Red is the New Black

Mark Peterson

The story goes that John Fanick of Fanick’s Nursery, San Antonio’s oldest nursery, once said, “You can sell any plant in San Antonio as long as it’s red.”

In that spirit, firecracker plant is a drought-tough perennial every local gardener should know about. Firecracker plant (Russelia equisetiformis) is a low-mounding perennial with long, fine leaves that are covered with scarlet tubular flowers that attract both butterflies and hummingbirds.

Firecracker plant does well in either sun or part shade and has little special needs except for a deep watering every now and then after an establishment period of five to eight weeks. For those who prefer their plants on the self-sustaining side, firecracker plant requires pruning only once in the spring and once mid-summer. Plants like this one leave lots of time for more important activities.

This is one of my favorite red-flowered perennials, and along with firebush and scarlet sage should be mandatory in all San Antonio gardens.

After a hot summer of mowing semi-dormant grass, wouldn’t it be nicer to remove all the water-wasting grass and replace it with brightly colored perennials that only need to be pruned and watered twice a year? Think about it!

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