One of My Favorites!

Crossandra blooms are highlighted by late afternoon sun.

I was 13 or 14 when I first met this plant. I was in College Station, and it wasn’t easy telling my friends that a plant with orange flowers had really caught my eye. Fact was, my friends didn’t really care much about flowers in the first place. I was marching to the beat of another drum, but that’s another story for another time.

The plant sounded like some exotic Latin lady. Crossandra. I was taken by its glossy dark green foliage, and its bloom spikes reminded me of Mom’s homemade orange sherbet. It kept blooming for months. There just wasn’t anything not to like about this small flowering tropical pot plant.

Crossandra’s soft orange bloom color is completely compelling.

Breeders have brought us many shades of these South Indian plants. While there are some 50 species within the genus, only one (C. undulifolia, formerly known by the strangely melodic botanic name of Crossandra infundibuliformis) is horticulturally important. The orange shades still predominate.

Flowers just keep coming for months if you meet the plant’s simple basic needs.

If you’re growing crossandras indoors as houseplants, give them the brightest spot in your house. Use a very loose, highly organic potting soil. Keep them warm (70 to 75 F.) and uniformly moist. They must not be allowed to wilt badly. Apply a high-nitrogen, water-soluble plant food monthly to keep them growing vigorously.

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Mature plants grow to be 10 or 15 inches tall and wide, and as long as their needs are met, they keep producing new flower spikes month after month. They can be rooted from cuttings taken in spring during their most active growth.

You can grow crossandras outdoors, but it’s probably best to leave them in pots. That way you can give them bright light in spring and fall and move them back into more shade during the summer. They are intolerant of direct sun when it’s hot.

You’ve probably seen this plant in the past couple of years, and now you know that it’s one you need to have in your own garden or greenhouse.

Posted by Neil Sperry
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