Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: Firespike, Cardinal Guard, Scarlet Flame
Thyrsacanthus tubaeformis

Family: Acanthaceae (ah-kanth-AY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Thyrsacanthus
Species: tubaeformis

Synonym:Justicia tubaeformis
Synonym:Odontonema longifolium
Synonym:Odontonema strictum
Synonym:Odontonema tubaeforme
Synonym:Thyrsacanthus strictus

6 vendors have this plant for sale.

55 members have or want this plant for trade.

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Tropicals and Tender Perennials

36-48 in. (90-120 cm)

24-36 in. (60-90 cm)

USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)
USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)
USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)
USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)
USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 C (30 F)
USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 C (35 F)
USDA Zone 11: above 4.5 C (40 F)

Sun Exposure:
Sun to Partial Shade


Bloom Color:

Bloom Time:
Late Winter/Early Spring
Late Summer/Early Fall
Mid Fall
Late Fall/Early Winter
Mid Winter


Other details:
This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds
Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Soil pH requirements:
6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)
6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
From softwood cuttings
From seed; direct sow after last frost

Seed Collecting:
Unknown - Tell us

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There are a total of 41 photos.
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17 positives
1 neutral
1 negative

Gardeners' Notes:

Positive vossner On Dec 8, 2013, vossner from Richmond, TX (Zone 9a) wrote:

It's been a while, but a lovely DGer gave me seeds that looked like walnuts and told me to plant directly inground, which I did in a moist and shady section of my garden. It dies to the ground but each year it gets bigger and showier. With respect to the seeds, I hope I am not confusing this with another plant but I'm pretty sure seeds were big.

Negative bmpswel On Dec 8, 2013, bmpswel from Tampa, FL wrote:

I read other readers comments wondering if anyone is having the same problem I have. I wanted to see if anyone has suggestions to help me correct my firespikes. I planted 2 firespikes in my front yard and 2 in the backyard. I'm having the same, strange problem in both locations. One of the plants in the front yard and one in the back have very pale green leaves and grow really slow. I've corrected my Ph this summer, but it hasn't affected the firespikes.

Positive brandy54 On Dec 1, 2012, brandy54 from Houston, TX wrote:

Receivedu aa cutting about 3 years ago did not know what it was, made it through Houston heat , first years it has bloomed , growing in a clay pot. After the bloom was able to find the name .

Positive tlm1 On Oct 2, 2012, tlm1 from Jacksonville, FL (Zone 9a) wrote:

Love this plant, as do the Hummingbirds. I question the size though that is listed in this file. Currently my bush is nearly 6' tall, and just as wide. Quite a bit larger than this file states. Give it plenty of room!

Positive morningloree On Feb 12, 2012, morningloree from Heathrow, FL wrote:

Perfect for planting around the base of an oak tree, it gets some morning sun, but mostly shade. Thought we would be frost proof by now, but it got down to 33 degrees and no sign of damage. I had some soft wood cuttings that I had just put in a pot, again, no problem. This plant is truly semi-tropical. Great for partially shaded areas, still blooming in February, although is primarily supposed to bloom in Winter and Fall.

Positive ThomPotempa On Dec 10, 2010, ThomPotempa from Houston, TX wrote:

This stuff is impossible to kill.

I bought some for the first time this spring. They are sitting in a bed I don't water.

I had to dig them up about a month after planting since I had to remove the tree that they were around.

Then about 6 months later, in the heat of August, the local utility had to dig where they were. They through the plants to the side.

I gave them water soaking for about 1 hour after replanting. After that no more water.

In the drought.

They are blooming beautifully as I type this...

Positive Kiyzersoze On Oct 24, 2010, Kiyzersoze from Coral Springs, FL (Zone 10b) wrote:

It took several years for this plant to become happy in it's location but it was worth the wait. Nice plant that blooms a long time and is really pretty once it gets established.

Positive singleshotcajun On Nov 19, 2009, singleshotcajun from Dickinson, TX wrote:

When I moved to Texas a Friend allowed me to dig plants in her overgrown rent house yard . This is one I dug up and transplanted to my yard.It is the most trouble free pant I have ever experienced. Propagates without care or much prep. In my yard which is mostly shade this is one of the precious few pants that make red my wife likes red and if not for Geraniums and Firespike She would have none so I am a hero thanks to this plant. No need for root stimulator just cut it and stick it in the dirt. Thanks to members on this forum for identifying it for me.

