University of Florida

Firespike

Firespike adds a big pop of red to the garden, making some gardeners suggest that it’s the equivalent of red salvia on steroids.

Known botanically as Odontonema strictum, firespike grows 4 to 6 feet tall and produces clusters of 3-inch-long, tubular red flowers. It is a small shrub in South Florida and a clumping, herbaceous perennial in North and Central Florida.

The foot-long spikes of showy flowers appear year-round in South Florida and during fall and winter in North and Central Florida. They attract hummingbirds and several species of butterflies that feed on the nectar.

Because of its overall height and large, glossy foliage, firespike makes a great anchor when massed at the back of a garden bed. It also works well in cutting gardens.

Planting and care

Firespike can be planted year-round in Florida and will tolerate a variety of soil conditions—from slightly acidic to slightly alkaline, and from sandy to loamy. Plants should be spaced 24 to 36 inches apart.

Although it will grow in part shade or part sun, place firespike in full sun for best blooming. Once established, firespike is moderately drought tolerant.

A hard freeze can kill the above-ground growth, but the plant will typically return in the spring. Firespike often re-seeds itself and can also be propagated by cuttings.

If the plant gets too tall, you can prune it several times during the growing season.

For more information, read the UF/IFAS publication “Odontonema strictum Firespike” or contact your local Extension office.

UF/IFAS Publications

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