Plant of the Week

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Firecracker fern (Russelia equisetiformis)

Want firecrackers for your hummingbirds and textural addition even in part shade spots?

Although often evergreen, perennial firecracker fern may freeze to the ground in harsh winters. But this reliable drought-tough plant returns quickly.

It produces new growth from the roots and spreads to about 3’ wide. It’s listed as getting four feet tall, but the lazy, drooping growth habit will make it seem much shorter. The stems are not strong enough to support their length, so they droop over, creating a lovely, cascading effect that is well suited for raised beds and other overhanging spaces.

When young, the plants have small, almost round leaves tucked in tightly along the thin green stems. As the plant matures, these leaves become insignificant, most of them dropping off, leaving the stem to conduct photosynthesis and feed the plant.

Covered in bright pink to deep red flowers all summer long, firecracker fern makes a stunning addition to any garden, especially when shown off next to highly contrasting colors, like our beautiful native limestone blocks, often used to build retaining walls and raised beds.

It’s covered in blooms from late spring through summer, and the tubular red flowers are well-loved by hummingbirds.

Shearing back the stems once flowers are spent will encourage more blooming, and a heavier shearing in late winter, back to about six inches or all the way to the ground if there was complete winter dieback, will thoroughly reinvigorate this aggressive grower.



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