Positive fullsun007 On Jul 25, 2009, fullsun007 from Gainesville, FL wrote:

This plant is a good choice for a shady as well as sunny locations although can wilt in the latter, during the hottest part of the day, but rebounds well. It produces several erect stalks with waxy green leaves and in the fall here in zone 8B sends 1-1.5 feet flower spikes which provide a welcome splash of color and food source for humming birds. This plant is very easy to root from softwood cuttings, it freezes to the ground and rebounds each spring.

Positive nanabon_e On Jul 26, 2006, nanabon_e from Saucier, MS wrote:

I received a cutting of this plant from my daughter and grow it in Saucier, MS. I love this plant because of its low maintenance and easy care. The beauty of it is an added bonus.

Positive pdkrones On Jul 16, 2006, pdkrones from Monroe, NC (Zone 7b) wrote:

I love this plant. Three years ago, I got a start from a DG friend that I kept on the kitchen windowsill. I planted it in a shady place where the soil was not great, and it did not make it the next spring. However, the 3 cuttings I rooted did fine in a cool greenhouse, flouished and bloomed well last year, and came back again this year. Soil conditions were definitely better. However, they get wilty in the afternoon sun, even in their second year in the ground, so I have last year's cuttings in part to full shade, where they are growing well, but a little more upright. Last year's plants made it to perhaps 20' x 20". I suspect they will be bigger this year. The foliage is wonderful, pest free, glossy; and the fall flowers are unique for that time of year. Our last winter was a little mild, but still reached close to our typical lows, so I am hopeful that this plant will do well overwinter if well rooted and mulched.


Positive mamajack On Jun 30, 2006, mamajack from Fate, TX (Zone 8a) wrote:

i like the thick, waxy leaves. i have it in morning sun. freezes to the ground here but returns in the spring. easy to root. the only negative here is that it blooms so late in the season and is usually frozen to the ground just as it begins to bloom.

Positive sheilalarry On Dec 17, 2005, sheilalarry from Punta Gorda, FL wrote:

I have one of these blooming beautifully in part shade in poor soil with almost no care except I cut back some of the slightly tattered stalks. Its foliage and flowers are just lovely.

Positive soozer On Jul 28, 2005, soozer from Safety Harbor, FL (Zone 9b) wrote:

Dug this up from a fellow Floridian's yard because they wanted it gone. Divided it in two and planted this Firespike in pretty much full sun areas. From the photo I posted, you can see the shiny leaves are smaller, about and inch long. The stems are shorter, about 3 feet tall, than others posted here as being planted in more shade. The red-orange flowers bloomed late winter and early this spring this year. It's the end of July and have seen no insect damage or trouble at all. Will take cuttings and try planting one in part shade. Really like this colorful trouble-free bush.

Positive Melba_Ga On Aug 15, 2004, Melba_Ga from Commerce, GA (Zone 8a) wrote:

I have Firespike in partial shade. This is a really pretty plant,blooms attract butterflies. Very easy to root cuttings. Mine has been cut-back several times, bounces back with very thick, green, foliage & pretty blooms.

Positive antimony35 On Aug 12, 2004, antimony35 from Prairieville, LA wrote:

hummingbirds love this plant

Positive TamiMcNally On May 19, 2004, TamiMcNally from Lake Placid, FL (Zone 9b) wrote:

I have some in full shade and some in part shade.

Full shade plants are about eight feet tall, dark green, and a bit thin, but still attractive.

Part shade plants are six feet tall, medium green, and thick.

In both cases, the plants spread quickly. I have had great success with cuttings and division.

Positive htop On Aug 12, 2003, htop from San Antonio, TX (Zone 8b) wrote:

This plant, native to Mexico and Central America, solves the problem of having a shady area (mine are planted in dappled shade and full shade) where very few plants will grow, much less bloom. In San Antonio, it is grown for its beautiful deep green bushy tropical foliage in the spring, summer and late fall and its magnificent glow-in-the dark red blooms from early to middle August until the first freeze. Firespike (fire spike) can serve as a substitute for the hosta that tends to be devoured by snails and mealy bugs (pill bugs)in this area of Texas. However, I planted light green and white hosta in the foreround around these plants, have been vigilantly attacking the snails and mealy bugs and the hostas are doing fine. It can be grown as a tropical container plant. I would not recommend that it be planted in full sun in my area, although I have not tried them in full sun.

