How to Grow Scarlet Tassel Flowers

Emilia coccinea (Scarlett Tassel Flower) close up

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With its brilliant cluster of scarlet-orange paintbrush blossoms and basal rosette of blue-green leaves, the scarlet tassel flower (Emilia coccinea) is a popular choice for flower beds and borders.

This self-sowing annual can add color, texture, and visual interest to your garden. Some have even described these plants as "magical" due to their delicate yet wiry, curvy stems being able to weave themselves around other plants. Their tall, thin stems will sway in the breeze.

These long-lasting plants will bloom from late spring all the way through the first frost, providing a whimsical and airy presence. Consider planting scarlet tassel flowers with other summer staples, such as zinnias. Their tousled, pompon flowers are fairly small, so their bright and fiery hues won’t overpower your other plantings.

These captivating plants usually reach up to about 18 inches tall, but can grow as tall as three feet. They are favorites for fresh and dried arrangements. Scarlet tassel flowers also lend themselves well to container gardens.

Their scarlet-orange pompons can almost look as though they're floating in mid-air when seen from a distance, and they look especially gorgeous when paired with either bold-leaved or other showy plants in the background, which can almost create a see-through effect.

The scarlet tassel flower is one of several rare, old-fashioned favorites. They were once called Flora's Paintbrush and Scarlet Cacalia as far back as the 1820s. It is still also sometimes referred to as "scarlet magic".

Botanical Name Emilia coccinea
Common Name Scarlet tassel flower
Plant Type Annual
Mature Size 1-3 feet
Sun Exposure Full sun/partial shade
Soil Type Well-drained
Soil pH n/a
Bloom Time Summer
Flower Color Red/Orange
Hardiness Zones 8-11
Native Area Tropical Asia

Scarlet Tassel Flower Care

When planted in a good location, with undisturbed soil, these low-maintenance and fast-growing plants will often self-sow. They bloom in the summer and are not associated with any significant disease or pest issues. Scarlet tassel flowers have been known to attract pollinators such as bees and butterflies.

Light

Scarlet tassel flower plants will grow best when planted in full sunlight. They can also tolerate partial shade.

Water

You'll need to water scarlet tassel flowers regularly when they are first establishing, but then, after that, they will only require watering during particular dry, hot periods of weather.

Soil

When growing scarlet tassel flowers, the soil should be well-drained. They can grow in both neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. These plants are not particular about the soil pH, and can successfully grow in even poor soil conditions.

Temperature and Humidity

These half-hardy annual plants are native to the tropics and therefore can withstand higher heat and humidity. They are an ideal choice for hot and damp areas as well as in coastal soils.

Fertilizer

Though scarlet tassel flowers can grow in poor soils, if needed, you can scratch in a few inches of compost or other organic granular fertilizer upon planting.

Propagating Scarlet Tassel Flowers

Scarlet tassel flowers can be propagated from seed. The brown, oblong seeds can be harvested from existing plants when the flowers turn to seed heads.

You'll want to start your seeds indoors about six to eight weeks before the last frost of the season. The ideal temperatures for germination are between 60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

Cover the seeds lightly and try to keep them moist until germination, which should take about seven to 10 days. The process from seed to full bloom will generally take between 10 to 12 weeks.

After germination has taken place you can prick the seedlings and place into individual pots and plant them outdoors. It's important that they are not transplanted outdoors until after the last expected frosts have passed. Temperatures should consistently remain above 40 degrees before attempting to move the plants outdoors.

When moving your plants outdoors, be sure to space your scarlet tassel flowers about 12 to 18 inches apart.

Pruning

The scarlet tassel flower doesn't require extensive pruning, but it can be deadheaded (or you can cut back whole stems) in order to promote continued blooming.

Growing in Containers

When growing in containers, be sure to sow the scarlet tassel flower's seeds just beneath the surface of the soil before moving them outdoors into average (but well-drained) soil.