Growing Firecracker Flowers: How To Care For Crossandra

Crossandra (kross-AN-druh) is a tropical, evergreen shrub belonging to the genus Crossandra and the Acanthaceae family, more commonly known as the Acanthus family.

The genus Crossandra came from the Greek word “Kross,” meaning fringe or tassels, and the feminine Greek word “andra,” hence the meaning “having a fringed stamen or fringed anthers.”

Growing Charming CrossandraPin

This tropical subshrub is native to Africa, Asia, Madagascar, Malaya, South India, Sri Lanka, and Thailand, favoring sub-tropical or monsoonal and tropical conditions. 

Crossandra is a real show-stopper flowering plant famous for its brightly-colored fan-shaped flowers with glossy, dark green lance-shaped leaves.

Crossandra is also known in several common names, including:

  • Crossandra
  • Firecracker Flower
  • Kanakambaram Flower

The common name Firecracker flower isn’t derived from the color of the flowers. It’s a reference instead to the plant’s seed pods that develop after the flower has dried up and explodes when near rainfall or high humidity. 

The other common name Kanakambara comes from the Malayalam language, which means ‘golden-hued’ flower. Also, the Latin epithet infundibuliformis translates to funnel or trumpet shaped.

This evergreen subshrub is widely cultivated as a houseplant and has over 54 recognized species names, including:

  • Crossandra albolineata
  • Crossandra baccarinii 
  • Crossandra cinnabarina
  • Crossandra douillotii
  • Crossandra flava
  • Crossandra grandidieri
  • Crossandra horrida
  • Crossandra infundibuliformis
  • Crossandra leucodonta
  • Crossandra nilotica
  • Crossandra pungens
  • Crossandra rupestris
  • Crossandra spinosa
  • Crossandra tridentata
  • Crossandra vestita

One of the most popular among all Crossandra species is the Crossandra infundibuliformis, widely cultivated for its brightly colored flowers.

Other examples of Crossandra cultivars or varieties are:

  • Florida Sunset – orange flowers
  • Lutea – golden flowers
  • Mona Wallhead – salmon-pink flowers
  • Orange Marmalade – bright-orange flowers

In addition, Crossandra is given the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit due to its lovely vividly-colored blooms and easy-to-care-for.

 Quick Facts On Crossandra

  • Family: Acanthaceae
  • Light: Partial shade; Bright, indirect sunlight
  • Temperature:  70° to 75° degrees Fahrenheit
  • Water: Moderate watering; Moist, well-drained soil
  • Fertilizer: Diluted Half-strength Balanced Fertilizer
  • Propagation: Through seeds or Stem cuttings 
  • Common Problems: Scales, White flies, Thrips

Crossandra Care

How Big Does Crossandra Grow?

Crossandra is a moderate to fast grower erect, evergreen shrub, reaching 1′ to 3′ feet tall and 1′ to 2′ feet wide. 

It usually takes about 5 to 10 years for Crossandra plants to reach maturity.

 When Does Crossandra Flower? Are The Flowers Fragrant?

Crossandra plants are prized for their show-stopper flowers, featuring showy, brightly-colored salver-shaped flowers with 3 to 5 asymmetrical petals that overlap each other. Each flower also has a throat or center that is red or yellow. 

Its flowers come in a variety of colors, including:

  • Orange
  • Yellow
  • Salmon
  • Apricot
  • Coral
  • Peachy Pink
  • Pink
  • Red/Burgundy
  • Turquoise

The cluster of frilly flowers sits atop the erect, green stem, creating a stunning, compact display of colors. 

In addition, Crossandra features glossy and waxy textured dark green lance-shaped leaves whorled or paired in an arrangement. The leaves commonly reach 3″ to 6″ inches long and 1″ to 3″ inches wide.

You may witness the Crossandra plants blossom from spring to autumn (April to October), with their foliage appearing throughout the year. Although, the Crossandra plants bloom with no significant fragrance.

What Are The Lighting Needs And Temperature Requirements?

Crossandra is a tropical evergreen shrub, meaning it is cold-sensitive but is heat-tolerant.

