Daily Flower Candy: Russelia equisetiformis

Wherever I wandered in Sicily there they were, the coral-spangled pony-tails of Russelia equisetiformis, cascading from the brims of elegant terracotta pots. I had admired this Central Amercian sub-shrub before, in the grounds of a monastery in Lebanon, where it tumbled over marigolds to reach the edge of a sandstone wall.

Russelia equisetiformis, LebanonCommonly known as coral fountain or firecracker plant, this plant’s delicate appearance belies its toughness. Russelia equisetiformis tolerates dry winds, high temperatures and any kind of soil provided it is well drained. Regular watering keeps the foliage looking its best and guarantees a constant succession of new stems. Plants are evergreen and will resprout from the base if frozen, but to flower well warm sunshine is needed. The Latin name ‘equisetiformis‘ is a nod to the plant’s resemblance to a horse’s tail, but the plant’s fine, feathery form also reminds me of an asparagus fern. The contrast of the lime-green foliage with the tubular coral-orange flowers is almost festive.

Knowing now that Russelia equisetiformis will tolerate cold, albeit not damp cold, I am determined to track it down for our coastal garden next summer. I have just the spot for it, in sharply drained soil at the edge of a raised bed, where it can cascade to its heart’s content.

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17 thoughts on “Daily Flower Candy: Russelia equisetiformis

  1. Indeed a wonderful plant I saw one recently in the temperate house at Wisley…wish I had the right climate for one as they are stunning the way they tumble down like a curtain. I love the terracotta urns too!

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  2. It do love this flowing plant! I am not sure it will not tolerate cold damp…it does very well in Houston and we have very cold damp winters and a few hard freezes. There is a version with pale yellow flowers that is really stunning.

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  3. Very easy to propagate, just let it touch the ground and it goes further from mother plant. I cut mine to the ground this winter, now it is re-sprouting with fresh new growth.

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    1. Goodness. No pressure then! I would say that I have a very particular type of coastal garden – much more sheltered than many – and therefore I can get away with a lot of plants that might suffer in a more exposed location. Delighted you are finding some ideas to inspire you and hope that continues!

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  4. For this first year I grew a lot of annuals for ‘a good show’ but am now clearing the ground – it’s on a BIG slope with dry stone walls so Russelia Equisetiformis can also cascade to heart’s content here in Welsh New Quay. Mirabilis Jalapa will be joining us. ‘In Praise of Foliage’ was classical.

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  5. i was quite interested that you wrote you know it can tolerate cold. The lowest temp ive seen it stated that it will go is -6C, most places say its about -3C.
    I live near you, in herne bay, and it usually gets to minus 4 in winter, sometime lower, are you sure it will be ok?…its a bit of a gamble as from jungleseed/jungleplant it costs £25 after postage.
    …btw you can buy it elsewhere much cheaper.

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    1. Well, you never can be quite sure with these things Tim, it’s all about the microclimate you have in your garden. Sometimes by the sea we get away with these things! I agree £25 sounds like a lot to risk if you are experimenting, but often a bigger, more established plant (which Jungle Seeds tend to supply) will stand a better change of survival than a small one. Let me know if you give Russelia a try and how you get on with it.

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      1. Well, im tempted, quite a few zone 9 plants have been ok here for a number of years. Fibrex also has the white/pale yellow variety. Russelia is on my hitlist along with a few others…. to quote amazon, if you like Russelia equisetiformis, you may also like Cuphea micropetala and Justicia rizzinii. Similar plants to russelia in some ways and available at hillhouse nursery, im still undecided though. I will probably also order a few things from beth chatto soon, as youre quite closeby if you wanted something from there or hillhouse we could split the delivery costs.

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