Firecracker Plant, (Russelia equisetiformis)

Dan BoudreauxJuly 1, 2001

While vacationing in Key West, I fell in love with Russelia equisetiformis, also know as firecracker plant and I believe coral bush. Looking much like an over grown asparagus fern covered with such delighful red flowers.

On returning home to the Mississippi Coast I was able to get a nursery to special order one. But was told, it gets into trouble when the temp. goes below 55. And will not over winter here. So I planted it in a large pot and brought it inside in november.

Yet, the latest issue of "Souther Living", highlights this plant as the "Patriotic Plant". And says you can plant it in the ground in the Tropical and "coastal" south.

Has anyone had any experience with this plant on the northern gulf coast? Will is make it through the winter here, in the ground? (It got down into the lower 20's last winter.) Or should I keep it in the pot and bring it in each winter?

Any help is appreciated. I'd love to plant this in the ground.

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Dan, I don't have one, but I've read that protection is only necessary when temps fall below 25 degrees. And then you can always provide protection.

To be safe, why not take some cuttings and experiment this year by bringing one in and leaving the others outdoors?

    Bookmark   July 1, 2001 at 6:52PM
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My neighbor's firecracker plant survived the 18* temps -- so I've now added one to my collection. In the ground. Let's hope it works!

    Bookmark   July 2, 2001 at 3:34PM
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I have had mine for 4 years now. The first two years I kept it in a pot, then got brave and set it in the garden. It is doing well, BUT when the temp. dropped last winter, I did throw a sheet over it. Ours blooms all winter on the Alabama Gulf Coast. And is still blooming its heart out when we return in the fall. Must be pretty tough, to make it all summer with no attention. Annie

    Bookmark   July 4, 2001 at 9:09AM
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Firecracker plant survives the winter in my northwest Florida Zone 8-B garden.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2001 at 7:29PM
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I have had the russelia for a couple of years now and it is beautiful. One down the street from me is in full sun and is prettier than mine that only gets morning sun. We didn't really have a freeze in Houston last year so mine wasn't hurt. It's worth planting.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2001 at 2:29PM
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There'll be some foliage dieback in light frosts. But it's worth the risk in zone 8 (cuttings also root easily).

    Bookmark   July 6, 2001 at 9:56PM
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mybackacres(z8b Gulf Coast)

It's been my experience that our "tropical periennials" have the best chance of surviving our unpredictable winters if you plant them in the spring so they have the entire warm season to get established with a large, deep root system. Try for a protected spot if possible, and don't cut back frostbiten foliage until after chance of spring frost or you see new growth emerge. If you trim the foliage there is a much greater chance or moisture entering the stems and taking the freeze/rot damage on down to the roots. The Russelia is a great plant but prefers to be on the dry side, will not tolerate constant moisture well. I prefer to grow mine in containers as I usually loose these and Ixora during a winter such as last year.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2001 at 2:55PM
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Thanks Mybackacres, (cuuuute name, btw), with your background I really do believe you know what you are talking about. I am trying to make raised beds in my greenhouse now and hope to have my plants established in them by first frost. Wish me luck, your friend, in the Garden

    Bookmark   September 1, 2001 at 4:39PM
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I have one growing in the ground here in SE Texas/gulf coast.It is in its 4th year now and I have never had a problem with it during the winter.We have had temperatures into the low 30's but not much lower then that.In the summer with days on end of 100+ it will sometimes drop its flowers for a while but the plant itself stays looking good.The hummingbirds love it as well.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2001 at 7:11AM
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When Southern Living refers to tropical and coastal south, they are refering to the most southern parts of the US, including Texas and Florida. Their 'coastal' is not all up and down the eastern seaboard. Go to the library or a bookstore and see if you can find a Southern Living book. They usually always have maps that explain how they've decided the South: Upper South, Middle South, Lower South, Coastal South and Tropical South, which is the southernmost parts of Texas and the lower half of Florida.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2001 at 8:31PM
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I saw the Patriotic Plant in a Southern Living magazine and adored it. I have been asking local Tennessee Nursery Landscape associations where to locate this plant. We cannot find any in this area. Will someone please send me a startup plant? I am willing to pay a fee if necessary. Thank you for your assistance in this matter.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2002 at 8:17PM
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danbo(8b MS Coast)

I started with a gallon size pot. If it bloomed the first year it was very little. The second year, it bloomed off and on all summer. And will hopefully more this year.

My experience. They're easy to root. But it takes a while for them to mature, and bloom.

I'm pulling the mother plant out soon. And hope to plant a few "babies" in spring. But doubt they'll do much for at least a year or 2.

