How to Plant, Grow, and Care for Crossandra

Crossandra creates a colorful display in any home or garden setting. Kevin Espiritu will tell you everything you need to know to grow it right!

Crossandra plant with brightly colored flowers, looking vibrant in a distinct orange hue with green leaves surrounding it

Contents

Crossandra, also called the firecracker flower, is a tropical subshrub with showstopper flowers. They’re often salmon or apricot but can be found in shades of yellow, red, or pink. Lush dark green foliage provides a backdrop that makes the flowers truly shine.

Grown indoors and out, this warm-weather plant truly catches the eye. Crossandra is 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!

Overview

Distinct looking orange flower with wide petals and spiny seed head with velvety green hue surrounded by leaves and buds
Plant Type Evergreen subshrub
Family Acanthaceae
Genus Crossandra
Species Crossandra infundibuliformis
Native Area Central Africa and South Asia
Exposure Full sun to partial shade
Height 1-3’
Watering Requirements Moderate
Pests & Diseases Aphids, whiteflies, scale, mealybugs, spider mites
Maintenance Low
Soil Type Well-draining, loamy
Hardiness Zone 10-11

What is Crossandra?

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.

Crossandra is a common bedding plant in the subtropical regions of central Africa right across the continent from Angola in the west to Somalia in the east. It is also common in India, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh in South Asia. It grows well in the dry tropical biome.

Characteristics

Moist firecracker flower with petals damp with water droplets, appearing slight wrinkled due to wetness with vividly green leaves and buds surrounding the blooms
The firecracker flower has seed pods that can burst due to humidity.

Crossandra is an equally good indoor plant. Its foliage can reach a maximum height of three feet, but often stays around two 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 appears 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.

The common name of ‘firecracker flower’ or ‘firecracker plant’ 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.

Planting

The firecracker with beautifully  vivid blooms donning a vibrant orange hue with a spiky center surrounded by deep green and glossy leaves with distinct lines
It loves warm, humid weather.

To plant crossandra outdoors, you need to live in a tropical or subtropical climate, as it loves warmth and humidity. Choose a location that receives bright, indirect sunlight and has well-draining soil to prevent root rot.

If you live in a cooler climate, consider planting in containers, which allows you to move them indoors when temperatures drop below 60°F (16°C). Use a well-draining potting mix, and ensure the container has drainage holes.

Water consistently to keep the soil moist but not soggy. Once established, you can water slightly less often along with the rest of the plants in your garden.

How to Grow

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

Brightly orange flowers of a lush plant with deep colored green leaves, having slightly wavy edges and distinct lines, receiving sunlight
Hot, direct sunlight can harm this plant.

Partial shade is perfect for your firecracker plants in the garden. Bright, indirect sunlight is the preferred lighting style when growing as a houseplant. While it can take occasional direct sunlight, this plant can get burned by very hot sun. Placing your plant near a bright window is also a good choice.

Water

Firecracker plant with water droplets sitting on vibrant orange petals with wavy edges on a deep green background in a garden
It requires frequent watering during the dry season.

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 ensure they have the water they crave.

Through the winter months, both indoor and outdoor growers can slow down on watering. Soil moisture does not evaporate off as quickly during these time periods. Mulch around your plants to slow it down even more.

Soil

Bright, orange flowers standing nearby each other with rounded petals looking vibrant surrounded by deep green leaves with distinct lines
Use a moisture-retaining mix for this plant’s soil.

Organically rich, well-draining soils are best for your firecracker flower. Mixes that contain lots of compost and coco coir are ideal. Both of those components retain moisture while allowing excess to flow away.

Use a sandy loam as a base, lightening it with coco coir and compost. If your soil is clay, break it up well to avoid large clumps and amend to keep the clay soil separated.

Temperature & Humidity

Firecracker plant with bright and vivid flowers surrounded with slightly curved leaves with deep green color and wavy edges
It can suffer in cold temperatures.

