Firecracker plant Russelia equisetiformis Firecracker plant grows in a wild and wispy free-form with cascading fiery red blooms that attract hummingbirds and butterflies. The tubular flowers, most common in red, resemble a fountain-like burst of fireworks that make this plant showy and appealing.
If ever there was a plant that epitomized the "right plant, right place" rule - this is it. Decide if you really have the space because a firecracker will not be tamed to stay small and compact. It looks terrible if you try to keep it that way.
Firecrackers need plenty of room for their signature arching form. But that's not to say you can't control one...just plan ahead so its size works in the area you want to plant.
This is not a good choice for the neat freak who wants a formal, manicured look - though the addition of one of these shrubs can soften and highlight an otherwise well-trimmed landscape. The fine-textured waterfall of stems with sparkling red flowers has more of a wildflower, cottage garden appeal.
We've included this plant in the Small Shrubs section for height - it can be kept about 3 feet tall. But an individual plant can spread to 5 feet wide and may overwhelm nearby smaller plants.
Avoid placing anything directly in front of a firecracker plant.
To best show off its beautiful form, use it at the end of a garden bed, around palm trees, or in front of taller, more upright shrubs such as hibiscus or firespike.
firecracker plant under palm trees
Plant specs Firecracker Plant Russelia equisetiformis
Firecrackers are moderate to fast growers to 3 feet tall and 3 to 5 feet wide. They prefer full to part sun but will grow in part shade (though you won't get as many flowers).
These salt-tolerant shrubs do best in Zone 10, though you can plant in a container in Zone 9B and bring inside during cold weather.
Flowering takes place on and off all year, more during warmer months.
Plant care Firecracker Plant Russelia equisetiformis
Add top soil or organic peat humus to the hole when you plant. You can also add composted cow manure to the mix to enrich the soil around the root ball.
Cut back too tall or wayward shoots, if you like, but avoid a hard pruning of the entire plant - it may never grow out of it and recover its original beauty.
If the plant is damaged by cold, trim stems sparingly and let new growth emerge and cover the old (which you can remove later if you like). Try to leave some flowers on for the regular crowd of hummingbirds.
firecracker plant next to chenille plant
Fertilize 3 times a year - spring, summer and fall - with a controlled-release fertilizer.
Because this shrub covers a lot of area, controlled release can be used close to the plant without burning it. (See Plant Fertilization for more info.)
Supplement feedings, if you like, with liquid fertilizer to promote heavier bloom.
A firecracker needs regular waterings to thrive and look its best.
If you have to hand water or you're on an irrigation system better timed for drought-tolerant shrubs, plant with water-retention crystals to keep the plant hydrated during dry spells. (See Watering for more information on these magical little crystals.)
Plant spacing Firecracker Plant Russelia equisetiformis
Place these shrubs about 3 to 4 feet apart. Come out from the house 3 feet or more.
Plant well away from walkways - preferably 3 to 4 feet - so you won't eventually be stepping on stems and flowers.
firecracker plant cascading over a low wall
Utterly fabulous in containers or planters, firecrackers will drape beautifully over the sides.
Landscape uses for firecracker plant
- cascading over a wall
- filler for a corner
- along a fence
- under palms or trees
- wide accent for a butterfly garden
- at the end of a mixed bed
- along a porch or deck
- in a container or planter