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Mr. Smarty Plants - Firecracker plants not growing in Ft. Worth

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Wednesday - June 09, 2010

From: Fort Worth, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Non-Natives, Diseases and Disorders
Title: Firecracker plants not growing in Ft. Worth
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I live in Fort Worth, TX and last fall planted several firecracker plants. It's now June and they're not growing. How can I tell if they are still alive?

ANSWER:

The first thing we have to do is figure out what plant we are dealing with. The common names, as opposed to the scientific names, often cause confusion when questions are asked. And sometimes we are asked about plant names we do not recognize because they are "trade names," probably thought up by the plant retailer to make the plant more sellable. The common name "firecracker plant" resulted in no hits on our Native Plant Database.

We then searched on the Internet; first we got this Floridata website  Russellia equisetiformis. This apparently is usually referred to as Coral Plant, is native to Mexico and hardy in USDA Zones 9 to 12.

Howstuffworks calls Cuphea ignea, also native to Mexico, Firecracker Plant and refers to it as an annual or tender perennial, which makes a good house plant.

Gardening Central had an article about Firecracker Plant , in which the scientific name was never given. It also was called an annual, hardy in USDA Hardiness Zones 9 to 11.

This University of Arkansas Horticulture article Cuphea ignea refers to it as a semi-woody plant, also called cigar plant.

Another Floridata article, this one titled Cuphea ignea says it is a sub-shrub hardy in Zones 10-12.

So, we still don't know which one you have, but they all have two things in common: They are non-native to North America and to Texas and they are hardy from USDA Hardiness Zones 9 to 12 or 10 to 12. Fort Worth seems to be in Zone 7b, which means it was too cold for those plants to over-winter outside. Some of them might have had their roots survive and come back out this Spring. However, North Texas had a really rough winter, with lots of ice, sudden freezes and extended cold periods. Our feeling is that if they have not begun to emerge from the roots by now, they are probably not going to. If you should decide you want to replant you need either to put them in pots and bring them into a sheltered spot in the Winter, or cover the roots with mulch and the whole plant with fabric if extreme cold is predicted, or try a plant native to your area that is more accustomed to Texas climates, soils and rainfall.

Pictures of Russellia equisetiformis from Google

Pictures of Cuphea ignea from Google. 

 

 

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