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Fireworks are plentiful this time of year, but not only in the night sky. Many sparklers, firecrackers, and other aptly named plants are available to add sizzle, pop, snap, and crackle to your garden.
Impatiens 'Sparkler Rose' - a colorful double impatiens that adds sparkle to any garden. Roselike flowers bloom reliably throughout the spring and summer in shady gardens. Look for butterflies and hummingbirds among these colorful blossoms. The 'Sparkler' impatiens are part of the Fiesta series and are available in a wide range of vivid colors that are perfect for lighting up shady landscapes, baskets, and patio planters. (Impatiens walleriana, annual)
Cleome ‘Sparkler Blush' - a dwarf selection of a familiar summer-flowering annual reaching 3½ to 4 feet tall and bearing 4- to 6-inch spidery blooms throughout the summer in all the usual cleome colors of white, lavender, rosy-red, and blush. Expect loads of flowers in hot, sunny locations; enough to decorate the garden as well as add a sparkling element to cut bouquets. Not only do they hold well as cut flowers, but the nectar-laden blossoms delight the hummingbirds and butterflies, as well. (Cleome hassleriana, annual)
Carex ‘Sparkler' - an ornamental, deer-resistant, clump-forming, evergreen sedge with whorls of dramatic green and white-striped foliage that sparkles atop 12- to 15-inch stems. Plant this showy plant in damp to moderately moist soil in a shady to partly shady woodland gardens or among green groundcovers where it will add its unique sparkle to your garden. (Carex phyllocephala, Zones 7-10)
Coneflower ‘Sparkler' - a perennial coneflower with attractive, variegated foliage that grows into a low clump about 2 to 2½ feet tall and 1 to 1½ feet wide. Rosy-pink flowers with an attractive orange to brown cone bloom from mid-summer through fall. The fragrant flowers make beautiful bouquets and attract butterflies to the garden. Plant these sparklers in full sun to partial shade in well-drained soil. (Echinacea purpurea ‘Sparkler', Zones 3-9)
Many plants have ‘Firecracker' as a cultivar name. For example, Penstemnon, Acer palmatum, Lilium, Plumeria, Chrysanthemum, Coleus, crape myrtle, Leucadendron, Kalmia, Rosa, Anisacanthus, Caladium, Hemerocallis, Geranium, Lysimachia, Impatiens, Mimulus, and many others have a cultivar named ‘Firecracker'. However, some plants are simply called "firecracker plant." An internet search revealed at least three "firecracker plants."
Firecracker plant (Cuphea ignea) - also known as cigar plant, produces fiery, bright reddish-orange, tubular flowers on 2- to 3-foot tall plants. Grow this perennial in bright sun and moderately moist soil. Expect a parade of hummingbirds when the plant is in bloom. (root hardy Zones 8, 9; evergreen Zones 10-11; annual elsewhere)
Firecracker plant (Russelia equisetiformis) - a multi-branched subshrub bearing striking sprays of tubular, inch-long flowers at the tips of pendant, rushlike, 2- to 4-feet long stems with minute, grasslike leaves. Flowers are usually red, but a cultivar produces creamy-colored or light yellow flowers. Provide full sun to partial shade for this year-round bloomer in frost-free regions. Zones 9-11
Firecracker plantor firecracker flower (Crossandrainfundibuliformis) - a small, evergreen tropical shrub growing 1 to 3 feet tall and bearing yellow, red, salmon, or orange flowers with asymmetrical petals spreading out into a 3- to 5-lobed circle at the end of inch-long corolla tubes. Grow the compact plants as annuals in beds and borders outdoors in sunny to partially shady locations, or grow in containers and move indoors in bright light during cold weather. Provide fertile, well-drained, moist soil. Zones 10-11.
Fireworks Fountain Grass - an ornamental grass that grows about four feet tall and sports red-burgundy foliage striped with an unusual combination of green, white, pink, and cream. Showy purple, foxtail-like blooms appear during the summer adding color and motion to the landscape. Place this fireworks-like plant in full sun. This tender perennial is grown as an annual in most areas, being root hardy to about 20°F. (Pennisetum setaceum 'Fireworks', Zones 9-10)
Globe amaranth ‘Fireworks' - adds different look to beds and borders. Also useful as cut flowers, these annuals grow 36 to 48 inches tall and flourish in full sun and well-drained soil. Masses of strong stems topped with one-inch hot pink flowers tipped with yellow explode to light up a sunny bed all summer long. (Gomphrena globosa, annual)
Goldenrod ‘Fireworks' - a low-maintenance native perennial that blooms in late summer and early fall with 18-inch long golden-yellow spires arching out like trails from an exploding skyrocket. ‘Fireworks' goldenrod tops out at 2½ to 3 feet tall and spreads slowly from rhizomes. It thrives in moist, compost enriched soil in full sun. Goldenrod is attractive to hummingbirds, bees and other pollinating insects. (Solidago rugosa ‘Fireworks' Zones 4-8)
‘Fireworks' Clematis - a deciduous, perennial flowering vine that produces showy 6 to 8-inch mauve-purple flowers centered with a deep pink stripe from tip to base of each petal. Place this showy early-flowering clematis on a support and provide fertile, well-drained but moist soil. Most prolific flowering of the 8- to 12-foot tall vine is in full sun, but be sure to keep the roots cool and shaded.(Clematis ‘Fireworks', Zones 4-8)
Hosta ‘Fireworks' - bears long, slender, erect, delicately rippled leaves on 10-inch tall plants. Leaves are a pale creamy cucumber green in center and edged with light green in spring turning to dark green as the season progresses. This hosta is an excellent choice for containers, and it combines well with miniature hostas and other groundcovers. As with other hostas, grow ‘Fireworks' in shade to partial shade. (Hosta ‘Fireworks', Zones 3-8)
With all these selections nobody need go without fireworks for the Fourth of July or any other day of the year. Too many plants are available that are capable of adding sparkle, crackle, and pop. Why not include a few of these loud plants to your garden for an extra bit of sizzle?
This article would not have been possible without the help of many Dave's Garden fans who have uploaded their images to the website. Many thanks go to caribblue (Clerodendron quadriloculare), RonDEZone7a (Anisacanthus), Joan (Rosa 'Firecracker'), Islander (Cleome 'Sparkler Blush'), mggar (Carex 'Sparkler'), Green Lady (Impatiens 'Sparkler Rose'), BigCityAl (Echinacea purpurea 'Sparkler'), Lynn213 (Russelia equisetiformis), Lady Annne (Crossandra infundibuliformis), mgarr (Pennisetum setaceum 'Fireworks'), Danita (Gomphrena globosa 'Fireworks'), PoppySue (Solidago rugosa 'Fireworks'), Wiggiej (Hosta 'Fireworks'), and Kel (Clematis 'Fireworks')
About Marie Harrison
Serving as a board member for Valparaiso Garden Club, the Florida Federation of Garden Clubs and the Deep South Region, and National Garden Clubs takes a chunk of my time and attention. Being a Master Flower Show Judge, a Floral Design Instructor, instructor of horticulture for National Garden Clubs, and a University of Florida Master Gardener crowds a bit more into my busy days. In addition to these activities, I contribute regularly to Florida Gardening magazine and other publications. I am author of four gardening books, all published by Pineapple Press, Sarasota, Florida. Read about them and visit me at www.mariesgardenanddesign.com.