Every Blooming Thing: Orange Marmalade Firecracker

Wanting more color in her garden, Red Bluff Garden Club member Charlotte Rodriguez planted the Orange Marmalade variety Crossandra infundibuliformis, or firecracker plant.


Looking around my garden I realized I wanted more color! With isolation time we’ve accomplished many projects that were on the back burner, but as time has moved on, I really needed more mood-boosting, cheerful color.  

With hot temperatures up to three digits, flowering plants are yelling “crazy gardener.” In support of my planting craze, I’ve only lost one plant (so far) due to a too sunny location. So, my strategy changed to locating plants in bright shade areas, next to a protective overhanging plant or the fence. If you want to bring more colorful plants to your garden, it’s possible.

Off to a nursery, without the husband, and several plants later…  I discovered “Orange Marmalade,” Crossandra infundibuliformis, a beautiful, tropical looking plant, firecracker plant, among the impatients, coreopsis, scaevola and Angelonia.  Advertised as rare, I agreed I hadn’t noticed C. infundibuliformis before.

I have three firecracker plants with red tubular blooms; of the same family, Acanthaceae; however, this particular firecracker plant is a firecracker flowering plant. The C. infundibuliformis has bright shiny, dark green leaves with attractive orange flowers on the end of spikes. Think tropical. These four-sided spikes remind me of the spikes of hops or the spikes of ornamental oregano. Interesting features for an already intriguing plant. 

The flowering firecracker is native to Southern India and Sri Lanka. In 2017 it was awarded Royal Horticultural Society’s “Award of Garden Merit.” High kudos. In its native countries, the flowering firecracker blooms are combined with jasmine blooms for a garland to be placed in temples, and/or used as hair decorations. 

 If grown in a planter as mine is, it likes fast-draining rich soil; however, if planted in ground, you will need to amend the soil with good nutrients and make sure the hole has good drainage. Although firecracker flowers are heat-tolerant, they are not drought tolerant. So, the soil needs to be moist, but not soggy. This is actually good for me, because I tend to water too well! When the flowers fall off, the shafts will dry up to be replaced with new shafts and flowers.   

Caring for this tropical plant includes enriching fertilizer every couple of weeks. Hope I remember this tip.

This winter I may have bring this beauty indoors. We clearly will be above 55 degrees for a few more months, but winter nighttime temperatures may be a little low. This lovely plant would survive for years in its native land, however, in our environment the plant is treated as an “annual.” In order to help the flowering firecracker to survive indoors, I will need to repot in a larger planter with new potting soil. My other firecracker plants have survived a few years outside and are not this sensitive. I’m hoping this plant will get tough and be a survivor also.

Now if you’re like most gardeners, you are wondering how can I propagate this plant? IF, it survives the winter, take cuttings in early spring, dunk cutting in root boost of some sort, and plant directly in “seed-starting” soil. After new growth appears, you can plant the new plants in its permanent site or planter.

Recently, I read this statement: “I feel most of my problems could be solved with a gift certificate to garden center.”  It certainly isn’t that simple, but gardening can be very uplifting.

Check our Thursday articles for the date of our meetings to begin. We anxiously look forward to our meetings when they can be done safely.


The Red Bluff Garden Club is affiliated with the Cascade District Garden Club; California Garden Clubs, Inc; Pacific Region Garden Clubs and Natural Garden Clubs Inc. 


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