Firespikes are Blooming!

 

hummingbird and firespike

Photo Credit: Candy Butler, Floridata.com

Looking to add something to brighten your landscape this autumn?   Firespike (Odontonema strictum) is a prolific fall bloomer with red tubular flowers that are very popular with hummingbirds and butterflies.  Its glossy dark green leaves make an attractive large plant that will grow quite well in moderate shade to full sunlight.  In frost-free areas firespike grows as an evergreen semi-woody shrub, spreading by underground sprouts and enlarging to form a thicket.  In zones 8 and 9 it usually dies back to the ground in winter and resprouts in spring, producing strikingly beautiful 9-12 inch panicles of crimson flowers beginning at the end of summer and lasting into the winter each year.  Firespike is native to open, semi-forested areas of Central America.  It has escaped cultivation and become established in disturbed hammocks throughout peninsular Florida, but hasn’t presented an invasive plant problem.  Here in the Panhandle, firespike will remain a tender perennial for most locations. It can be grown on a wide range of moderately fertile, sandy soils and is quite drought tolerant.  Firespike may be best utilized in the landscape as a mass planting. Plants can be spaced about 2 feet apart to fill in the area quickly. It is one of only a few flowering plants that give good, red color in a partially shaded site. The lovely flowers make firespike an excellent candidate for the cutting garden and is a “must-have” for southern butterfly and hummingbird gardens.  Additional plants can be propagated from firespike by division or cuttings.  However, white-tailed deer love firespike too, and will eat the leaves, so be prepared to fence it off from “Bambi” if they are a problem in your neighborhood.

 

3 Comments on “Firespikes are Blooming!

  1. Hello Sheila:
    Do I need to cover our Firespikes in winter…or will they simply die back in cold/freeze snaps and return the following summer undaunted?

    • If you live in Florida they will return fine with no protection. Do leave the old stalks all winter and only remove them in the spring after the last frost. Additional mulch is helpful if you live in the far north end of a Panhandle county. You will see growth reappear sooner in the spring.

  2. Can they be grown in a container? Would you use potting mix, or maybe cut it with sandy soil?
    Thanks,
    Martha

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *