Firecracker Plant Care: Russelia Equisetiformis Growing and Care

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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.

flowering Firecracker Russelia EquisetiformisPin
Firecracker plant with its red tubular flowers growing in full sun. – Image PlantCareToday.com

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
  • Coralblow
  • Fountain Plant
  • Fountainbush

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 horsetail and refers to the plant’s growth habit.

Coral Fountain is kept as a houseplant in the wintertime but must be moved 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 Care

Size and 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 and then fall over into showy cascades.

The non-descript foliage looks something like an Asparagus Fern.

Flowering and 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 look explosive!

They’re attractive to pollinators of all sorts, but they are especially inviting to hummingbirds.

The individual red tubular flowers are about 1″ inches 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.

Firecracker plant with bright red tubular flowers, explosive color, attractive formPin

Light and Temperature

Hummingbird Plant can tolerate partial shade but performs best in full sun, which brings out the most blooms.

However, in part shade, this plant won’t produce as many flowers.

Coral Fountain does best in temperatures ranging from 65° – 75° degrees Fahrenheit (18° C – 24° C).

In addition, it can also tolerate cold temperatures. However, it’s sensitive to temperatures below 41° degrees Fahrenheit. 

It’s winter hardy in the USDA zone or hardiness zones 9B through 11.

It will not survive freezing temperatures.

Water Needs and Feeding

Keep Firecracker Plants well-watered until they are well-established.

Once mature, it is drought-tolerant and can tolerate dry spells.

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 and Transplanting

Firecracker Plants thrive in almost any type of soil. Once established, the root ball and root system do not like being disturbed.

It’s tolerant of sandy, loamy, clay, or chalk soil textures and can do well with pH levels ranging from alkaline to acidic.

To grow Coral plants as container plants, use a standard potting mix and add sand or perlite to provide good drainage.

You can also provide soil microbes and necessary organic matter to improve the soil.

Grooming and Maintenance

Prune your plant regularly throughout the spring or late winter to attain or maintain the desired shape and 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 the bottom few inches of the cutting, and 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 a 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 pests 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 and attacks from spider mites, caterpillars, mealybugs, and nematodes.

You can eliminate these insect pests by spraying neem oil solutions.

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

The Coral Firecracker plant is an exceptionally versatile plant you should use in hanging baskets, containers, planters, window boxes, 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 around decks. The plant’s fiery red blooms are also excellent in attracting hummingbirds and butterflies.

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 its 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.

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