Crossandra, popularly called the firecracker flower, is a tropical subshrub. Its flowers are the real showstopper. They’re often salmon or apricot, but can be found in shades of yellow, red, or pink. Lush dark green foliage provides a backdrop which makes the flowers truly shine.
Grown indoors and out, this warm-weather plant truly catches the eye. Crossandra’s an excellent choice as a container plant. In warmer climates, it can also be a beautiful low border. It can act as an evergreen perennial or an annual depending on your preferences.
So why wait any longer? Let’s explore all that this firecracker flower needs to stand out and get noticed!
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Quick Care Guide
|Common Name(s):||Firecracker flower|
|Scientific Name||Crossandra infundibuliformis|
|Zone:||9-11 outdoors, any as a houseplant|
|Height & Spread:||1-3′ tall, 1-2′ wide|
|Light||Bright, indirect lighting, partial shade perfect|
|Soil||Organically rich and light, well-draining|
|Water:||Consistent soil moisture preferred|
|Pests & Diseases:||No serious diseases, some sucking pests occasionally|
All About Firecracker Flowers
A common bedding plant in subtropical regions, crossandra is equally good indoors. Its foliage can reach a maximum height of three feet, but often stays around 2 feet indoors. Glossy leaves with a slightly wavy texture are oval to teardrop-shaped. The leaves can reach up to five inches in length!
Atop this beautiful, deep green foliage appear the flowers. They attach to an upright stem that protrudes from the leaves. Each flower is made up of five fan-shaped petals that overlap one another. These are not uniform in shape, as the overlap is asymmetrical. The base of the flower is a slender tube.
The flowers are most commonly salmon to apricot in coloration. Some cultivars have been bred to produce yellow, pink, or red flowers as well.
But the color doesn’t give this plant the common name of “firecracker flower”. The name actually has nothing to do with the stunning blooms, but with the seed pods. Once the flowers have dried up and formed seed pods, they are little seed-filled time bombs. A day with high humidity causes the pods to burst open with a pop, showering the ground with seeds.
It’s a winner of the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit, and for good reason. The lovely flowers it produces are distinctive, and it’s a super-easy plant to care for!
It doesn’t take a lot to maintain your firecracker plants to their full potential. Let’s go over our top tips for ensuring you have healthy, happy plants!
Light & Temperature
Partial shade is perfect for your fire cracker plants. Bright, indirect sunlight is the preferred lighting style. While it can take occasional direct sunlight, it can get burned by very hot sun.
Indoor growers may find that a quality grow light will help them ensure good lighting. Placing your plant near a bright window is also a good choice.
This plant’s quite heat-tolerant, but is sensitive to cool temperatures. Keep the temperature above 55 degrees to prevent cold damage to the leaf tips.
Water & Humidity
Avoid letting the soil completely dry out during the growing season. Consistently moist soil is important for your crossandra plant. These plants are not drought-tolerant, and as such you’ll have to make sure they have the water they crave!
Through the winter months, both indoor and outdoor growers can slow down watering. Soil moisture does not evaporate off as quickly during these time periods. Mulch around your plants to slow it down even more.
Humidity can help your plants. Indoors, an occasional light misting will keep the humidity up around your plant. Placing it on a pebble tray above water will also increase the air moisture. Outdoors, ensuring it’s well-watered and mulched will suffice.
Organically-rich, well-draining soils are best for your firecracker flower. Mixes which contain lots of compost and peat are ideal. Both of those components retain moisture while allowing excess to flow away. You can use a sandy loam soil as a base while lightening it up with peat and compost. If your soil is clay-like, break it up well to avoid large clumps and amend to keep the clay soil separated.
A monthly feeding of a balanced granular fertilizer is advised for spring and summer. In fall and winter, reduce the frequency to about every other month.
If using liquid fertilizer, dilute to half-strength. Feed every two weeks during the spring and summer, and every month in the fall and winter.
Methods of propagating crossandra include stem cuttings or seed.
Like most other cuttings, you’ll want a healthy stem tip. Cut it just below a leaf node, as the roots will develop from the node. Fresh spring growth is usually best for getting your cuttings to develop.
Dip the cut end in water, then a powdered rooting hormone before placing in prepared soil. Place your cutting on a seedling heating mat to provide bottom warmth, as this will help roots form. Wait for new growth to appear on the cutting, as this indicates it’s taken root.
Seeds can be started indoors at any time. Sprinkle your seed across prepared soil, then very lightly cover them. Keep the soil warmth high by using a heating mat, and maintain moist conditions.
Prune your crossandra plants in the spring right before they begin active growth. This encourages the plant to develop new, healthy stems. You can use the trimmed stems for propagation if you’d like.
Pinch back firecracker flowers once they start to fade to keep the plant blooming. If you want to prevent seeds (especially indoors), cut the spikes back before seeds fully form. This keeps them from popping in your house!
Pests are pretty rare, and diseases are essentially nonexistent. You’ll find this plant to be pretty resilient! But just in case, here’s some pointers to use should you encounter difficulties.
Cold conditions cause problems for your firecracker plants. Temperatures below 55 degrees can cause leaf discoloration. Too much colder, and leaves die back. It’s not at all frost-hardy. To prevent this issue, bring plants indoors to a warmer climate. A cold frame may help keep the temperature above 55 in winter weather as well.
If your plant is still exposed to colder temperatures, it may die back to the ground. Make sure the roots are kept warm in the winter by heavily mulching around your plant. This gives it a better likelihood of regrowing in the spring.
Drying leaves may also be caused by other reasons. Too much direct sunlight can cause sunburning on leaves. Not enough water or too low of a humidity, and your plant’s leaves begin to dry at the edges. Try to ensure your plant’s direct sun exposure is in the early morning, and provide shade during the heat of the day. Maintain a regular watering regimen.
While pest problems on your crossandra plants aren’t incredibly common, they do occur. They should be milder in terms of damage than on edible plants, though. Let’s go over the most common offenders and how to get rid of them should they appear.
Whiteflies are easily identifiable. If you see a bunch of tiny white bugs flying around, it’s a safe guess that eggs will be on your nearby plants. Treat as you would for aphids to get rid of these.
The long-tailed mealybug is another pest you may discover. Like other forms of scale insects, it latches onto leaves and stems. It pierces the surface and sucks the sap out. Neem is a good preventative here as well. For small infestations, use a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol to remove them.
Finally, spider mites can be found both indoors and out. They too are a sucking pest, and they can cause pinpoint yellowing of leaves. For these, prevention is the easiest option. Spray your plant every 7-14 days to keep them at bay. A pyrethrin-based spray will kill any which may appear.
Crossandras tend to be resistant to most diseases. You shouldn’t experience any major plant disease problems.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. Is crossandra a perennial?
A. Depending on how you grow them, they can be an annual or a perennial. Avoid temperatures below 55 degrees for long periods of time. If you live in an area where frost is common, consider overwintering indoors.
Q. Do hummingbirds like firecracker flowers?
A. Very much so. Hummingbirds and butterflies are naturally attracted to the bright, cheerful flowers!
Q. Is crossandra safe around my pets?
A. Yes! This plant is considered non-toxic for cats and dogs.