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The Firecracker plant is an ornamental weeping subshrub native to North America, Mexico, and Guatemala. It looks as if it is raining coral tubular flowers that hang on slim, pendulous, and bare branches-such a delight for any display.
It is extremely versatile and it performs equally well in outdoor gardens as a ground cover plant or as an unclipped hedge, in window pots and it is exceptionally charming in hanging planters, on a trellis, balcony, or cascading down a wall. This is an accent plant, for mass planting in any garden.
Care guide highlights: Provide full or partial sun, soil that contains perlite for good drainage. Water occasionally and thoroughly during the growing season. Prune Firecracker plant after the flowering period to promote new growth. Never fertilize it during winter.
Read on to learn more information about Firecracker plant care.
Introducing Firecracker Plant
Its scientific name is Russelia equisetiformis and it is differently known as the Coral plant. It belongs to Plantaginaceae, Scrophulariaceae family. Scrophulariaceae consists of 52 genera of widely distributed herbs and subshrubs. And this family has been subject to revision, so some genera formerly included in this family have been moved to another, called Plantaginaceae. That’s where Firecracker belongs to.
It is a favorite among gardeners looking for unique textures in the tropical world of huge leaves and large flowers. Somewhere between a shrub and a reedy perennial, it can be comfortable in garden beds or at home in hanging baskets.
It can achieve a height of up to 6 feet and spread to 2 feet in frost-free areas and if exposed to full sun. The texture is fine and the growth rate moderate.
It grows in zones 9b-11 and it has a spreading habit, so providing enough space is crucial in the cultivation of this plant.
Leaves are opposite, rate and ovate with no obvious venation. The color doesn’t change in the fall. Stems bend and look almost naked, while the leaves are simplified to mere scales packed tight around stems. Stems are initially erect and develop a cascading habit as the plant is maturing.
Flowers are spicy coral red tubes – firecrackers – pop open with yellow lips, giving the plant a distinct appearance. They appear all year round, from late spring, summer and late fall in areas that have tropical climate. The flowers are about 3 centimeters long and grow very densely, eclipsing the sparse foliage.
The plant is almost leafless yet bursting with flowers as if the plant had to lose the foliage to gain these bountiful blooms. Its beauty and charm summon profound butterflies. Small fruit also appears hanging in clusters, but it is barely conspicuous, oval, usually dry and brown.
Light Requirements for the Firecracker Plant Care
Full sun such as the southern exposure is ideal for fullest growth and flowering but the plant can also tolerate partial shade too.
Sunlight is especially important if you are growing the Firecracker plant as a ground cover in which case you can’t move it that easily. Make sure to assess the site prior to planting it outdoors and choose one in full or part sun with a reliable water source nearby.
Related: Best Grow Lights For Indoor Plants
Firecracker Plant Temperature Requirements
The Firecracker plant flourishes in warm weather everywhere and it is not difficult to maintain over winter. It is even hardy into the subtropics.
Maintain temperature at 18 to 24 degrees C. It is not tolerant of freezing winter temperatures, so move potted plants indoors. The plant is drought-tolerant after it has established.
What Type of Soil Is Preferred?
The Firecracker plant flourishes in various soil types including garden soil, provided it is well-drained.
Opt for a regular potting mix with the addition of sand and perlite to promote good drainage or organic, fertile and well-drained soil for garden beds or containers. Loam-based and sandy mix is good for this plant and the pH levels the plant prefers are alkaline to slightly acidic.
If grown outdoors, lay a blanket of organic mulch in beds and pots that are 2 inches deep. Maintain organic mulch around the plants and work it into the soil.
Bear in mind that well-established plants prefer to stay slightly root-bound, so don’t repot frequently.
Watering Firecracker Plant
Water freely until the plant is well-established. Mature plants require less frequent watering and are somewhat tolerant of drought.
Water occasionally during the growing season, but allow the soil to become dry before repeating the process. Reduce the frequency of watering in the winter.
Fertilizing Firecracker Plant
Fertilize once during spring and once during fall using a half-strength diluted or balanced liquid fertilizer as directed on the container. Discontinue fertilizing in the winter, but wait for spring to come.
Prune stems to the ground after the flowering period to promote new growth. Prune regularly in spring and summer to keep the plant into the shape you want and remove dead or dying foliage. Once the flowering period is over, prune again to promote new flowers. The third pruning should be done at the end of winter to keep the plant short. This will help keep it tidy and more compact.
Firecracker Plant Propagation
Propagate from tip cuttings anytime new growth is present. Propagation should be done in the spring in the following way:
- Select a healthy stem around 6 inches long with 3 leaves near the end
- Remove lower leaves
- Dip the ends into the rooting hormone and dust off any excess
- Place the cutting into a pot with well-draining soil
- Water lightly
- Enclose it in a plastic bag to increase humidity
- Move it in a place that receives indirect light and constant temperatures of over 10 degrees C
Pests and Problems of Firecracker Plant Care
Not normally affected by pests, nematodes and mites can find their way to the plant. In that case, isolate them from other healthy plants and make sure they haven’t been infected too.
The best method against nematodes is maintaining a healthy growing area so you won’t have to use any chemicals on your plants. Use rubbing alcohol to get rid of mites.
Good companion plants for it are Brazilian red cloak, copperleafs and yellow bells. Plant them between angel trumpets and golden dewdrop for contrast.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is the Firecracker plant a perennial?
The Firecracker plant is a perennial species from tropical America, so it blooms readily and often from spring to late fall with a profusion of very showy coral tubular flowers.
Do firecracker plants attract hummingbirds?
They invite hummingbirds, butterflies and other pollinators because of the powerful impact they create in your garden.
Can you prune a firecracker plant?
The Firecracker plant is a vigorous and fast grower, so it will need to be pruned sometimes. Pruning should be done in late winter to keep the plant in shape and to maintain the desired height and width. This will rejuvenate the plant and encourage new growth.
Is the Firecracker plant toxic?
This plant is considered toxic, yet there is no concrete evidence to support this claim. Nevertheless, it is better to keep it out of reach of your children and pets, just in case.
Do firecracker plants spread?
Yes, the Firecracker plant spreads easily to form a subshrub, so it will quickly conquer the neighboring area. As such, it is ideal as a groundcover plant or a living fence.
The Firecracker plant is a perennial plant often used as an ornamental shrub because it makes an exquisite and powerful statement both in indoor areas and outdoor gardens such as over walls or fences. It will lend liveliness and summer colors to otherwise dull backgrounds.
And its care requirements are quite simple. They need very little, yet they give a lot.