If you want to attract a massive amount of bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, and other pollinators, then the Firecracker plant, aka Cuphea or Cigar plant, is a must-have! Learn 5 easy steps in Firecracker plant care and get growing!
Firecracker Plant Care – 5 Steps to Beautiful Flowers! (Pollinators Love This!)
1. Is Firecracker annual or perennial?
The first thing in successfully growing any plant is to find out if it’s a perennial or annual in your area.
For most of us, it’s an annual. If you live in USDA hardy zones of 9B-11, you’ve got yourself a new favorite perennial! Luckily it’s easy to gather seeds from this plant, though, so buy it once and replant it every year! Let’s talk about that next.
2. Can I start Firecracker plants from seed?
Firecracker plant care is pretty easy, as is starting this pollinator-loving plant from seed. Just follow the back of the seed packet, and you’re good to go.
I saw seeds within a week. Do use organic or natural seed starting mix, though, and cover your seed trays with a clear lid or Saran Wrap until you see a sprout.
Then place them near a sunny window (not recommended) or under a grow light for best results. They can also be started outside after your last estimated frost date.
It’s also easy to collect seeds from already-established flowers, so you’ll never have to rebuy a plant!
- Just clip off the stems that have the seedpods after they dry up at the end of summer. Place them in a paper bag or hang them upside down over a pan, and you’ll have plenty of seeds to sow in the spring!
- Just be sure to keep them in a cool, dry place over the winter, so they don’t start growing. Make sure it’s not too cold, though, or it may kill the seeds.
3. How to transplant Firecracker seedlings
You’ve successfully grown some plants from seed, the fear of frost is over, and it’s time for your babies to go outside. Now what?
Well, one of the most essential parts of transplanting any seedling outside is to make sure you’ve hardened them off. This means getting them used to the elements outdoors.
Growing them inside keeps them “soft,” so to speak, so they need to get used to the elements.
How to Harden off seedlings
- When it’s warm enough outside, take your seedlings and place them in the shade or very lightly sun-dappled area for a couple of hours.
- Do this daily, adding an hour or two each time.
- Each day, place them in an area with a bit more sun, this has to be gradual, or they’ll burn or wilt! (Remember to add the sun only according to their care. You won’t expose shade-loving plants to full sun just to “harden them off.”)
- Do this for at least 7-10 days until your seedlings are hardened off and used to the elements.
- You’ll want to watch for soil dryness as they will dry out quickly outside.
- You’ll also want to watch for seedlings in distress (wilting, burning, falling over) and bring them in immediately and water if needed.
- Also, watch out for animals, birds, or insects because your seedlings are very fragile right now.
Just watch them closely during the process and adjust their outdoor location accordingly if needed. Your seedling will tell you if it’s thriving or barely surviving!
Note: If you work during the day, consider a simple outdoor netting or mini greenhouse to place your seedlings in during the day. They may still get stressed or too warm, etc., but it will give them dappled sun and a little protection from the wind and other disturbances.
3. Firecracker plant care 101
So you have some beautiful seedlings or new plants that have been hardened off and are ready for them to flourish outside. And you’re ready to watch the butterflies and hummingbirds flock to them! How to best care for these pretty plants?
Firecracker plant care:
- Firecrackers love the sun and need the light to bloom, so place them in an area where they get at least 6 total hours a day. They would grow in partial shade, but you won’t get as many flowers.
- Water thoroughly, allowing the top of the soil to feel dry between waterings. Mature plants are drought-tolerant, so over-watering could be a death sentence.
- Firecrackers are frost-sensitive, so either cover them or bring them in when there is a threat of frost. They can also be brought in as a house plant during the winter months!
- All-purpose potting soil mix is fine for Firecracker plant care, but if you could add a little bit of perlite or sand for better draining, it would be happy.
- You can feed Cuphea diluted fertilizer every two weeks or so during the growing season, once a month in the winter.
- Plants can be propagated by clipping stem tip cuttings in the spring.
Firecracker plant care isn’t complex. Show this plant a little bit of this simple care, and you’ll have tons of beautiful blooms all season long! The hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies will thank you!
Fun Fact” Among all of the other names this plant is known by, it is also knows as the Coral (Fountain) plant!
4. Pests or problems of Firecracker plant?
As part of your Firecracker plant care or ANY plant care, really, please do NOT use pesticides, herbicides, or any other sort of chemical!
Chemicals completely ruin your gardens and honestly mess up the delicate ecosystem in your yard so, so very much. It throws things off balance and really makes for an ugly garden and yard in the long run.
Using chemicals not only destroys anything good, but it will also cause infestations and other problems you would never have had otherwise.
Please allow nature to take care of nature, and I promise you’ll be impressed.
That being said, the Firecracker plant rarely has any problems or pests as long as they are appropriately cared for. As with any plant, improper care invites pests and other issues.
Follow the Firecracker plant care 101 section, and you won’t have to worry about much with these pretty plants.
If these plants DO get any pests, they will usually be spider mites, thrips, and mealybugs. Allowing beneficial insects to thrive in your yard will usually keep these at bay, as will inviting birds into your area.
If I ever do have to intervene, I just very carefully “wash” the plant with diluted Palmolive water (as in lightly spraying or gently rubbing infected leaves). You still have to be very careful, as Palmolive will also kill any beneficial insect. So wildly spraying it is not a good idea.
I am cautious with this method so as not to interrupt my winning ecosystem in place. Also, make sure you watch for leaf burning.
5. Firecracker planting ideas
The Firecracker plant doesn’t get too big, so planting ideas are many.
It can be the star of the show in a large hanging basket or planter, or you can pair it with complementary or contrasting shapes and/or colors.
You could place this pollinator-loving plant in any flower garden that gets a lot of sun, and it would be delighted.
The Firecracker plant can grow as house plants, so if you plant it in a planter or basket, it can come in the house before your first frost. Firecracker plant care indoors is basically the same. Their humidity level needs are around 40% inside, so maybe just occasional spraying of water.
Firecracker plants get anywhere from 1-3′ tall and wide so just plant accordingly, depending on the look you want.
- If you want the color of the Firecracker flowers to be the star, try pairing with blue flowers, or flowers that have blue in them. If you want to warm the orangey-red flower, add yellow flowers near it. To keep it cool and bold, add white.
- If you want colors that will partner with the color of the Firecracker plant, then try lime green (as in Zinnias), yellow, coral and burgundy.
Be creative or add any place that suits you. Either way, you absolutely can not go wrong with adding not only beauty to your area but benefits for our precious pollinators!
I hope I answered any Firecracker plant care question you may have had! If there is something I didn’t cover, please leave a comment below so I can reply! Thank you! 🙂
Good info! Question: my crackers eventually turn gray and dead looking. Should I trim these branches off or would that harm the plant? Thanks
Christine Becker says
Hello and thank you so much! I notice the plants I have on my deck are doing the same thing, yet the plant in the flower bed isn’t. It’s been a very hot summer here so I think my deck is just too hot this year. You could trim the branches if you’d like, it wouldn’t be harmful. Here the plants are annuals, though, so I let them go. They seed very easy and I’m grabbing some seeds for next year!
Pat Nehring says
I ordered my firecracker online which came as a very small sprig. Now months later it looks scraggly. Can I trim it back so hopefully it’ll get bushier?
Christine Becker says
Yes for sure! Prune it in the spring before the plant begins to bloom. If you are in a gardening zone (like me!) where you get a true winter, you may see seeds that managed to live through the winter come up as new plants. Or, hopefully you saved some seeds!
My firecracker plant lays flat on the ground. It doesn’t stand erect and then cascade. I’m wondering do I have it planted too deep?
Christine Becker says
It could be? If you started from seed, it shouldn’t be a problem, but if you bought it and planted it below or above the original planting “line,” the plant may not flourish. I’m assuming you’ve already ruled out being over or under-watered? Maybe this particular kind grows differently? Have you checked the specifics?