in Tucson, Phoenix,
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Gardening in Tucson, Phoenix, Arizona and California

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Growing Justicia spicigera: Mexican honeysuckle

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Form: A shrub with herbaceous stems that become woody from the bottom up with age.
Leaf retention: Evergreen.
Growth rate: Moderate.
Mature Size: 3' high and 4' wide.
Flowers: Bright orange, narrowly tubular, 1-1/2" long, lower lip curled back tightly.
Bloom: All year in regions without freezes.
Fruit: Insignificant.
Leaves: Green, velvety surface, oval with pointed tip, to 3" long.
Stems: No thorns, soft.
Wildlife: Attracts hummingbirds and butterflies. A caterpillar food plant for the Texan Crescent butterfly. Deer resistant.
Toxic / Danger: No.
Origin: Mexico, Central America.

Cultivation and Uses
USDA hardiness zones: 8-11. It suffers damage at 25°F and dies to the ground in lower temperatures. It will regrow from its roots in the spring.
Heat tolerant: Yes.
Drought tolerant: Yes.
Sun: Full sun. Shade reduces blooms and causes the plant to become leggy.
Water after becoming established: Once or twice a month. Although not needed for survival, weekly watering in hot, dry seasons of the year improves its appearance and blooming. Do not overwater.
Soil: Well drained, tolerant, pH 6.6-8.5 (neutral to alkaline). It requires little to no fertilization, but can be fertilized lightly once a year. This plant has poor salt tolerance.
Mulch: Only during winter when freezes are predicted. Remove after the last freeze so the soil can dry quickly after a rain or irrigation.
Planting: It can be grown in large containers.
First Year Care: Water lightly every day to establish an extensive root system. Yellow leaves can indicate either over-watering or under-watering.
Prune: When the danger of frost is past, remove frost-damaged parts and remove older, woody stems. Trim to a more compact form if it becomes leggy.
Litter: Low.
Propagation: Stem cuttings; layering (bending a stem over, burying its top in the ground, and fastening it down so that it will root). The rootball can be subdivided and transplanted.
Uses: Ornamental, hummingbird garden.

This plant is a member of the Acanthus family (Acanthaceae). Another common name is Orange Plume Flower. The butterfly in the picture is a Gulf Fritillary.

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Latest update: January, 2022

Justicia spicigera: Mexican honeysuckle - flowers

Justicia spicigera: Mexican honeysuckle - with butterfly

Justicia spicigera: Mexican honeysuckle