GARDENING FOR FALL COLORS
Firecracker Plant is a name shared by at least four completely unrelated plants, which is why it is always agood idea to know a plant's botanical name. All four of the following “fire” plants provide embellish yourgarden with lovely red flowers and will attract pollinators.
Russelia Equisetiformis, aka firecracker plant or coral fountain is an attractive cascading small shrub in the family Plantaginaceae. A Mexican native, it grows 2-4 feet high and has a spread of 3-5 feet and attractshummingbirds and butterflies. It prefers sunny areas with medium soil moisture and good drainage but onceestablished tolerates drier conditions. Russelia also grows well in moist soils at the periphery of ponds orwater gardens. Site in locations sheltered from strong winds. Cascading stems may root where they touch theground. Its narrow, soft leaves give it a fine texture in the landscape, making it a great contrast to broad-leafplants. Firecracker plant typically blooms year-round with a profusion of red, tubular flowers. Yellow andsalmon forms are also available.
Jatropha integerrima or firecracker jatropha is an evergreen tropical shrub or small tree attractive to many pollinators including hummingbirds, bees, wasps, monarchs, swallowtails, and zebra longwings. A member of the spurge family it is native to Cuba and Hispaniola. Dark lustrous green leaves are the perfect foils for the red to pink flowers and leaves come in unlobed, one–lobed or two–lobed forms all on the same plant.
Jatropha blooms year-round and tolerates pruning very well. You can let it grow naturally into an interesting multi-trunked tree, or train it by pruning into a lovely espalier, shrub, or single-trunked tree. Jatropha in a large container makes a beautiful patio plant.
A large Jatropha makes a perfect home for many orchids because of its many branches and the dappledshade it offers from direct sunlight. Some orchids are in hanging containers but others grow along the trunkand branches. I occasionally sprinkle them with a hose but never fertilize and they bloom beautifully. An oldwhite Dendrobium with many canes has been blooming at the top of the tree for well over a year without arest.
Cuphea ignea in the Lythraceae family is known as Mexican firecracker or cigar plant. This distant relative ofthe pomegranate is a rounded bushy shrub growing up to 3-1/2 feet tall and spreading up to six feet.Firecracker plant boasts fiery red to orange 1″ tubular blooms which are a magnet for hummingbirds, bees,birds and several types of butterflies. The flowers open bright yellow but as they age, the base and then theentire blossom turns orange-red. It thrives in the sun and requires moderate soil moisture for best results.Pinch back the stem tips occasionally to maintain a dense compact shape.
Odontonema cuspidatum, commonly called firespike and cardinal’s guard is a free-blooming herbaceous perennial in the Acanthaceae family. Its large showy spikes of bright red tubular flowers, attract hummingbirds, butterflies and other pollinators. Firespike, native to Mexico, is one of very few red flowering plants that perform well in partial shade. It is recommended for landscapes infested with root-knot nematodesince it tolerates damage better than other ornamental plants. Because of its overall height and glossy foliage,firespike makes a great anchor when massed at the back of a garden bed.
Plant Propagation is fascinating and easy. There are so many ways to produce a new plant. Why not try something new? Check the UF publication “Plant Propagation” for how-to information. gardeningsolutions.ifas.ufl.edu/care/planting/propagation.html