This plant is quite heat-tolerant but is sensitive to cool temperatures. Keep the temperature above 55°F (13°C) to prevent cold damage to the leaf tips.

Humidity can help your plants. Indoors, a humidifier will keep the humidity up around your plant, and placing it on a pebble tray above water will also increase the air moisture. Outdoors, ensuring it’s well-watered and mulched will suffice.

Fertilizer

Someone holding soil with both hands after mixing in fertilizer in a white container
Granular or liquid fertilizer can work of this plant.

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.

Maintenance

A firecracker plant with orange-colored flowers sitting beside buds with deep red petals peeking through
Trimming stems can help it thrive.

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!

Propagation

Methods of propagating crossandra include stem cuttings or growing from seed.

Cuttings

Firecracker plant with two blooming flowers with vivid orange color, having stems with deep green hue and smooth shiny leaves
Cutting is a great way to propagate this plant.

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.

Sowing Seed

Dainty flower on a firecracker plant with  vibrant orange petals, surrounded by deep green stems and leaves with varying textures
Its seeds grow well in humid and warm conditions.

Seeds can be started indoors at any time. Sprinkle your seed across prepared germination or seedling medium, then very lightly cover them. Keep the soil warmth high by using a heating mat, and maintain moist conditions.

Common Problems

Pests are pretty rare, and diseases are essentially nonexistent. You’ll find this plant to be pretty resilient! But just in case, here are some pointers to use should you encounter difficulties.

Temperature Too Low

A dainty and light flower with pale peach-orange hue with soft-looking petals and deep green leaves with water droplets gliding on the surface
The cold can impede this plant’s growth.

Cold conditions cause problems for your firecracker plants. Temperatures below 55°F (13°C) can cause leaf discoloration. Much colder and the 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 keep the temperature above 55°F (13°C) 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.

Sunburn

Brightly colored flowers with soft looking texture and rounded edges, turning yellow at the center receiving abundant sunlight
Too much sun can dry it out.

Drying leaves may also be caused by other reasons. Too much direct sunlight can cause sunburn on leaves. Try to ensure your plant’s direct sun exposure is in the early morning, and provide shade during the heat of the day.

Underwatering

Soft looking orange petals of the firecracker plant with a spiny seed head, surrounded by wavy and wrinkly looking leaves with a vibrant green hue
This plant needs moisture to stay healthy.

Not enough water or low humidity will cause your plant’s leaves to dry at the edges. Maintain a regular watering regimen and place your pot on pebble trays filled with water to increase the moisture around the plants.

Pests

Vivid orange flowers on a firecracker plant with spots, soft looking in texture surrounded by other pots with various plants in a garden
It can attract various pests.

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.

Aphids are fairly common in all gardens, and they’ll appear on your firecracker plant as well. To prevent them, spray the plant with a strong stream of water from a hose. If necessary, follow up with neem oil. An insecticidal soap will kill any stragglers.

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. 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 seven to fourteen days with water to keep them at bay. A pyrethrin-based spray will kill any that may appear.

Diseases

A beautiful plant with lush deep green leaves with pale pink soft looking flowers with textured petals and smooth rounded edges
The firecracker plant can resist most diseases.

Crossandras tend to be resistant to most diseases. You shouldn’t experience any major plant disease problems.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is crossandra a perennial?

Depending on how you grow them, they can be an annual or a perennial. Avoid temperatures below 55°F (13°C) for long periods of time. If you live in an area where frost is common, consider overwintering indoors.

Do hummingbirds like firecracker flowers?

Very much so. Hummingbirds and butterflies are naturally attracted to the bright, cheerful flowers!

Is crossandra safe around my pets?

Yes! This plant is considered non-toxic for cats and dogs.

Final Thoughts

It is useful to have a plant that can be used both in the garden and as a houseplant. Add the show-stopping flower power and ease of growing and maintaining this firecracker plant, and you have a winner!

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