You may want to start with something larger. I found a few sources on the net. Though I was able to get a special order at a local nursery. I bleieve she ordered it from a supplier in florida. (We do use more tropicals here.)

You might find this link interesting. There are others,

    Bookmark   March 21, 2002 at 8:53PM
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the firecracker plant is beautiful.. would it live
in Phoenix,Arizona ????

    Bookmark   August 13, 2002 at 12:46AM
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Akitagirl(z7a NE OK)

I just bought 6 firecracker hanging basket at Wal Mart. I live in Oklahoma and have never seen these plants before the tag told how to care for them but didn't tell me if I should deadhead or not. Can anyone help me with this

    Bookmark   April 23, 2004 at 10:37AM
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Pcola(z8 NW Florida)

Plant sellers are notorious for mis-labeling plants. I have seen several different plants sold as Firecracker Plant. See if the tag has the botanical name. If it's Russelia it should not be much trouble. It likes full sun to partial shade, isn't particular about the soil, as long as it's well drained, and doesn't need a lot of fertilizer. If it's in a pot make sure it doesn't dry out. And shelter it over winter.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2004 at 1:58PM
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I planted 20 or so 1 gallon size Russelia in soil which is basically decomposed granite last fall--they have not grown much over the winter. I do have a word of warning for those on the south coast --this plant is apparently a terible invasive in island plant communitites--you can find out about it by searching russelia on the webb. I have also planted Euphorbia in gardens which border on watersheds for streams--then I saw that it has taken over the banks of the stream flowing in Malibu lagoon. I went back to my wild gardens and took it out as I saw it was escaping. We need to be careful with these exotic creatures.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2004 at 11:05AM
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barb_tx(z9a TX)

hi amijo, I don't know why you could not have the Russelia in AZ. You might not have a large plant growing in the ground the way I do down here on the TX coast, but I have seen people growing it in hanging baskets. The reason they grow it in baskets is so they can place the baskets where they will be able to see the hummingbirds feeding. Hummers LOVE this plant. Fortunately, I can see out my window and watch them on my plant. The main thing is that you would need to remember to water the basket (although my tropical plant book says it can take some drought) and may have to shelter it if the weather got really cold. The plant is a native of Mexico and does well in most soils. Mine is planted in sandy soil. Barb

    Bookmark   June 12, 2004 at 7:29PM
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I have some of these beautiful plants, here, at my home in Costa Rica. Some in the ground and some in pots. My question is, "what is the best way to have continual blooms"? Once there are only a few blooms remaing, what should I do to produce more flowers? Where on the plant should I prune.
I do already, 'pinch' some of the fine stems to promote branching.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2005 at 12:26PM
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dmj1218(9a West Houston)

Mine over winters great here in Houston at the same zone you are at...just mulch it really heavily come November. I and the hummers love this plant. Puts up with drought really good too. Just needs a well drained location! Here's a good link that might help.

Here is a link that might be useful: Russelia equisetiformus

    Bookmark   July 8, 2005 at 9:00AM
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Elona Wagner

My firecracker plant is abundant in my garden, but it is a little wild and there are some dead branches underneath the healthy ones. I have seen this plant looking formal, tall and stately and cascading without support. My firecracker tries to grow tall but the sides end up laying on the ground. I have heard that you are supposed to hard prune it once a year. Has anyone heard of this? Any other ideas would be appreciated.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2005 at 10:33AM
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This plant is very tolerant of abuse and should be cut down in early spring after danger of frost has passed. I've grown this plant 16 yrs and thats all the care i give has naturalized in my yard..only water given is by rain unless we go to drought mode then it receives a little water..and of course Osmacote is applied to all my beds once in early spring...

    Bookmark   December 1, 2005 at 10:52AM
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mudbug(8b Coastal NC)

Does anyone have any they would like to trade? I would love to try some. They look great from hanging baskets or a wall! Please let us know. Mudbug

    Bookmark   June 14, 2006 at 12:57PM
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I recently bought one near Charlotte, NC. How well do they grow here? Should I bring it in this winter?
I also gave one to my daughter who lives near Wilmington, NC which is just a little warmer than Charlotte. Should she take hers in?

    Bookmark   April 19, 2008 at 10:44PM
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Does anyone know where I can purchase a Firecracker plant anywhere near near Tampa or Lakeland, FL?


    Bookmark   October 10, 2008 at 9:26AM
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Wondering if this plant sets seed? if so how to harvest it?

Also a few of you who want cuttings or seed (if I get thie info I asked for above.) can message me & I will send for postage. I can only do 3 cuttings right now because my plant is relatively small.


    Bookmark   November 29, 2008 at 9:25PM
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