Firespike is a perennial that is particularly showy, bearing upright panicles of vivid red flowers. In warmer regions, the flowers appear almost year-round.
It is grown as a container plant in cooler regions, where it can be brought indoors during the cooler months.
Firespike is native to the southern regions of North America and is a tropical plant.
This perennial is now naturalized in all parts of South America and is considered invasive in certain regions. Firespike is, however, one of the more attractive species that are categorized as invasive.
|Scientific name||Odontonema strictum|
|Height||8 feet ( 2 m)|
|Width||8 feet (2 m)|
|USDA Plant Hardiness Zone||USDA Zones 8 to 11|
|Native to||Tropics, Southern states in North America|
|Blooming season||Late Summer, fall and winter|
|Plant specific features||Winter flowering. Low care|
How to Plant and Grow a Firespike Bush
Where to Plant
If you need to fill a space in a large flower bed, then the firespike is a good choice. It will fill the space, but also add heaps of vivid red color that will last right through the winter months.
The sunnier the planting position, the more blooms you will have on your firespike plants. Although they will still thrive in partial shade, flower production will be less.
Firespikes grow vigorously; they need room to spread, especially if you want to cover a wall, or fence, or create a screen with the plants.
When to Plant
Ideally, plant the firespike in the Spring. At this time, the plant is producing plenty of new, vigorous growth.
The flowering period, once it commences in mid-Summer, will continue into the winter, providing the plant is not subject to frosts. It is quite possible that flowering will continue all year long.
Firespike Shrubs Care and Maintenance
You will find that firespikes are easy plants! Not fussy about soil type, or pH levels (acid or alkaline). But, for optimum results and the healthiest of plants, plant it in soil that is rich and most importantly, well-draining.
If you have heavy or sandy soil, you can amend it with a soil conditioner and consider adding compost to the soil. This will increase flower production and improve the health of the firespike.
Firespike, or Odontonema strictum likes to have plenty of water. It is also known as the crocodile fern and hails from the Tropics.
Importantly, watering should be consistent. Don’t allow the plant’s roots to dry out and then overwater it. Keep watering it regularly, so that the soil stays moist.
During dry spells, especially in hot weather, the firespike will wilt if you don’t give it sufficient irrigation. If this happens, just provide it with a lot of water, and it should recover fairly quickly. A firespike is a tolerant and robust plant!
In order to conserve moisture around the roots of the plant, you can apply mulch. This will also stop the soil from drying out too quickly and is especially effective if the firespike is growing in a container.
Take care that the mulch, if it is an organic mulch, doesn’t come into contact with the stem of the firespike or there is a risk that the plant will rot.
You don’t need to apply fertilizer to a firespike in order to keep it blooming and healthy, provided you give it appropriate growing conditions.
However, an application in the Spring of a universal, slow-release, and balanced fertilizer will encourage plenty of new growth and flowers.
You can also feed O. strictum in the early Summer, but not after mid-Summer. You don’t want to encourage new growth late in the growing season, which may not have time to toughen up before the onset of winter and the colder weather.
New growth is tender and less likely to be robust enough to withstand cold temperatures.
O. strictum likes plenty of sunlight although it will thrive in both full sun and partial shade. The firespike flowers will be fuller and more plentiful if planted in a position that receives plenty of sunshine.
However, unlike many other plants and shrubs, the firespike will still flower in a more shady location.
Pruning and Repotting
Once the danger of frost has passed (if you are in a region that experiences slight frost), you can prune the firespike. Hard pruning at this time will encourage vigorous new Spring growth. Alternatively, you can prune the firespike when the flowers have finished.
But above all, the firespike is an easy to care for plant. If you don’t prune it, it won’t suffer! But its branches may become rather long and straggly.
The easiest way to propagate firespike plants is to take stem cuttings. Choose pieces of healthy stem, around 4 inches in length.
Take the cuttings in the Spring, whilst the stem is still soft and not turned woody. For the quickest results, dip the stems into hormone-rooting powder.
Alternatively, firespikes root easily, especially in the Spring; you can just cut a branch off the main plant and insert several short lengths into the soil.
In a couple of months, you will see new top growth appearing, which is a true sign that roots have formed. By the following Autumn, your new cuttings will already be starting to flower.
Pests and diseases
Firespikes are not subject to pest and disease problems providing they are provided with appropriate growing conditions.
Temperature and Humidity
Ideally, provide the firespike with hot temperatures and plenty of water to imitate the plant’s natural growing environment. A firespike will tolerate excess heat but is less tolerant of cold spells.
Light frosts will only damage or kill the top growth; the roots will not die and, as soon as temperatures warm up, will send up new shoots rapidly. However, a heavy frost will kill the firespike.
If you are in a region that doesn’t experience even light frosts, your firespike will probably continue to flower year-round.
Other Uses for Firespike
You can add firespike to a mixed flower bed, incorporate it into a landscape planting scheme, or plant it underneath tall palms and trees to give color and provide interest at near ground level. Mass planted, firespikes make a great show in a border.
Types of Firespike You Can Grow
Although there is a purple variety of firespike available, this is less hardy and less commonly available than O. strictum.
If you want a large, showy perennial that will also attract wildlife to your garden, then the bright red flower spikes of the fire spike are a perfect choice for you.
Not only will it provide you with superb flowers, but it also has colorful foliage and long, glossy, and elegant leaves.
*image by sasimoto/depositphotos