Firecracker plant first became popular as an indoor plant, but it's a good, tender annual outdoors, too. Its slender, tubular flowers of bright red have a contrasting black band at the tip. It is a native of Mexico.
: Firecracker plants form a bushy subshrub up to 1 foot high with an equal or greater spread. Its compact mounding form is heavily covered with tiny, red flowers that appear at all the leaf axils. Leaves are long and narrow.
: Grow the firecracker plant in full sun in average but well-drained soil. Plant out after all danger of frost is over. Apply an all-purpose, slow-release fertilizer at planting. When planting out, pinch out the tips to increase bushiness. Space them 6 to 12 inches apart, depending on the length of the growing season. They are perennial in frost-free areas and can be sheared back to maintain their shapeliness.
: By seed or by cuttings. Seeds may be sown in the garden after the soil has warmed. They need light to germinate well -- so barely cover them. For earlier bloom, sow seeds indoors 8 to 12 weeks prior to planting out. Seeds germinate in 8 to 10 days at 70 to 85 degrees F. Cuttings root easily in 10 to 14 days.
: Use them as edging plants for borders or in rock gardens. They are also good container plants, with growth flowing over the edges of hanging baskets, window boxes, or other planters. Branches can be cut and used in flower arrangements.
Firecracker plant related species: Cuphea hyssopifolia, or Mexican heather, is a tender perennial used primarily for bedding out, except in frost-free areas. Leaves are tiny, and the plant is nearly obscured by the small white, lavender, or lilac-colored flowers that bloom over a long season. Growing to 1 foot, it spreads wider than its height.
Firecracker plant related varieties: Matchless is a rounded, compact plant with fiery flowers.
Firecracker plant scientific name: Cuphea ignea