Firecracker Plant

By: C. Colston Burrell  | 
A hummingbird sucking nectar from a firecracker flower.
The firecracker is an annual flower. Michael Lee / Getty Images
Key Takeaways
  • The firecracker plant, native to Mexico, features slender, tubular red flowers and grows as a bushy shrub up to 1 foot (0.3 meters) high.
  • It thrives in full sun and well-drained soil, needs light to germinate seeds and benefits from slow-release fertilizer.
  • Suitable for edging in gardens, rock gardens or containers, it can also be propagated by seeds or cuttings for indoor and outdoor settings.

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


Want more gardening information? Try:

  • Annual Grasses; learn more about annual grasses and foliage
  • Perennial Grasses; read more about perennial ornamental grasses and unusual ground cover
  • Gardening; turn your garden into a lush retreat using these step-by-step instructions


Frequently Asked Questions

How do firecracker plants react to different light conditions?
Firecracker plants thrive in full sunlight but can tolerate partial shade, though their flowering may be reduced.
Is the firecracker plant invasive in any regions?
Firecracker plants are not generally invasive, but they can spread quickly in favorable, frost-free climates.