The Russelia equisetiformis, coral plant, Coralblow, fountain plant or firecracker plant is a native plant to Mexico that blooms year round. When you see this plant, you’ll notice that the bright red flowers resemble firecrackers. the firecracker plant is hardy to grow outdoors in the U.S. Department of Agriculture zones 9 and 10. However, even if you live in zones below 9, you can still grow this plant. When the weather begins to cool, take the potted plant indoors for continual showcase of flowers.
The Russelia equisetiformis draws bees, birds, butterflies and hummingbirds, so plant several of these plants in your yard. For best growing conditions, make sure that your plant receives at least 4 hours of direct sunlight each. They prefer the daytime temperatures to remain around 68° to 72° Fahrenheit. When nighttime comes, they want the temperature to cool down to hours, they like temperatures of 50° to 55°Fahrenheit. If you want your plant to bloom throughout the year, these maintaining these conditions is important.
Prepare the Pots or Planter
Prepare the pots, hanging baskets or other container that you want to grow your Russelia equisetiformis. Find a pot that is at least two sizes larger than the original pot. If it is growing in a 4-inch container, repot it into a 6-inch one. No matter what kind of container you choose, make sure there are drainage holes at the bottom to allow the excess water to drain away.
Cover the drainage holes with small rocks, packing peanuts or you can even use a paper coffee filter. If your container is really large, cover the bottom with a screen. Add about an inch of potting soil into the bottom of the pot.
Insert the rootball in the center of the planting hole. Begin filling in the hole around the rootball with the amended soil. As you fill the hole, gently firm the soil with your hands to help remove air pockets.
Carefully remove the Russelia equisetiformis from its container, trying not to break the rootball or the stems of the plant. When you put the rootball into the pot, there should be a 1/2 inch of space between the top of the rootball and the rim of the pot. You may have to adjust the soil level at the bottom. Center the rootball in the middle of the pot. Fill in around the rootball with potting soil. Keep the planting depth the same as it was originally growing.
Bang the pot down on the tabletop several times to settle the soil and collapse air pickets. With your hands, firm the soil in place. Be careful when banging the pot, especially if it is a clay pot, because they break easily.
When planting Russelia equisetiformis in the ground, til or dig yo the ground. Amend the soil with 2 inches of organic compost. As you work this into the soil, remove any rocks, sticks or other debris that you find. You can also add a little well-rotted manure to the soil as well.
Dig a hole in the soil that is twice the diameter and width of the rootball. Scuff the sides of the hole with the edge of your spade to allow the roots an easier way to penetrate beyond the prepared hole. Fill in the hole with amended soil until it is 2/3 full. The soil beneath the rootball will settle when you water so it will be level with the ground. insert the rootball in the center of the planting hole. Backfill with amended soil and then firm the soil in place with your hands. Space each planting hole 24 to 48 inches apart.
Water the Russelia equisetiformis thoroughly. Provide water throughout the season to keep the soil evenly moist. For proper maintenance of plants growing in the soil, give them an inch of water each week, unless your area has had sufficient rainfall.
Feed your Russelia equisetiformis with an all-purpose fertilizer every two weeks year round. This plant blooms continually, so find a fertilizer that has a higher phosphorous content. Always read and follow label directions for proper application.
Take Them Indoors
When the outdoor temperatures cool below 50° Fahrenheit, it is time to bring your Russelia equisetiformis indoors to a warm room. Place the plant in a south-facing window for maximum sun exposure. You can also place your plant under grow lights if you don’t have a bright, sunny window.
According to the Missouri Botanical Garden website, this plant may continue to bloom through the winter months. They recommend that if you don’t have room for this plant indoors, or you’d rather have it enter dormancy, you can cut off the stems, almost down to the ground. Leave a1 or 2 inches of the stems above ground level. Take it down to the basement, placing it in a cool, dry and dark location.
Next spring, prune the overwintered Russelia equisetiformis back or cut it down to soil level. Take the plant outdoors when there is no danger of frost in your area.
Plant of the Week: Russelia equisetiformis
Dave’s Garden: Firecracker Plant
Missouri Botanical Garden: Russelia equisetiformis