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Products > Odontonema strictum
Odontonema strictum - Firespike

Habit and Cultural Information
Category: Shrub
Family: Acanthaceae (Acanthus¹)
Origin: Mexico (North America)
Evergreen: Yes
Flower Color: Red
Bloomtime: Summer/Fall
Synonyms: [O. tubaeforme, Justicia coccinea, Hort.]
Height: 8-12 feet
Width: 6-12 feet
Exposure: Sun or Shade
Irrigation (H2O Info): Medium Water Needs
Winter Hardiness: 30-32° F
Odontonema strictum (Firespike) - An erect evergreen shrub that grows 8-12 feet tall by 6-10 feet wide with short rhizomes that send up nearly vertical stems of wavy-margined 10 inch long smooth glossy-textured leaves. Slender bright fiery red flowers are crowded on erect terminal spikes above the foliage with a few spikes present at a time beginning early summer and continuing through fall into winter - a very long bloomer in frost free areas! This plant grows well in full sun, where plants are more compact and shorter, or light shade with moderate to infrequent irrigation – is surprisingly dry growing for such a tropical looking plant and hardy and evergreen to 28-30 degrees F, but rebounds fast so can be used down to USDA Zone 8 gardens as a large herbaceous perennial that flowers in the fall. This is a great plant for adding a showy tropical look without having to irrigate regularly - flowers over a long period in our Santa Barbara garden in the sun and in the shade and is attractive to hummingbirds and butterflies. Deer are apparently also attracted to its lush leaves as well. The name for the genus is from the Greek words 'odonto' meaning teeth and 'nema' meaning "thread" in reference to the stamens having toothed filaments. The specific epithet is in reference either to the erect upright growth habit of the plant or perhaps to the erect flower spikes. Other common names include Cardinal Guard, Mexican Fire Spike Bush and Scarlet Flame. This plant is native to open, semi-forested areas of Central America, perhaps north into Mexico and has naturalized in disturbed sites in Florida. We have grown this plant since 1995 as Odontonema strictum but note that The Plant List, the collaboration between the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and Missouri Botanic Garden (MOBOT), currently lists the valid name of this plant as Odontonema tubaeforme. It is occasionally seen listed as Thyrsacanthus tubaeformis and previously under the invalid name Justicia coccinea.  The information on this page is based on research conducted in our nursery library and from online sources as well as from observations made of this plant as it grows in our nursery, in the nursery's garden and in other gardens that we have observed it in. We also will incorporate comments received from others and always appreciate getting feedback of any kind from those who have additional information, particularly if this information is contrary to what we have written or includes additional cultural tips that might aid others in growing Odontonema strictum.