ACANTHACEAE – Crossandra – Crossandra infundibuliformis – Crossandra nilotica




Acanthaceae includes approximately 256 genera of perennial herbs, shrubs, and climbers, which are widely distributed in warm tem- perate an tropical regions. Leaves are in opposite pairs, often at right angles to the pair above and below (decussate) an stems are often 4 – angled. Flowers are bisexual and bi – laterally symmetrical. The sepals and petals are fused at their bases. Upper and lower petals are some- times elongated into lips. Bracts are often more showy than the tu- bular on funnel- shapdd flowers. The fruit in a dry capsule that, in cenrtain species, opens explosively to scatter the seed. The shrubby species described here can be used to create informal nat – ural beds in the English perennial garden style or ┬ámay be lightly clipped as specimen plants or hedges. Most are suitable for con- tainers. For those that require even moisture, a thick layer of mulch greathly reduces the amount of irri – gation needed.


Crossandra includes about 50 species of evergreen perennial herbs and shrubs from India, Arabia, Madagascar, and tropical Africa. The upper lobes are spreading, fanlike. The common name, fire -cracker, alludes to the way the mature dry capsules pop when touched with a damp finger, explosively dispersing their seed – much to the delight of children. Birds and small animals eagerly dig up seeds, making it prudent to start with seedlings. Crosandras are a bit finicky about regular moisture and are inclined to drop leaves if stressed by heat or cold. Because new growth initiates at the ends of the branches, plants that suffer leaf loss should be cut back to the main stems in spring to avoid rangy regrowth. Remove old spikes to stimulate frequent bloom.

Crossandra infunfibuliformis

Firecracker plantSouthern

Synonym: C. undulifolia, justicia infundibuliformis. India, Sri Lanka, central Africa. Evergreen shrub or subshrub, 1-3ft, zones 10-11. Blooms warm months. Regular moisture. Average to fertile, well – drained soil. Full to part sun, morning sun for good bloom. Flowers: salverform, tubular at the base, lobes 5, fanlike, yellow to orange, bracts covered with long hairs, bract veins not reticulated, inflorescence on a 4. to 6-in. stalk. Leaves: elliptic, glossy dark green, 3-5 in. long, blade tapering down the petiole, tips obtusely pointed “lutea” is distinguished by its erect, shrubby habit and yellow flowers. “Mona Walhead” is low and spreading with orange flowers.

Crossandra nilotica

Red firecracker plant

Tropical Africa. Evergreen shrub, 1-2 ft,zones 10-11. Blooms intermittently in warm months. Regular moisture. Average to fertile, well – drained soil. Bright filtered light, morning sun. Flowers: salverform, lobes fan-shaped, about 1 in. wide, ruby – red, brick -red to mauve. Bracts long haired, reticulated, in florescence a spike, stalk to 6 in.long, blade tapers down the petiole, tip abruptly narrows to a point. The petals are slightly smaller and more deeply lobed than those of C. infundibuliformis. Cultivated plants possibly include hybrids of that species.

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