A great long-lasting color plant, crossandra can bloom almost nonstop all year long in the right conditions. In tropical climates, these heat- and humidity-loving plants put on quite the show with their spikes of bright orange, yellow, salmon, or pink blooms. They can also make wonderful houseplants with their glossy, deep green foliage that looks good even if they are not in bloom.
While crossandra is known as a florist plant in northern climates, it can make a great bedding plant in the south. The deep emerald green glossy foliage creates a pretty foil for other plants to play against, and the brightly colored orange blooms add wonderful color all season long. Crossandra can also be found in quite a few other warm colors, but orange is definitely the most prevalent.
Unlike many common flowers, the blooms of crossandra are asymmetrical and fairly one-sided. Also, all of the reproductive parts are hidden in the tube of the bloom so they require specific pollinators to create their seeds. The five-petaled blooms are borne on columnar square bloom stalks, which are unique in themselves and add a neat effect when the plants are covered in blooms. Butterflies are very fond of crossandra and can be found visiting them for their delicious nectar.
Crossandra Care Must-Knows
Despite their delicate appearance, crossandras are actually pretty tough plants. Outside of their long bloom time and glossy foliage, one of their main claims to fame is their impressive tolerance to heat and humidity. They have no problem making it through even the hottest of the summer heat in the south. However, don't mistake drought tolerance for heat tolerance. Crossandras do need supplemental water during dry weather, especially during the truly hot days of the summer. So when planting them, make sure to place them in well-drained soil, preferably with a decent amount of organic matter. In drier soils, it would be beneficial to add compost and even peat moss to help retain water in the soil.
When it comes to exposure, crossandra are fairly versatile. Ideally, crossandra prefers bright sun with a little shelter from harsh afternoon sun, and it can also do quite well in dappled shade. Crossandra can have a loose plant habit and may need some pruning and pinching to encourage good branching and an overall bushier plant. Planting in more sun will also achieve this, as shadier-grown plants will be sparser and loosely branched. It is best to start with a good branching at the base, so pinch plants early to encourage branching at the base of the plant.
Crossandra as a Houseplant
In northern climates where growing seasons aren't long enough, crossandra can make a beautiful houseplant. In bright light, you can expect blooms most of the year, with a small lull during the dreary months of winter. The trickiest part of growing crossandra indoors is that they need higher humidity than many other houseplants. Try placing them under a cloche to increase humidity, or place them on a tray of pebbles filled with water just below the bottom of the pot. As the water evaporates, a more humid environment will be created around the plants.
More Varieties of Crossandra
Crossandra Companion Plants
Just as you'd expect from something called French, these marigolds are the fancy ones. French marigolds tend to be frilly, and some boast a distinctive "crested eye." They grow roughly 8-12 inches high with a chic, neat growth habit and elegant dark green foliage. They do best in full sun with moist, well-drained soil and will flower all summer long. They may reseed, coming back year after year, in spots where they're happy.
Pentas is one of the best butterfly-attracting plants around. It blooms all summer long, even during the hottest weather, with large clusters of starry blooms that attract butterflies by the dozens as well as hummingbirds. The plant grows well in containers and in the ground—and it can even make a good houseplant if you have enough light. It does best in full sun and moist, well-drained soil. Pentas is grown as an annual in most parts of the country, but it's hardy in Zones 10-11. Plant it outdoors after all danger of frost has passed.
Want fast color for just pennies? Plant zinnias! A packet of seeds will fill an area with gorgeous flowers in an amazing array of shapes and colors—even green! And it will happen in just weeks. There are dwarf types of zinnias, tall types, quill-leaf cactus types, spider types, multicolor, special seed blends for cutting, special blends for attracting butterflies, and more. Zinnias are so highly attractive to butterflies that you can count on having these fluttering guests dining in your garden every afternoon. But to attract the most, plant lots of tall, red or hot pink zinnias in a large patch. 'Big Red' is especially nice for this, and the flowers are excellent for cutting. Zinnias grow quickly from seed sown right in the ground and do best in full sun with dry to well-drained soil.