The crossandra is brightly colored. It blooms almost continuously. It has one of horticulture’s few truly orange blooms. It likes the shade, but it likes some sun too. And it's so dang easy to grow!
So why do so few people grow it?
The answer may simply be that not many people know about it. Or maybe because it’s often mislabeled a “firecracker” plant - unfortunately lots of plants are called firecrackers.
Or it could be because of its tongue-twisting botanical name … Crossandra infundibuliformis. I’ll just call it crossandra.
It’s a tropical evergreen shrub native to Asia and Africa which grows to about two feet tall and wide. In mild and warm weather, it continuously sends spear-shaped spikes up above the glossy, deep-green foliage. Showy blooms emerge from the spears, starting at the bottom and moving to the top, creating horizontal stacks of petals. Bright orange is the most common color.
To be honest, though, it may not be more popular because many people really want it to be an evergreen shrub, but it can look awful after a hard freeze. As a result, folks will often discard damaged plants, not realizing that they will come back from the roots.
In frost-free areas like South Texas or Florida, the crossandra is often planted because it mixes well with other shade-loving perennials. They roll with the punches when it comes to freezing, and if you look at it as an annual, you won’t be disappointed if a freeze does ravage it.
Although we’re nearly in mid-June, give it a try right now - you could have 5-6 months of blooms until the first freeze. In fact, very few in our area were lost last year because of our mild winter.
When it comes to feeding, treat it like a perennial. I love slow-release blooming plant foods for that. We can also enjoy crossandras in containers here in Texas, and you can plant them in nearly anything, from potting soil to rose soil. They really are that easy!
PHOTO: James Steakley / CC