils, and flower for a very long time. They have typical daisy-like flowers with a yellow center and pastel blue petals that bring many butterflies into the garden.
12. Swan river daisy – Brachyscome iberidifolia
These daisy-like flowers come in shades of pink, white, purple, and blue. Like the cosmos, this herbaceous annual blooms in great profusion. They are a classic English garden plant but are native to Western Australia.
The foliage is light green and finely cut, closely resembling the cosmos. They also like to grow in full sun and do not like overwatering. However, they are not as tall, reaching only 20 inches.
It is drought tolerant and makes a fantastic groundcover because it is low maintenance, grows easily from seed, and flourishes as an annual in all hardiness zones. They will perennialize in zones 8 to 10.
13. Yarrow – Achillea millefolium
Yarrow is considered a weed by some. It is native to many parts of the Northern Hemisphere and grows as a wildflower. Its yellow, white, reddish, and pink flowers are daisy-like and grow in big clusters.
Similar to the cosmos, it is easy to grow from seed, will come back year after year, and is a very low-maintenance plant that will produce swathes of color in your garden. They do not require rich soil or lots of water to thrive.
Yarrow is used medicinally to treat a range of ailments, from the common cold to hay fever, diarrhea, stomach pain, and dysentery, and to induce menstruation. To soothe a toothache the leaves can be chewed.
14. Foxglove – Digitalis purpurea
Native to northwest Africa and Europe, they can grow in hardiness zones 4 to 10 and can be grown in full sun, partial, or even full shade. Unlike the cosmos, foxgloves are biennial and are highly toxic!
While not easy to cultivate from seed as cosmos, foxgloves bloom in a similar palette of colors, and produce masses of tubular blooms on stalks up to 5 feet tall! They bloom for weeks on end, from late spring and early summer.
Digitalis is pharmaceutically significant as it increases blood circulation. It is used in heart medications for treating arrhythmias and congestive heart failure.
15. Petunia – Petunia grandiflora
These South American flowers have become a staple summer annual bedding plant in European and North American gardens. Most are hybrid varieties. Similar to the cosmos, they produce masses of blooms throughout summer.
They are also heat tolerant and can be grown in almost any hardiness zone. Some varieties climb and spread and can trail up to 4 feet. Most varieties grow around 16 inches tall.
They have trumpet-shaped blooms, and there are many different varieties in every color from pink to red, white, salmon, purple, and maroon, to yellow. Their ovate leaves are medium to deep green in color.
16. Carnations – Dianthus spp.
A traditional cottage garden plant, carnations come in pink, purple, and white, much like cosmos, and some varieties grow as tall as 2 to 3 feet. Their tall, straight stems make them a favorite cut flower for florists. Their petals have serrated edges.
Carnations are native to Asia and Europe and prefer milder climates. They do need rich soil, unlike the cosmos. These herbaceous annuals can perennialize, and there is a variety suited to any climate – zones 3 to 9.
In traditional herbal medicine, carnation is used as a tonic to treat fevers, the oils are used to treat rashes and skin problems. As a tea, it has a sedative effect, alleviating stress and nervousness. It is also used to treat nervous system disorders, hair loss, and flatulence.
17. Cornflower – Centaurea cyanus
Another classic meadow plant, these gorgeous edible flowers, are native to Europe but have naturalized in North America and Australia. While they are considered annual, they will perennialize and grow very easily from seed in zones 2 to 11. When grown in full sun they grow up to 90cm in height.
Naturally, they are bright blue, but there are cultivars in almost every color – white, pink, purple, and maroon. Cornflowers bloom in great numbers from late spring all the way into late summer.
Like the cosmos, they attract loads of pollinators. And similar to the cosmos they are easy-to-grow, low-maintenance plants with low watering needs.
Cornflower tea is taken to alleviate constipation, chest congestion, fever, and water retention. As a bitter cornflower tonic, it is taken for liver health, strengthening the immune system, and aiding digestion.
18. Tickseed – Coreopsis grandiflora
This North American, yellow daisy-like wildflower blooms in great abundance late in summer. They are annuals, but self-seed so they will perennialize in zones 4 to 9, like the cosmos.
Similar cosmos, they are great plants for wildflower meadows or more naturalized plantings. Tickseed prefers full sun and fertile, well-draining soil. They grow 1 to 3 feet tall.
