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What is a Firecracker Plant and How to Care for It?

Beautiful image of sun streaming through striking firecracker vine bush

Ipomoea Lobata

Scientifically known as either ipomoea lobata or quamoclit lobata, and commonly known as either fire vine, Spanish flag vine, exotic love vine, mina lobata, mini lobata, or firecracker vine, this is a species of flowering plant that is a member of the convolvulaceae botanical family, otherwise known as the morning glory family!

Plants with a morning glory shrub growth habit tend to have a pretty love/hate relationship with gardeners. Though they have absolutely stunning flowers and are fabulously easy to care for, they can be quite the nuisance to other garden plants!

Their climbing growth habit is not only vigorous, but it can actually choke out other plants if they are left to grow as they please throughout the garden. But if you can contain them, firecracker vines make for a truly wonderful addition to your green space.

Related: Sun-Loving Flowers | Water-Loving Flowers | Shade-Loving Flowers | Types of Flowers | Types of Flowers by Color | Types of Flowers by Alphabet | Types of Flower Colors

What do Firecracker Vines Look Like?

Deeply lobed green leaves of the firecracker vine with bright flower blossoms

Flowers

Firecracker vine flowers are truly something to behold. They are borne as a one sided raceme that is heavy enough to make the flower stems heave to one side. They are loved because of their extravagant sprays of amazing flower spikes.

A flower stem will bear several small, banana shaped flowers that are first open up as a dazzling reddish orange, and will slowly fade to red, yellow, then to cream, then to white flowers along the length of the flower spike. This gradient of color has a firework-like effect which is where the plant gets it common name. These colors are also similar to that of the Spanish national flag, hence the other common name.

Firecracker vine flowers will usually bloom in the early summer and perish in the late summer or early fall. Their colors add such a lovely display of autumnal colors right before autumn is due to arrive.

Leaves

Firecracker vine leaves are also quite the sight. They are a deeply lobed leaf with 3 lobes — this is where the scientific term, lobata comes from. A firecracker vine leaf is slightly more interesting than most because it starts out its life of a beautiful bronze/purple color, and eventually matures into a deep green color.

Growth Habit

In their native growing range, firecracker vines will grow as perennials, where they will continue to bloom year after year. But outside of their growing range, they are usually planted as annuals, as they are not very cold hardy plants.

These plants are climbing vines. They are extremely enthusiastic growers and they can sometimes grow a wild 10 feet in a mere month. Growing to be up to 16 feet (5 metres) in height, they shoot up trellised, fences, stone walls, and anything else you but them near.

Reproduction

Once a firecracker vine flower it fertilized, it will produce a seed that is surrounded by a rather hard surrounding seed capsule. When growing in nature, these seeds will take several seasons to break down before they are ready for germination.

If you have harvested your own firecracker vine seeds, simply take the capsule and give it a little nick with a knife. Place it in a glass of warm water for a few hours before planting, and this will greatly speed up the germination process.

Macro image of a firecracker with gradient colors

Where is the Firecracker Vine a Native Plant?

Firecracker vine plants are a native plant to tropical regions like Mexico and Brazil, though they exist all of Central America and South America. In these regions they will grow as perennial natives.

When growing outside of their growing region, they are cultivated as annuals in more temperate regions. They can grow in USDA hardiness zones 10 & 11. Anywhere else, and they should be grown indoors as a house plant.

How do you Propagate a Firecracker Vine?

Propagating a firecracker vine requires a little bit more effort when it is first being established, but once it is established, you’ll have a bit of a hard time containing its vigorous growth!

Any skill level gardener can propagate their own firecracker vine as long as they know the first vital steps. Read on to learn a few propagation tips:

Healthy firecracker vine shrub growing on a lawn with amazing flower blossoms

Pick a Spot

Often times, one of the trickiest parts about planting a new garden specimen is knowing exactly where to put it! When it comes to the firecracker vine, it’s always a good idea to plant it near something that it can attach itself to to climb (like a trellis or arbor), rather than attaching itself to another plant.

Another important feature of its permanent home should be proper lighting. They prefer to live in full sun, so try to avoid areas with partial shade or full shade.

