The Crossandra plant (Crossandra infundibuliformis) pronounced [kross-AN-druh in-fun-dih-bew-LEE-for-miss] or firecracker flower, known for its bright-colored flowers, thrived in India and Sri Lanka nearly 100 years ago.
The Greek name means “fringed anthers”.
Plant growers forgot about this evergreen plant with the glossy gardenia-like foliage for many years until their rediscovery and cultivation in the 1950’s.
Crossandra plants belong to the Acanthus (Acanthaceae family) which includes several other favorite plants, as the:
- Beloperone (shrimp plant)
- Justicia brandegeana
- Aphelandra (Zebra plant)
- Acanthus Mollis (Bear’s Breeches plant)
- Hypoestes Phyllostachya (Polka Dot Plant)
… and others.
The natural habitat of Crossandras is the East Indies, Africa, Madagascar and the rest of Indian subcontinent.
Crossandra plants are grown as an annual, perennial, planted in the garden or as wonderful flowering windowsill houseplant depending on where you live.
Crossandra Plant Features And Growing Requirements
Crossandra infundibuliformis is prized for its constant show of bright blooms and shiny foliage. Here’s a list of the characteristics of a Crossandra plant that received the right amount of care.
Size And Growth Rate
Crossandra grows to a height of about 12″ – 18″ inches, producing dark green, glossy leaves resembling Gardenia plant leaves.
When it reaches the desired height it is a good idea to pinch out the tips helping the plant to branch nicely.
A bushy appearing plant, the foliage is stalkless, and the leaves attach directly to the plant stem.
The mostly opposite leaves, are shiny and always look neat.
Flowering And Fragrance
Crossandra flowers are produced on exotic four-sided inflorescences which grow from the upper portions of the new growth.
Within these four-sided growths are numerous buds, each of which produce a flat coral-orange flower.
When several flowers are in bloom, the strange inflorescence reminds me of an oriental temple.
The color of these blooms is difficult to describe because it is an unusual combination of pink, orange, coral and yellow which blends into a pastel shade seldom seen in flowers.
However, if one must describe them, the color of its flowers is usually salmon pink while others vary from orange to red with no fragrance.
The flowers measure 1 ½ inch in diameter and sit upright in sheaf-like clusters. From April to October, Crossandra constantly blooms beautiful flowers.
The flowers come from green bracts on four-sided spikes.
A well-branched plant usually has several of these spikes each carrying many wide clusters of overlapping florets producing a truly unusual display.
The slender, tubular part of each flower ends in a five-lobed, flat, clear apricot-salmon colored showy bloom.
Light And Temperature
Crossandra enjoys the heat and high humidity (more tropical conditions). When they bloom, a temperature ranging from 70° to 75° degrees Fahrenheit is most recommended.
With proper protection, they can withstand a window facing south under a strong mid-day sun.
Remember that Crossandra is native to India and the East Indies, and likes heat.
However, during winter, the crossandra will take its sun straight and undiluted, and bloom profusely.
Direct sun will warm the plant to its liking, even though the surrounding area is cooler than it prefers.
In spring, when the sun becomes stronger, filtering the light is helpful.
If given the right temperature, Crossandra plant pays back with longer and more intense colors.
Watering And Feeding
Keep the soil slightly moist with warm water in summer, reduce water during winter. Cold water triggers a state of shock causing the Crossandra plant to die.
Feed it using a liquid fertilizer for houseplants every two weeks from April to August and mist lightly when having challenges with humidity.
Keep the soil in the pot moist but never muddy-wet.
Crossandras bloom month after month. When the spikes have only a few florets left, keep the soil rather dry until the seed pods turn tan in color and taken from the bracts to continue the maturing of the seed.
Never permit the foliage to wilt or shrivel for lack of moisture during this semi-rest period.
Soil And Transplanting
Repot the plant in spring if you plant to keep the plant for more than one year. Use standard potting soil in a shallow pot and provide adequate drainage.
The usual potting soil, 1/3 each of rich loam, peat moss or leaf mold, and coarse sand is suitable, and good drainage is necessary as for all potted plants.
Groom your Crossandra to keep the plant at its best appearance. Pinch back or deadhead withered flower clusters.
If seeds are not desired the spikes may be cut off after flowering. New spikes bring new florets.
With the right care, the Crossandra will stay attractive for a couple of years. But this would require a new pot with fresh, well-draining soil every spring.
Use Azalea Pots
Choose a pot a size bigger than the old one. A shallow Azalea pot is an ideal container for repotting Crossandra. Cover the holes in the pot with another larger pot to ensure good drainage.
Sprinkle loose soil into the pot. Next, put the plant in as deep as it was in its old pot and remove any tips that appear too long, saggy or droopy.
If the Crossandra plant looks very “substandard”, cut back to a third of its original size.
Make cuttings out of non-woody shoots for about 3-4 inches long. Each cutting must hold a number of leaf buds and well-developed leaves.
