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'Fireworks' for plant lovers, and not just on the Fourth of July

By Sally G. Miller (sallygJuly 4, 2014
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Fireworks! The flammable kind can get you in trouble with the local authorities. Stay safe this Fourth and avoid the ones with gunpowder. Plant hybridizers have developed dozens of cultivars, named 'Fireworks', and hoped for the excitement to translate into profit. The range of successful introductions to date give an opportunity for almost any plant lover to legally own and use 'Fireworks'.

Gardening picture

A surprising number of new plant cultivars  have 'Fireworks' on their tags. Dave's Garden's own PlantFiles lists fifty one, at last count. Real fireworks, the bright, explosive ones, are a summer tradition and so awe-inspiring. Nursery professionals rightly imagine we gardeners may want a reminder of that excitement, and the celebration of our nation's independance, for many more days of the year.

   Look closely; the flowerlike bloom at right is really of the gunpowder kind!    

Begonia, for the windowsill or shady summer porch

Rex begonia 'Fireworks' is a gorgoeus specimen for your house, or for your shaded porch in summertime. This fantastic foliage plant forms a rounded mound of large leaves. The jagged edged, pointed leaves have a maroon background and underside but the surface glistens with swathes of silver. Striking! Begonias have fleshy stems and need well drained soil. They are very sensitive to chill, so few American gardeners will use them in the landscape.

Euphorbia, an unusual potted specimen

Crown of Thorns 'Fireworks'  is an unusual plant to many of us. It is one of the more dramatic of many Euphorbia species suitable for garden and potted display, and all are related to the familiar holiday Poinsettia. The 'Fireworks' variety has creamy variegated foliage with pink accents. These leaves are an excellent backdrop to the bright red flower bracts. This plant is hardy in the warmest zones and can be used in a drought tolerant landscape in zones 9 to 11. In cooler areas, keep this plant in a pot with very well drained soil; Euphorbias in general are almost cactus like in their preference for the sunny, dry life. The amazing spiny stems of Crown of Thorns serve as a constant reminder of this trait, and make this plant a real conversation piece.

Hosta, shade garden standby

Of course you know Hosta, that old reliable for the shade garden. Why not have Hosta 'Fireworks'? 'Fireworks' is a small and very upright growing Hosta, good for edging. The ten inch leaves are narrow and pointed, cream colored with green streaky edging. Gardeners from New Hampshire to Oklahoma enjoy Hosta in shady, somewhat moist gardens. If 'Fireworks' doesn't quite fit your plan, consider the themed Hosta like 'Patriot', 'Loyalist' or 'Liberty'. Be sure to avoid placing 'Fireworks', and other mostly white Hosta, in afternoon sun.

Pennisetum, graceful grass

Many ornamental grasses are bold plants for full sun, and Pennisetum 'Fireworks' is no exception. This two to three foot tall arching grass has thin blades variegated with white and green near the base before blazing with shades of pink and red along their length. This 'Fireworks' can be used in a wide variety of situations, from containers (large ones!) to borders, in foundation plantings and as accent plants.

Rodgersia, fabulous semi-shade flowering perennial

At the bottom of the PlantFiles list, for no good reason, is Rodgersia pinnata 'Fireworks'. Here's a close cousin to Astilbe that should probably be more widely known and grown. Rodgersia 'Fireworks' likes the same shade and moist conditions that favor Astilbe, and bear similar tall flowering stems in early to mid summer. The foliage is attractive too, emerging with a hint of bronze on the finely waffled and toothed leaves.

Solidago, sunny garden standout

Solidago is nothing more or less than Goldenrod, a classic American species. The 'Fireworks' cultivar, like other goldenrods, blooms bright golden yellow in fall, and attracts lots of pollinating insects. Also like its cousins, it prefers full sun, and can spread by rhizomes. Use this 'Fireworks', along with the Viburnum below, to truly celebrate America. Both are North American native plant species.

Tomato, for the "strictly edibles" gardener

Even the most practical, edibles-only, gardeners can have 'Fireworks'. In this case it's a tomato. Vendor The Tasteful Garden describes this variety as an indeterminate, early slicer. A few Dave's Gardeners have commented on this tomato. Tomato 'Fireworks'' seems reliably prolific in fruit production, but some gardeners are unimpressed by the size and flavor of the fruit. Your results may vary. If they do, please comment in PlantfFiles, so that we have a more accurate profile of this plant.

Arrowwood Viburnum fires up your shrub border

Last, only alphabetically and likely not least, is Viburnum dentatum 'Fireworks'. This selection is described as a more compact version of the species. As such, expect branches to reach seven or ten feet eventually. The cream white flower clusters produce dark blue fruit. This is a rugged, adaptable shrub for most any American garden. Viburnum 'Fireworks' finishes its show with a blaze of autumn red foliage. There are commercial sources of this shrub, although none have linked to PlantFiles.

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Further reading:

More Fireworks- "Fireworks in the Garden" by Marie Harrison

"Rodgersia - Bold and Beautiful" by Todd Boland

(Editor's Note: This article was originally published on July 4, 2012. Your comments are welcome, but please be aware that authors of previously published articles may not be able to promptly respond to new questions or comments.)


  About Sally G. Miller  
Sally G. MillerSally grew up playing in the Maryland woods, and would still do it often if life allowed! Graduate of University of Maryland, her degree is in Agriculture. Gardens and natural areas give her endless opportunity for learning and wonder. Naturally (pun intended) her garden style leans towards the casual, and her cultural methods towards organic. She likes to try new plants, and have "some of everything" in her indoor and outdoor gardens. Thanks go to her parents for passing along their love of gardening and nature, and her husband and kids for being patient when she gets lost in the garden. Follow her on Google.

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Discussion about this article:
SubjectTopic StarterRepliesViewsLast Post
Tomato Fireworks jmc1987 2 7 Jul 4, 2014 10:11 AM
Another one lortay 3 10 Jul 17, 2012 6:08 PM
Pretty fireworks Sundownr 0 10 Jul 4, 2012 3:38 PM
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