Firecracker Plant is a quick-growing plant, also known as the cigar flower. It can reach its mature height in a single year, forming a bushy small shrub.
From early summer to late fall, the flowers are born in profusion among narrow, smooth, 2-in/5-cm-long leaves, which are up to V2in/13mm wide. The flowers grow singly in the axils of the leaves, and each flower, which lacks petals, consists of a red tubular calyx lin/2.5cm long, with a white and purple mouth. It takes only a little imagination to see the resemblance to a cigar or cigarette with ash at the tip.
Another good species for growing indoors is Cuphea hyssopifolia elfin herb or false heather. This slightly larger, the shrubby plant has small trumpet-shaped flowers, with a green tube and petals of pink, white, or most commonly, pale lilac with deeper mauve veining. Lack of light will make the leaves appear dull. Move the plant to a brighter position, where leaf edges will redden.
Red spider mites and aphids may attack this plant; check regularly for signs of infestation. Good drainage is essential; the plant will rot at the base of the soil is too wet. Allow it to dry out before watering again. Leaves will become dry and fall if the plant is kept in a cool, drafty place.
FACT FILE Firecracker Plant
ORIGIN Mexico, Jamaica.
POTTING MIX Soil-based
REPOTTING In spring and again in summer if necessary, up to a maximum pot size .of 10in/25cm.
PROPAGATION Take 2-3-in/5-8-cm-long stem cuttings in summer or early fall. Sow seeds in early spring.
KEEPING PLANTS Cut back stems by two-thirds in late winter to encourage new, flower-bearing growth. The plant is not long-lasting; it becomes straggly as it ages. Discard it after about 2 years and replace it with a new plant raised from a cutting or seed.
PLANT CARE Firecracker Plant
- Bright light with some direct sunlight.
- Minimum winter temperature of 50°F/10°C, with normal room temperature at other times.
- Do not let the soil become dry in summer; water more sparingly in winter.
- Apply a high potash liquid fertilizer every 2 weeks between spring and fall.