Firecracker plant from Mexico can take the Southeast Texas heat

Firecracker plant from Mexico

You know you are popular when you get a nickname or two. Well, the firecracker plant has lots of nicknames. What does that tell you? You may know this hardy beauty by its “real” name of Russellia equisetiformis, “coral fountain plant,” “Corablow” or “red fern.” No matter what you call this south of the border gal, you will love to have it in your landscape.

Not many plants love the heat as well as the firecracker. Plant this Mexican native in an area that has full sun to part shade, it is not particular. It would love you for giving it well-draining, good soil but will tolerate lesser soils, as well. After the first year or so, the firecracker becomes almost drought tolerant. Aggie horticulturalists have named Russellia one of its favorites for rugged conditions, even beach planting. Not a day goes by that I don’t see hummingbirds in my backyard firecrackers.

The name “coral fountain plant” name gives you an idea of the shape this plant takes as it matures. Its arms arch out and become heavy with the hundreds of little cone-shaped flowers and droop down to the ground. Think “Swan Lake.” If you are a “neat and tidy” garden type, this might not be the plant for you. Its beauty lies in its far-reaching and arching branches. It would not be for the highly groomed Boxwood Bunch. You can’t exactly control this beauty, but the addition of one of these shrubs can soften a highly trimmed landscape.

Your firecracker plant can grow 3 feet wide and as much as 5 to 6 feet in height. Best to choose its location wisely. The drooping blooming branches are best shown off in a location that allows it to hang over, for example, a ledge or hill or elevated area.

Propagate by collecting the seed heads and re-planting them. You can also clip off a healthy branch and put that branch into soil, keep it moist, and a new plant should start. Fertilize each season with a slow release fertilizer. Enjoy.

Right now in your garden, keep the lawn mower setting high to help the grass stay moist. Start planning your fall garden. Look out for aphids and other insects that can harm heat-stressed plants right now. Spray with water sprayer often or use safe insecticide. Put damaged leaves into the trash, not your compost pile. Collect seeds from summer blooming plants. Clean off the chaff and let it dry indoors. Store in jars, envelopes or paper bags to use next spring.


Joette Reger is an avid gardener and prides  herself on staying up-to-date on the latest gardening activities and tips. She can be reached by e-mail at joreger [at] msn [dot] com and on Facebook at “Gardengate with Joette Reger.”