If you’re looking for a tall, winter-time butterfly plant, purple firespike, Odontonema callistachyum, is a good choice for southern Florida. Growing up to six feet tall, it starts blooming in autumn and the blooms may last through winter in Zone 10. It will die back in a hard freeze but should re-sprout in the spring in Zones 8-9. Although it’s rated for full sun to partial shade, it may wilt during the intense summer sun in southern Florida. You may prefer to trim it back in the summer to keep it in check. Once established, firespike is drought tolerant and should attract many winged visitors to your yard.
Cardinal flower, Odontonema stictum, is a close relative and has red flowers. It was included in a list of plants grown on the Estates from 1901-1941. Given the Edisons’ interest in nature, it’s likely the cardinal flower was one of many species planted to attract butterflies and birds.
Our Garden Shoppe sells purple firespike in two gallon pots for $12. We also carry a variety of butterfly and hummingbird plants to complement the firespike. Don’t forget, Estates members save 10% on all purchases, including plants!
Britta Hanson Soderqvist, Plant Curator