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Crossandra flower

Crossandra – an explosively beautiful plant

By Ralph E. Mitchell

A common, but often underutilized plant, crossandra is an ideal companion for any landscape that offers part-sun and part-shade conditions.  This native to India and Sri Lanka is a perennial evergreen shrub that provides a stunning combination of glossy green leaves and bright orange flowers that few plants can offer.  Sometimes called “firecracker flowers” (I will tell you why at the end of the article), crossandra can be a true “right plant in the right place.”

Growing to about two to three feet tall and wide,  crossandra is commonly found with salmon flowers although there are varieties with orange, yellow, red and peach-colored blossoms.  The flowers are interesting in their own right as they are tubular in nature and end in five-lobed, fan-shaped petals that overlap to form the flowerhead.  The petals are very delicate and can be damaged by a heavy rain.  However, new flowers are always developing to replace the older, worn-out individuals within the cluster.  Crossandra have the ability to flower best from spring through fall.  Fully spent flowers can be pinched out to encourage new growth and flowers.

These  fascinating flowers are framed by a background of attractive, glossy green leaves up to five inches long.  Crossandra cultivars include some new ones such as ‘Florida Sunset’ – featuring a mango-orange flower color, and ‘Orange Marmalade’ – displaying flowers with a bright, pure shade of orange.

As mentioned, this tropical perennial likes a balance of sun and shade.  Crossandra can take up to four hours of full sun, but will benefit from some shade the rest of the day.  Morning sun and afternoon part-shade would be ideal.   This plant loves heat and humidity as well as well-drained organic soil – keep the soil moist, but never soggy.    This is one very versatile plant as crossandra are frequently brought inside to serve as flowering houseplants.  As a potted or container plant, if given sufficient light (even artificial light) and humidity, crossandra will grow well indoors.

Now why is the crossandra also called the “firecracker flower”?  It is all about the seeds!  Ripe seed pods will explode open under the influence of rain or just plain high humidity.  And speaking of propagation, crossandra can best be grown from rooted cuttings or from seeds.

Besides being a friend to pollinators such as butterflies,  crossandra is another Florida-Friendly Landscaping ™ approved plant very suitable to many niches found in your garden.  For more information on all types of FFL plants recommended for our area, please call our Master Gardener volunteers on the Plant Lifeline on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 1 to 4 pm at 764-4340 for gardening help and insight into their role as an Extension volunteer.  Don’t forget to visit our other County Plant Clinics in the area.  Please check this link for a complete list of site locations, dates and times – http://blogs.ifas.ufl.edu/charlotteco/files/2018/01/Plant-Clinics-Schedule.pdf .

Resources:
UF/IFAS Gardening Solutions – Crossandra. (2018)
Lemke, C. (2000) Crossandra infundibuliformis – Firecracker Flower.  Department of Botany and Microbiology, University of Oklahoma
Firecracker Plant. https://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/databases/interiorscape/Crossandra_infundibulif.html
Wikipedia (2018) Crossandra infundibuliformis. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crossandra_infundibuliformis
NC State University (2018) https://plants.ces.ncsu.edu/plants/all/crossandra-infundibuliformis/
Kauffman,  M. (2017) Crossandra – A bit of brilliant color – Victoria County Master Gardener. Texas A&M AgriLife Extension – Victoria County
The Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ Guide to Plant Selection & Landscape Design (2010) The University of Florida Extension Services, IFAS.

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