The firecracker plant – Russelia Equisetiformis [russ-SEEL-lee-uh eck-kwiss-see-tiff-FORmiss] is a perennial plant type often used as an ornamental shrub.
It’s from the Plantaginaceae family along with Lophospermum plants and hails from Mexico.
This firecracker plant is a weeping subshrub in the style of the Weeping Willow, its long stems arch and dangle with scale-like leaves similar to the limbs of a Weeping Willow tree.
Other common names include:
- Hummingbird Plant
- Firecracker Fern
- Coral Fountain
- Coral Plant
- Fountain Plant
The genus name of the plant is in honor of English 18th century physician Dr. Alexander Russell.
The firecracker plant received the Royal Horticultural Society Award of Garden Merit in 1993.
The specific epithet, equisetum, means horse tail and refers to the plant’s growth habit.
Coral Fountain is kept as a houseplant in the wintertime, but move it outdoors into the sunlight for the summer to enjoy the best blooming performance and as a treat for pollinators.
Unless you live in a year-round warm climate, expect to overwinter it indoors.
Alternatively, plant it as an annual in icy areas.
NOTE: The Crossandra that will grow in lots of light is known as the Firecracker flower.
Firecracker Plant Russelia Equisetiformis Care
Size & Growth
This arching form plant can grow 3′ – 6′ feet high in full sun with long arching stems of 6′ feet.
The rush-like bright green stems start out erect then fall over into showy cascades.
The non-descript foliage looks something like an Asparagus Fern.
Flowering & Fragrance
Firecracker Plant’s firecracker-shaped red tubular flowers come in shades of white, scarlet, orange and coral.
Its beautiful flower color and growth pattern looks explosive!
They’re attractive to pollinators of all sorts, but they are especially inviting to hummingbirds.
The individual red tubular flowers are about 1″ inch long and grow densely over the entire plant.
The flowers grow so thickly you often cannot see the sparse, asparagus-like foliage.
Its bloom time is from late spring throughout the summer and into the autumn in tropical and semi-tropical climates.
The Tubular flowers transition into small, inconspicuous fruits and hang in clusters.
Light & Temperature
Hummingbird Plant can tolerate partial shade but performs best in full sun, which brings out the most blooms.
Coral Fountain does best in temperatures ranging from 65° – 75° degrees Fahrenheit (18° C – 24° C).
It’s winter hardy in USDA zone or hardiness zones 9B through 11.
It will not survive freezing temperatures.
Water Needs & Feeding
Keep Firecracker Plants well watered until they are well established.
Once mature, it is drought tolerant.
Water this drought-resistant fountain plant regularly throughout the growing season, but allow the soil to dry out between waterings.
Fertilize biweekly throughout spring and summer using a half-strength dilution of balanced liquid fertilizer.
As winter approaches and it gets colder, bring your plant indoors.
Put it in a warm sunny window, reduce watering, and do not fertilize until springtime.
Soil & Transplanting
Firecracker Plants thrive in almost any type of soil. Once established the root ball and root system does not like being disturbed.
It’s tolerant of sandy, loamy, clay or chalks soil textures, and it can do well with pH levels ranging from alkaline to acidic.
To grow Coral Plant as container plants, use a standard potting mix and add sand or perlite to provide good drainage.
Grooming & Maintenance
Prune your plant regularly throughout the spring and summer season to attain or maintain the desired shape and also to remove any dead growth.
When stems finish flowering, prune them back to encourage more growth and blossoms.
At the end of winter, prune the plant back to a very short size.
This helps keep it small and shapely.
How To Propagate The Firecracker Plant
Creating new plants is done through propagating via stem tip cuttings taken in the springtime.
Alternatively, use a layering technique.
To propagate from cuttings:
- Choose a healthy tip with a minimum of 2 leaves near the end.
- The cutting should be 6″ inches long.
- Remove all leaves except a pair at the branch tip.
- Make small scratches on a bottom few inches of the cutting, dip this end into rooting powder.
- Shake off excess powder.
- Place the cutting into a pot of appropriate, well-draining soil and water lightly.
- Place a plastic bag loosely over the cutting and set it in a protected area with indirect light and temperature consistently higher than 50° degrees Fahrenheit (10° C).
To propagate through layering:
- Choose a healthy, flexible branch near the plant’s base.
- If the plant is in the ground, outdoors, dig a little trench beside it.
- If it’s in a pot or container, set a fresh pot of substrate beside it.
- Bend the chosen branch into the trench or a fresh pot of soil and weigh it down with a rock or use a garden staple to hold it into the ground.
- Leave it in place and care for it as a mature plant until you see it has begun sending out new shoots and flowers.
- When you are certain, the chosen branch has begun producing its roots, sever it from the parent plant.
Coral Plant Pest or Disease Problems
Firecracker Plants experience no serious disease or insect problems as long as it’s not overwatered and receives the right amount of sunlight.
If it’s not given the right environment, it may be subject to root rot, attacks from mites, caterpillars, and nematodes.
Is Russelia Equisetiformis Toxic or Poisonous?
There is no evidence the plant is toxic.
Is Russelia Invasive?
Firecracker Plant is invasive in places like Florida, where it can naturalize.
Suggested Uses for Coral Fountain Plant
Coral Firecracker plant is an exceptionally versatile plant you should use in hanging baskets, containers, or singularly as an accent or specimen plant in a garden bed.
The coral-red color of its tubular flowers is stunning when used in mass plantings.
It’s also an excellent choice grown alongside rock gardens or spilling over fences, retaining walls, and borders in full sun.
Train the plant to grow up a trellis by tying it stems to supports.
Firecracker plant is also an excellent choice to plant along the verge of streams and ponds, it’s salt tolerant so it’s an excellent addition to a seaside garden.