San Marcos Growers LogoSan Marcos Growers
New User
Wholesale Login
Enter Password
Home Products Purchase Gardens About Us Resources Contact Us
Nursery Closure
Search Utilities
Plant Database
Search Plant Name
Detail Search Avanced Search Go Button
Search by size, origins,
details, cultural needs
Website Search Search Website GO button
Search for any word
Site Map
Retail Locator
Plant Listings


  for JUNE

Natives at San Marcos Growers
Succulents at San Marcos Growers
 Weather Station

Products > Odontonema strictum
Odontonema strictum - Firespike
Image of Odontonema strictum
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. 

This information about Odontonema strictum displayed on this web page is based on research we have conducted in our horticultural library and from reliable online resources. We also will relate observations we have made about it as it grows in our nursery gardens and other gardens visited, as well how our crops have performed in containers in the nursery field. Where appropriate, we will also incorporate comments that we receive from others and we welcome hearing from anyone with additional information, particularly if they can share cultural information that would aid others in growing this plant.