It thrives in bright, indirect sunlight or partial-shaded locations with direct sunlight for 2 to 6 hours but only part of the day.

If planted indoors, it’s best to place the Crossandra in a sunny south or west-facing window or under bright artificial light. 

The ideal temperature for Crossandra plants ranges from 70° to 75° degrees Fahrenheit. And since they are sensitive to cold temperatures, they don’t tolerate below 55° degrees Fahrenheit, as their leaves may get injured. 

In addition, Crossandra plants like high humidity and grows best in hardiness zones 10 to 11 (USDA).

How And When To Water And Fertilize Crossandra?

Crossandra plants are known for being heat-tolerance but prone to drought. Hence they only need moderate watering. 

Remember that this tropical subshrub dislikes cold, so ensure to only use water, as using cold water may shock the roots and result in the plant dying. 

Water your Crossandra plants frequently, keeping the soil moist but not soggy during the growing season, and never allowing the soil to dry out. During winter, cut back the watering to once a week.

If you’re using a balanced fertilizer for your Crossandra, only apply it once every month during the spring and summer, and apply it every eight weeks in the autumn and winter. 

If you’re using diluted to half-strength balanced fertilizer, apply it every two weeks during the growing season, and cut back once every month for outdoor-grown Crossandra.

What Is The Best Soil For Crossandra, And When Should You Transplant?

Rich, well-drained soil amended with peat, perlite, compost, or other organic matters is ideal for planting your Crossandra outdoors.

Crossandra likes soil conditions with chalk, loam, clay, or sand. It also prefers slightly acidic soil with pH levels between 5.8 to 6.5.

In addition, Crossandra plants are best repotted in spring, but make sure to use a well-drained, standard potting mix.

Does Crossandra Need Special Grooming Or Maintenance?

You may prune your Crossandra plants during spring before its active growing season to encourage new growth and deadhead your Crossandra during summer to increase new blooms and maintain its tidy look.

Moreover, cutting back the plant’s spikes will reduce the seed production, decreasing its spread.

How To Propagate Kanakambaram Flower?

Kanakambaram flowers can be propagated using two main methods, such as:

  • Seeds
  • Stem cuttings

For seed propagation, remember to do the following steps:

  • Start sowing seeds indoors in late winter or early spring.
  • Broadcast the seeds sown in a tray filled with seed-starting mix and lightly cover them with a sprinkling of soil.
  • Maintain warm temperatures using a heat mat for the best germination.
  • Mist regularly using a spray bottle to keep the soil moist.
  • Blooms will appear after four months. Divide the new plants and plant them when the temperatures reach 55° degrees Fahrenheit or higher. 

For propagation through stem cuttings, ensure to do it early in the growing season.

Here are the following steps:

  • First, take stem cuttings using a sharp garden shear and ensure to cut below the node. 
  • Then fill your selected container or pot with a seed-starter mix, and ensure the container has excellent drainage.
  • Next is to dip the end of the stem cutting into a rooting hormone powder.
  • Plant the dipped stem cutting in the soil, watering it accordingly.
  • Use a plant propagation mat to provide bottom heat, and don’t forget to mist the soil regularly until a new plant emerges.
  • Move the newly-grown plant once sprouted to its permanent location.

Firecracker Flower Pests And Disease Problems

Firecracker flowers are generally infestation and disease-free plants but may occasionally be targets of the following pests:

  • Aphids
  • Mealy bugs
  • Scales
  • Spider mites
  • Thrips
  • White flies

Keep a lookout for signs of infestation, such as visible insects, web-like structures, or white powdery clumps on leaves. 

As soon as you see symptoms, treat the infected plants by spraying them with pesticide or blast them first with a garden hose.

Uses Of Firecracker Flower

Firecracker flowers are dazzling flowering plants, making them an excellent container plant or houseplant.

Its brightly-colored blooms also provide a burst of colors to garden beds, patios, low borders, hardscapes, and walkways. 

In addition, firecracker flowers are often planted around temples for landscape decoration.

In Sri Lanka and India, blooms of firecracker flowers are often incorporated with jasmine to beautify women’s hair.