Last year I came across the perfect plant for an imperfect location in my newly acquired front yard.
My previous home was red brick with a southern front exposure of almost full sun – which made for a relatively easy canvass to select and grow summer annuals and perennials within. My new (husband’s) home is of tannish-terracotta brick with a northern exposure of mostly shade. The front landscape of my newly acquired home was a bit bland and needed a little pop of color here and there. It was difficult finding a vibrant blooming annual or perennial that thrived in the Texas ambient heat but preferred a moist, mostly shady area.
In my search, I was very fortunate to have come across the Firecracker Plant, or Crossandra infundibuliformis, at a local nursery. I was entranced by the color of the plant and knew it would beautifully accent the palette of our brick. Not only did this shrubby annual (or evergreen perennial in Zones 10 and warmer) possess bright, crisp orange blooms, it also showcased deep green, glistening leaves. Would it survive the environment of my front yard? Looking between the leaves, I found the instruction tag and noted Firecracker Plants enjoy a little sunshine, but benefit being shaded from the mid-day Texas sun. The tag also stated they enjoy moist (but not soggy) roots. Perfect!
As you can see in my photos above, I planted mine last year in early summer on either side of our mailbox. The location received a slight bit of morning sun on one side and a slight bit of afternoon sun on the other. During mid-day, the location was mostly shaded. Due to the heavy shade, the soil in the area naturally stayed moist but not soggy. And since Crossandra is a tropical (think humid rainforest canopy) the protected mailbox area was the ideal spot indeed for it to thrive.
While I highly recommend the use of Crossandra to warm up your landscape anytime from spring through frost, I think now is a perfect time to incorporate this fall-colored plant in your autumn plantings and decorations if you haven’t already. Last week I saw Crossandra available in a few of the local nurseries and I think its marmalade color and demeanor (long-lasting blooms) are very fitting for the Halloween & Thanksgiving seasons. You could incorporate them in with the beautiful colors of mums or use them as an alternative to mums this year. If you wanted to plant a few in your landscape now, Crossandra probably could withstand a little more (distant) sunshine in October than it could during summer months. It would also be an ideal specimen plant to showcase in a pretty container on a doorstep or patio. Probably the best bonus with purchasing a “Fall Firecracker” now is that when the temperatures begin to drop consistently below 55 degrees, you can transplant or move your pots indoors to a bright window and enjoy the warmth of this blooming tropical all winter long.
As usual, when I begin to research and explore specifics about plants, new and familiar, I often find tidbits of interesting information and today’s post is no different. The reason Crossandra was given the common name Firecracker Plant is not because of its fiery color, but because its seed pods “explode” when they are ready to disperse. You may or may not recall from my former post that this is the same method the Dwarf Mexican Petunia disperses its seeds – and what do you know – although they look nothing alike, these two plants are indeed related!
I hope you find a special spot in your landscape or home to enjoy a few Fall Firecrackers this season.
Until next time,