|Firecracker plant cascading over a retaining wall at the UNF campus|
FeaturesObviously the big selling point on firecracker plant is its long floral display, lasting all year or from spring to frost in colder areas, and attracting lots of hummingbirds. I love how the flowers seem to dance and vibrate even when still, with all the pendant blooms angled slightly off kilter so they trick your eye into seeing rhythm.
The plant's habit is billowing one, and this is used to great effect when planted on hillsides, behind retaining walls and in large containers or hanging baskets so the feathery stems can drape down in a lush curtain. This makes it perfect for obscuring eyesores, like a compost heap in my own garden. On the other side of the heap is a weeping yaupon holly that mirrors the effect of the graceful weeping foliage nicely, so when you approach down the side yard you just see arching foliage.
CultureRusselia is usually touted as a drought tolerant plant, but I'll also note that my largest plant is located in a wet spot that never quite dries out, by the compost heap. The crown stays above the waterline, but it still seems pretty well adapted to its soggy situation.
Though usually labeled as a zone 9 plant, I've seen it in masses in Gainesville, Fl (8b) and mine showed hardly any damage in our 20f nights this winter. I suppose it depends on where you plant it.
Uses and Companion PlantingsPlace russelia amongst larger foliage like cannas or alocasia for a bold effect! It also looks superb when planted adjacent to other flowers that hang downward, such as the (also red) turk's cap hibiscus or maybe some angel's trumpets. Some other hummingbird attracting plants with red flowers include firespike, coral bean, cuphea, heliconias and bromeliads.
There is also a cream flowered form, pictured to the left. I never saw the point of it, but I do think the folks at UNF did a great job pairing it with this mosaic column.
You can also mirror both the form and leafless stems of russelia by planting Jerusalem thorn. This tree is also drought tolerant, and also has an almost leafless weeping habit but bears bright yellow flowers in spring.
PropagationThey're really easy to grow from cuttings, and you can collect seeds to replant as well. I might have to start a cell pack to increase my collection soon, but they're so affordable and readily available that you might as well just go to Home Depot and pick some up! Here's Riverview Flower Farm's profile of the plant, along with some other excellent hummingbird plants.
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