Mine die to the ground after the first freeze, reemerge in spring and grow to more than 4 feet tall. I fertilize them with an all purpose fertilizer if the color of the leaves start to pale in color which is usually only once in midsummer. This plant can be grown in heavy clay soils and wet conditions. In the 108 degree weather in August this year, they wilted somewhat, but sprang back to life as it cooled down in the evenings and/or I provided some water. The firespike (fire spike) is one of my favorite plants because it is relatively care free, appears to be insect resistant, provides outstanding color in the shade, blooms late when the garden needs some new attraction, is not invasive and requires less water once estalished than my other flowering shade plants. It needs to be more widely used in south and central Texas.

Note: There is a purple or fuscia-pink ... Odontonema callistachyum that I just found.

Neutral Floridian On Dec 3, 2001, Floridian from Lutz, FL (Zone 9b) wrote:

Firespike is a showy evergreen shrub with sparse, stiff branches that grow mostly straight up to about 6' tall. It has shiny dark green leaves with wavy margins and long pointed tips. The leaves are oblong, arranged opposite each other on the stem, and 4-6" long. From late summer through winter firespike produces abundant upright panicles of brilliant red tubular flowers. Firespike does well in full sun and better in partial shade. Once established it can tolerate all but the longest droughts. In frost-free areas firespike grows as an evergreen semi-woody shrub. In zones 8 and 9 it usually dies back to the ground in winter and resprouts in spring. It spreads by underground sprouting, enlarging to form a thicket, but it is easy to control and keep contained. Firespike is one of the few red tubular flowers to bloom in autumn and is very popular with hummingbirds and all kinds of butterflies. Unfortunately, white-tailed deer love Firespike too, and will eat the leaves. Defoliated plants will grow new leaves, but if the deer persist, the plant eventually will be killed.


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Waverly, Alabama
Carlsbad, California
Lakewood, California
San Diego, California
San Marino, California
Bartow, Florida
Big Pine Key, Florida
Boca Raton, Florida (3 reports)
Bonita Springs, Florida
Brooksville, Florida (2 reports)
Chiefland, Florida
Daytona Beach, Florida
Deland, Florida
Fernandina Beach, Florida
Floral City, Florida
Fort Lauderdale, Florida (3 reports)
Fort Pierce, Florida
Gainesville, Florida
Hobe Sound, Florida
Hollywood, Florida
Hudson, Florida
Inverness, Florida
Jacksonville, Florida (6 reports)
Key West, Florida
Keystone Heights, Florida
Largo, Florida
Longwood, Florida
Lynn Haven, Florida
Melbourne, Florida (2 reports)
Miami, Florida (2 reports)
Miccosukee Cpo, Florida
Naples, Florida
Navarre, Florida
Neptune Beach, Florida
Niceville, Florida
Orlando, Florida (3 reports)
Panama City, Florida
Pensacola, Florida
Pompano Beach, Florida
Punta Gorda, Florida
Ruskin, Florida
Safety Harbor, Florida
Saint Augustine, Florida
Saint Petersburg, Florida
Sanford, Florida
Sarasota, Florida (3 reports)
Sebastian, Florida
Sebring, Florida
Sorrento, Florida
Spring Hill, Florida
Trenton, Florida
Vero Beach, Florida
West Palm Beach, Florida (3 reports)
Winter Springs, Florida
Zephyrhills, Florida
Ashburn, Georgia
Moultrie, Georgia
Kurtistown, Hawaii
Baton Rouge, Louisiana (3 reports)
Bossier City, Louisiana
Franklinton, Louisiana
Independence, Louisiana
Lafayette, Louisiana
Mandeville, Louisiana (2 reports)
New Orleans, Louisiana
Prairieville, Louisiana
Slaughter, Louisiana
Gautier, Mississippi
Mathiston, Mississippi
Saucier, Mississippi
Elizabeth City, North Carolina
Monroe, North Carolina
Beaufort, South Carolina
Camden, South Carolina
Conway, South Carolina
Johns Island, South Carolina
Moncks Corner, South Carolina
Sumter, South Carolina
Adkins, Texas
Alice, Texas
Arlington, Texas
Austin, Texas (6 reports)
Belton, Texas
Colmesneil, Texas
Dallas, Texas (2 reports)
Desoto, Texas
Dickinson, Texas
Edinburg, Texas
Fate, Texas
Flatonia, Texas
Fort Worth, Texas
Garland, Texas
Houston, Texas (5 reports)
Huntsville, Texas
Jacksonville, Texas
La Vernia, Texas
Lake Jackson, Texas
Mc Kinney, Texas
Mission, Texas
New Waverly, Texas
Oakhurst, Texas
Pflugerville, Texas
Red Oak, Texas
Richmond, Texas
San Antonio, Texas (3 reports)
Santa Fe, Texas
Shepherd, Texas
Spring, Texas
Zapata, Texas

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