The Q&A Archives: Mysterious Hawaiian Weed?

Question: On a recent trip to Hawaii my wife returned with a wild, weedlike plant with small, cylindrical red flowers. The flowers closely resemble those of a firecracker vine (cuphea ignea), but this plant is not a vine. It has very narrow, thin leaves which resemble needles. A nursery owner in Hawaii thought it might be a "russelia equiformis", but I can find no reference to this in any of my gardening books. Do you have any idea what the plant I have is called and how I should care for it? I currently have it in a sunny spot in a mixture of volcanic rock and soil, which is similar to the media it was found in.

Answer: If it is in fact Russelia equisetiformis, it's also known as Coral Plant or Coral Fountain Bush. With a potential to grow to 4' tall, Coral Fountain is a shrubby plant with trailing, bright green, practically leafless stems. The side branches will bear a profusion of bright red, narrowly tubular flowers that look like little firecrackers, which are produced all spring and summer. The plant is hardy to 32F, prefers shelter from hot afternoon sunshine, and requires regular watering and feeding during the growing season. If you grow your plant outdoors during the summer months and indoors during the winter, it will bloom all year around. The soil medium sounds like a reasonable mix; the volcanic rock will make the soil light and well-draining. Enjoy your new plant!

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