It is also ideal to pick a spot that is more sheltered and isn’t exposed to too much wind throw. They have rather delicate flower blossoms that can easily be damaged by intense weather.

Sow Seed

The next step is sowing seed! You can start a seed crop indoors in the early spring, about 6 weeks before the last frost of the season is expected so that they’re ready to go once it’s warm enough! If you live in a warm region, just sow outdoors!

Sprinkle the ipomoea lobata seeds in the soil but make sure they have enough space apart from one another, as firecracker vines need their space. Don’t cover the seeds with a thick layer of soil either because they need sunlight in order to germinate. Spring seed depth is less than an inch.

Maintenance

From here, simply make sure that seedlings are getting enough moisture. Soil should remain moist. This can be a little bit tedious since they prefer to live in full sun, so soil will dry out more quickly than if it were in the shade.

What are the Growing Conditions of Firecracker Vines?

Amazing bushy firecracker shrub growing in the garden

Soil Type

Firecracker vines aren’t too picky about the soil type that they exist in, though they certainly have their preferences. It is best that the soil is well drained rather than packed.

They also prefer soils that are very rich in nutrients. If you’re worried about this, simply incorporate some compost into your soil mix at the beginning of the growing season.

Sun Exposure

Firecracker vines are sun loving creatures. This means that they prefer to exist in direct sun exposure for a minimum of 6 hours per day. If they are planted in an area that is shaded there is a strong chance that they will bear less showy of a floral display.

Water Level

When it comes to watering, firecracker vines aren’t too high maintenance. It is important that they receive enough water during the first few weeks of their growing season, but afterwards they will do just fine with natural precipitation.

They tend to naturally live in areas that experience a lot of humidity and this is also a great source of moisture for these plants.

Massive firecracker vine bush growing next to a cloudy sky

Temperature

The most picky a firecracker plant will be is when it comes temperature. They are by no means a cold hardy plant and they will perish if they experience anything under 41 degrees Fahrenheit.

Knowing that they are a native plant to Mexico and Brazil will give you an indication of their ideal temperatures. They can exist outdoors in USDA hardiness zones 10 and 11, but anywhere else and they need to be brought inside before the first frost of the year.

Fertilizer

Though they don’t absolutely need fertilizing, a firecracker vine can respond quite well to fertilizer as long as it is done properly.

You can give your plan an organic, balanced, slow release fertilizer at the beginning of the growing season. If you give them one that is high in nitrogen, you run risk of causing foliage and flower wilting.

Pruning

Firecracker vines grow extremely fast and the spread far and wide. They can grow a full 10 feet in only a few weeks! With this in mind, know that in order to keep your plant from growing out of control, you’ll periodically have to do some serious pruning.

As the plant is growing, don’t be afraid to snip away the vines that are growing in directions that are not wanted. Otherwise, do a major prune back in the early winter. This way they can grow new sprouts come the following spring and they won’t be too crowded.

Intolerances

As you can see, there is nearly nothing that the firecracker vine can’t handle except for being cold. Just remember that they are not tolerant of frost or winter temperatures, so bring your specimen inside for the winter if you live in the non-tropics.

How are Firecracker Vines Used?

Beautiful firecracker vine growing over a wall in an ornamental garden

Ornamental plant

If you can keep them under control, firecracker vines make for truly wonderful ornamental plants. They can kept as container plants, they are absolutely fabulous when growing in a hanging basket, and they create an exceptional display when they grow up the sides of trellises and arbors.

The firecracker vine is so lovely in fact that it has awarded itself the Royal Horticulture Society Award of Garden Merit.

*It is better to plant a firecracker plant in hanging baskets rather than in a low lying pot (although large containers will do), as they grow very long and very wide. They are easier to maintain if vines can hang down rather than crawl along the ground.

Wildlife Ecology

Because of their numerous and sweet smelling flowers, firecracker vines do a great job of attracting beneficial insects and other pollinators like bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, and moths. A butterfly garden isn’t just amazing because of its beauty, but because of its contribution to local wildlife!

FAQs

Are firecracker vines perennials?

In their native growing range, firecracker vines will grow as perennials, where they will continue to bloom year after year. But outside of their growing range, they are usually planted as annuals, as they are not very cold hardy plants.