Native American people recognized the medicinal value of this plant for treating diarrhea, stomach pain, and bleeding, and for use as an emetic.
19. Sweet peas – Lathyrus odoratus
Pea-like flowers in similar hues of pink, purple, red, and white to cosmos, are incredibly fragrant, filling the whole garden with their sweet perfume. They grow in zones 2 to 11, like the cosmos, and prefer full sun.
This fast-growing climbing annual plant is native to southwestern Italy, Sicily, and the Aegean Islands. They grow up to 4 feet tall and yield huge numbers of blooms for many weeks if they are staked and deadheaded.
Although their name sounds appetizing, sweet peas’ seeds and flowers are toxic and cannot be ingested. They have no know medicinal uses.
20. Nasturtium – Tropaeolum majus
Like cosmos, these hardy annuals flower profusely when grown in poor, well-draining soil. They are low-maintenance plants that are very easy to grow from seed in zones 2 to 11.
Nasturtiums have orange, red, yellow, and maroon trumpet-like flowers and have round, bright green foliage. They are popularly grown in vegetable gardens because they repel pests and the flowers are edible, with a peppery taste.
They have been used as medicinal herbs for centuries. It has antibacterial, antiseptic, and antifungal properties and is high in vitamin C. It is therefore used to treat colds, flu, urinary tract infections, and bronchitis.
21. Snapdragon – Antirrhinum majus
Native to Europe, the USA, and North Africa, these plants produce spikes of many flowers that resemble little faces. Blooming from spring throughout summer and well into fall, snapdragons put on a colorful display in white, pink, red, purple, and yellow.
Snapdragons are classic ornamental bedding plants, used in herbaceous borders. Taller varieties make great cut flowers. They should be planted in full or partial sun in well-draining soil. They do require regular watering.
The leaves and flowers have anti-inflammatory properties and are used as a poultice to treat hemorrhoids.
22. Columbine – Aquilegia vulgaris
Producing white, pink, purple, red, yellow, and orange blooms all spring and summer, these bright, multicolored flowers are a classic cottage garden perennial. Tall varieties reach 3 feet in height.
Like cosmos, they can easily be grown from seed in zones 3 to 9 but are sensitive to hot temperatures. They are low-maintenance plants that are drought tolerant once established, can tolerate poor soil conditions, and are self-seeding, so they will return every year.
In herbal medicine, columbines have a wide variety of uses. Their anti-inflammatory properties can be used to treat skin conditions, fevers, and stomach issues, reduce pain, and help respiratory issues.
23. Bush’s Poppy Mallow – Callirhoe bushii
Native to the southern USA, this herbaceous perennial produces magenta, poppy-like flowers that bloom in great masses, like cosmos, throughout the summer. They can easily be grown from seed in zones 5 to 8.
They thrive in full sun but can tolerate light shade. Growing 18 inches in height, they are not as tall as the cosmos. But like the cosmos, are low maintenance and easy to grow.
Native American people used this species medicinally. As a dried root, it is burned and the smoke is inhaled to treat head colds. As tea, it is taken to treat aches and pains in the body.
24. Prairie Onion – Allium stellatum
Native to the North American prairie, as their name suggests, these bulbous perennials can easily be grown in zones 3 to 8.
They grow up to 2 feet tall, and like the cosmos, are a very low-maintenance plant that produces masses of flowers if grown in well-draining soil. They flower throughout summer and fall and die back over winter.
Prairie onions can put on an impressive show of pastel pink and purple blooms if they are planted in large swathes. The inflorescences are typical of the onion family – round umbels of profuse, tightly packed flowers that attract butterflies to the garden.
Native American people use prairie onion medicinally to treat fevers, infections, and congestion. The tiny onions can also be eaten, and taste like normal onions.
25. Evening Primrose – Oenothera speciosa
Another North American native, these perennials bloom in large numbers, putting on a spectacular show of white and pink blooms from late spring all the way through to the fall. They grow in zones 4 to 9.
Grown in full sun, evening primrose can reach 2 feet in height. Like cosmos, they are very low-maintenance flowers, requiring minimal watering. They can tolerate dry, rocky, sandy soil.
The flowers have soft, silky petals in pastel pink with a yellow center. They open in the evening producing a heady scent.
Evening primrose oil is fantastic for treating skin conditions like acne and eczema, and it is used to ease the symptoms of both PMS and menopause.