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”, crossandra can be a true candidate for the “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. Basically, featuring different shades of orange, crossandra cultivars include ones such as ‘Florida Sunset’ – featuring a mango-orange flower color, and ‘Orange Marmalade’ – displaying flowers with a bright, pure shade of orange. There are also a couple of yellow/orange cultivars – ‘Florida Sunrise’ and ‘Lutea’ – which are very different and something to look for as you mix and match orange and yellow in the landscape. Another cultivar to check out is ‘Mona Wallhead’ noted for its salmon-pink flowers. A reddish variety called ‘Nile Queen’ rounds out the color palette with a distinctly reddish-orange bloom.
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.
The crossandra is also called the “firecracker flower” as its 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. Otherwise, find crossandra at any local garden center. Specific cultivars are often available from on-line mail-order sources.
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, you can also call the Master Gardener Volunteer Helpdesk 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. Ralph E. Mitchell is the Director/Horticulture Agent for UF/IFAS Extension – Charlotte County. He can be reached at 941-764-4344 or email@example.com.
UF/IFAS Gardening Solutions – Crossandra. (2020)
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 (2022) 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.
Almost Eden – 2022 – https://www.almostedenplants.com/shopping/
The National Gardening Association – 2022 – Plants Database – Red Crossandra (Crossandra ‘Nile Queen’)