MY FAVORITE PART OF SUMMER is not the heat, but the lush, flowering plants surrounding me that make the long, hot, humid days in Kentucky tolerable. One of my favorites is the tropical Crossandra (Crossandra infundibuliformis), also known as firecracker flower.
Crossandra has beautiful, shiny green leaves and most often orange or apricot-colored flowers. It blooms all summer, and its flowers are attractive to butterflies and dragonflies. Firecracker flower prefers full sun, but is surprisingly tolerant of part shade. It can be grown in the ground or a container as a summer annual, but also makes a great houseplant in a sunny window.
A slow grower, Crossandra only gets about 3 feet tall in its native region, so when grown as a summer annual or container plant, it rarely doubles in size. It prefers a moist, but well drained soil, and while it is suggested that it doesn’t like dry soil, I have found it to be fairly drought resistant if planted in the ground.
The heat and humidity of a typical Kentucky summer is exactly what Crossandra wants to flower and perform well. Plant it alone in a beautiful container or mix it in with other colorful annuals for a multicolored display. My preferred planting location for it is in the ground, mixed among my perennial flowers along with lots of lantana. After a long summer day, a beautiful wash of colors is just what I want to see as I sit on my patio and enjoy my garden.
SHELLY NOLD is a horticulturist and owner of The Plant Kingdom. Send stories and ideas to her at The Plant Kingdom, 4101 Westport Road, Louisville, KY 40207