Remove the two bottom-most leaves and dip the cuttings’ moistened end in a hormone-rooting compound.
Plant several cuttings in a pot. Then devise a small greenhouse by securing a plastic bag over a wire frame with an elastic material.
Maintain a temperature of 72° to 75° degrees Fahrenheit.
Roots begin forming after two to three weeks. Alternatively, you can grow the plant from seed which is a more difficult task.
Growing Crossandra Plants From Seed
Crossandra infundibuliformis is easily raised from seed germinated on sphagnum moss or soil containing vermiculite, and equal parts of perlite and peat moss.
Seeds need temperatures between 70° to 80° degrees Fahrenheit for best germination.
Transfer the seedlings to individual pots and pinch them back when they are 4″ inches high.
If grown in rich, moist soil at a temperature of at least 65° degrees Fahrenheit, the seedlings will bloom in about seven months from seed.
Raising Crossandra From Seed A Personal Memory
This secret seed producing arrangement posed a problem for me when I grew my first crossandra.
The stamens are within the thin tube and are not visible among the florets.
I could not find the pollen within this slender tube, to help nature along.
Before long I noted that nature had a way of helping herself, without my hands or the helpful insects we depend on in the orchards and fields.
Each green bract contained a large, tan colored, oblong seed. I was surprised to find such large seeds.
I dried the seeds and planted, but without germination.
One day with several of these seeds dry and ready to store, one of the precious seeds broke open and out fell four nice, flat, tan colored true seeds.
The large seed was a seed-pod or capsule. The “do it yourself” Crossandra had revealed its seed producing secrets.
After planting, these seeds soon germinated and a pot of sturdy seedlings were all set for a life of their own.
They bloom when about seven months old, and as the plant grows, more and more flower spikes are produced.
Important Things To Remember In Growing Crossandra
Temperature and humidity are some of the most important things to take note of when growing Crossandra. The plant needs very high humidity.
The Crossandra prefers being kept warm and moist, much like the African violet.
It prefers a rich humus loam with good drainage so the roots will not drown.
Plant mixes which contain coarse perlite and peat moss have given good results with my Crossandra plants.
If you now grow African violets you should try this new beauty.
It does wonderfully under the same temperature and light conditions that Saintpaulia enjoys.
Crossandra also attracts pollinators such as butterflies and dragonflies.
Recommended Reading: What Are The Best Butterfly Garden Flowers?
Always water the Crossandra plant with warm water as it can be easily shocked by cause its death. Crossandra hates cold water and should not receive frequent watering.
The flowers are self-pollinating assuring the production of fascinating seed pods.
Usually, a plant will have seed maturing on the lower portion of the bud cluster and flowers happily sprouting from the tip section.
Under ideal cultural conditions, the plant will continue to flower for long periods since flower stalks are produced with new growth.
Crossandra does not need full sun to flower profusely and is almost everblooming in a window that receives only morning sun but remains bright for the afternoon hours.
The young plants will flower in their sixth month, so there will always be new, beautiful Crossandra plants on the indoor window sill.
This plant is happy in any window where it gets good light and some sun.
I do not recommend long, continuous hot sun for it.
It is also being grown successfully under fluorescent lights.
Watch this video to see a healthy and blooming Crossandra in action:
Pests And Diseases
Here are some issues that will prevent you from achieving good results when growing and caring for Crossandra. We also include solutions to each problem for your benefit.
Dry, Curled Leaves
This only means that the air is too dry or the sunlight is too strong. Move the plant to a spot with better protection and mist frequently.
These brown spots indicate that your Crossandra received cold watering. If this happens frequently, the plant will surely die.
Poor Appearance Of Leaves And Stems
Crossandra is a bushy plant and shows glossy leaves with the best care. If the plant shows otherwise, it may be due to overwatering.
If the growth is stagnant and the leaves drop, the plant is too cold. Follow our advice and read more about providing the right temperature and humidity for your Crossandra plants.
Only Tiny Leaves During Spring
You over-watered the Crossandra. Repot your plant and provide fresh soil.
Mealybugs can cause serious damage and must be eliminated immediately. Read our article on how to get rid of and control mealybugs.
This nuisance often appears on older plants. More in controlling and getting rid of aphids in our article.
Crossandra plants may be sensitive to cold, but for as long as its growing requirements are met, you can ensure a great reward of brightly-colored blooms and foliage.
Tips On Buying Crossandra
Apart from propagation, whether you will successfully grow beautiful Crossandra or not depends on the quality of the purchased plant. Only buy those that look bushy, have glossy leaves and lots of flower buds.
Not A Short-lived Plant
Crossandra is often mistaken for a short-lived plant. However, it can actually overwinter and still bloom beautifully on the following year. Just make sure to look for the qualities mentioned above.
Crossandra Sale Season
The sale season for Crossandra plants is from April to October. Plan on how you can achieve its temperature and other growing requirements before you buy one.