Are firecracker vines deer resistant?

Another awesome thing about the firecracker vine is that it is entirely deer resistant and rabbit resistant! They can even help deter these larger pests from other, smaller plants that they may like to nibble on.

What is the difference between ipomoea lobata and ipomoea tricolor?

There are quite a few differences between the firecracker vine ipomoea lobata and the Mexican morning glory plant (ipomoea tricolor). They are both part of the same botanical family, convolvulaceae, and have similar growth habits, but are quite different from one another.

Firstly, the Mexican morning glory has a far more extensive growing range and has been naturalized all over the world. It can be planted as a perennial outside of its natural growing range.

Next, this plant can grow to be anywhere from 7-13 feet (2-4 metres) in height and has leaves that are spirally arranged along the stem. They also have blue flowers with white centres that have more of a trumpet shape.

What are the damaging agents of the firecracker vine?

One downfall of the firecracker vine plant is that it is rather susceptible to some damaging agents. They will often experience issues with whitefly invasions, spider mites, leaf spots, leaf rust, and leaf blisters as well.

Can firecrackers vines be grown indoors?

A firecracker vine can certainly be grown indoors as a house plant, but it will take some serious attention to ensure that it doesn’t grow out of control. Simply place it in a south facing window that receives a ton of sunlight and give it a roomy pot — hanging baskets or large containers are the best options for this type of growth habit.

When do firecracker vine flowers bloom?

Firecracker vine flowers will usually bloom in the early summer and perish in the late summer or early fall. Their colors add such a lovely display of autumnal colors right before autumn is due to arrive.

What month should you plant ipomoea lobata?

Sowing seed of the firecracker plant should happen in the very early spring. You can start a seed crop indoors in the early spring, about 6 weeks before the last frost of the season is expected so that they’re ready to go once it’s warm enough! If you live in a warm region, just sow outdoors!

Can firecracker vines live in full shade?

Firecracker vines are sun loving creatures. This means that they prefer to exist in direct sun exposure for a minimum of 6 hours per day. If they are planted in an area that is shaded there is a strong chance that they will bear less showy of a floral display.

How often should a firecracker vine be watered?

When it comes to watering, firecracker vines aren’t too high maintenance. It is important that they receive enough water during the first few weeks of their growing season, but afterwards they will do just fine with natural precipitation.

They tend to naturally live in areas that experience a lot of humidity and this is also a great source of moisture for these plants.

Do firecrackers vines need fertilizer?

Though they don’t absolutely need fertilizing, a firecracker vine can respond quite well to fertilizer as long as it is done properly.

You can give your plan an organic, balanced, slow release fertilizer at the beginning of the growing season. If you give them one that is high in nitrogen, you run risk of causing foliage and flower wilting.

What type of pruning does a firecracker vine need?

Firecracker vines grow extremely fast and the spread far and wide. They can grow a full 10 feet in only a few weeks! With this in mind, know that in order to keep your plant from growing out of control, you’ll periodically have to do some serious pruning.

As the plant is growing, don’t be afraid to snip away the vines that are growing in directions that are not wanted. Otherwise, do a major prune back in the early winter. This way they can grow new sprouts come the following spring and they won’t be too crowded.

Why is it called a firecracker vine?

Firecracker vine flowers are truly something to behold. They are borne as a one sided raceme that is heavy enough to make the flower stems heave to one side. They are loved because of their extravagant sprays of amazing flower spikes.

A flower stem will bear several small, banana shaped flowers that are first open up as a dazzling reddish orange, and will slowly fade to red, yellow, then to cream, then to white flowers along the length of the flower spike. This gradient of color has a firework-like effect which is where the plant gets it common name. These colors are also similar to that of the Spanish national flag, hence the other common name.

How tall will a firecracker vine get?

These plants are climbing vines. They are extremely enthusiastic growers and they can sometimes grow a wild 10 feet in a mere month. Growing to be up to 16 feet (5 metres) in height, they shoot up trellised, fences, stone walls, and anything else you but them near.

Are firecracker vines fast growing?

The firecracker vine is a very good choice if you are in search of a plant that will grow with great speed and enthusiasm. These guys can grow a baffling 10 feet in a single month.