How to Grow and Care for Mexican Firecrackers

Mexican firecracker (Echeveria setosa) plant
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In This Article

The Mexican firecracker (Echeveria setosa) is a succulent that lives up to its explosive name. This plant makes an eye-catching addition to rock gardens or the succulent collection on your desk.

Producing rosettes about six inches wide, this echeveria succulent boasts a plethora of scoop-shaped leaves that form its rose-like looks. Each leaf is covered in tiny, short white hairs, giving the plant a fuzzy appearance. Though the rosettes are only a few inches tall, in late spring this plant produces stalks that can be up to a foot tall. The stalks hold beautiful red, urn-shaped flowers. These firecracker-like blooms are tipped in yellow and known to attract hummingbirds, making them a wonderful addition to pollinator gardens. 

The Mexican firecracker spreads through offsets and can reach about a foot in width. In warm climates, this plant can be kept as a perennial, but in cooler zones, it is often used as an annual or houseplant.  

Botanical Name Echeveria setosa
Common Name Mexican firecracker
Plant Type Perennial, evergreen
Mature Size 12 inches tall and 3 inches wide
Sun Exposure Full to partial sun
Soil Type Sandy, well-draining
Soil pH Slightly acidic
Bloom Time Late spring
Flower Color Red and yellow
Hardiness Zones 9 to 11, USA
Native Area Mexico
Flowers of the echeveria setosa plant
Mexican firecracker flowers in bloom  

AYImages / Getty Images

Mexican Firecracker Care

Caring for Mexican firecrackers is simple and requires little maintenance, if these colorful succulents are given the right environment. It's important to place them in well-draining soil, avoid overwatering, and ensure adequate sunlight. Removing withered bottom leaves is also recommended to prevent an accumulation of dead matter. Aside from improving the aesthetics of your plant, this will also help to keep pests away.

These succulents are popular for use rock gardens, containers, and even green roofs. With little maintenance, this plant will reward you with eye-catching foliage and stunning flower stalks. If you live in an area where an outdoor garden is not an option, the Mexican firecracker can also be grown as a houseplant.  

Light

The Mexican firecracker is naturally found in full sun environments. However, in very hot climates it is best to shade these succulents from the direct afternoon sun. Such intense light can burn the leaves. This is true for indoor Mexican firecrackers as well. During the winter months when the sun is a bit more scarce, south-facing windows are ideal. If the Mexican firecracker is not getting enough light, they will take on a leggy appearance. 

Soil

Well-draining, sandy soil is key to the health of Mexican firecracker plants. Cactus and succulent mix is a great choice for a soil medium when using these plants in containers. You can also make your own mix by combining potting soil and perlite or sand in equal amounts. 

Water

Be sure not to overwater your Mexican firecracker, as trapped water or soggy soil can cause root rot. Allow the soil to completely dry out between watering sessions.

Once the soil is dry, these plants like a deep, thorough watering. If your Mexican firecracker is in a pot, water until it drains out the bottom of the pot. Overwatering typically has more to do with the frequency of watering sessions, rather than the quantity of water dispensed. So don't be alarmed if you see a steady stream of water from the bottom of the pot. This gives the entire root system a chance to be thoroughly quenched.

Temperature and Humidity

As suggested by its name, these plants like hot, sunny locations. They are not cold hardy and must be brought indoors if you live in areas with cold winters. Otherwise, they can be planted yearly as annuals. Because these succulents are native to semi-desert areas, low to medium humidity is preferred. Too much moisture can cause rot

Fertilizer

These plants thrive in sandy, semi-desert conditions where nutrients are not plentiful. Therefore, fertilizing is not needed often. In fact, too much fertilizer can harm the Mexican firecracker. If you feel your succulent is in need of a nutrient boost, try giving it slow-releasing cactus and succulent fertilizer in the spring. 

Propagating Mexican Firecrackers 

Mexican firecrackers can easily be propagated using cuttings from the leaf, stem, or an offset.

Leaf Cuttings: 

  1. Gently pop a leaf off at its base. Make sure the whole leaf comes off cleanly where it joins the stalk. It should not snap in two pieces. 
  2. Allow the leaf tip to dry and callus for a few days. 
  3. Once callused, set the leaf on top of well-draining cactus or succulent soil and water as needed. 
  4. Eventually, a new plant will sprout from the callused end of the leaf and the old leaf will shrivel and fall off. 

Stem and Offset Cuttings:

  1. Using a clean, sharp knife or pair of scissors, snip the stem or offset away from the mother plant. 
  2. Set the stem or offset aside and allow the end to callus for a few days. 
  3. Plant the callused end of the cutting in well-draining cactus or succulent soil. 
  4. Wait until the soil is dry, then water as needed.

Growing in Pots

The Mexican firecracker can successfully be grown in containers and is a great option for those living in colder climates. When choosing a container, be sure it has adequate draining holes.

Unlike other plants, you may not need to water your Mexican firecracker right after planting it in the container. It is best to allow the soil to dry completely before watering, so if the soil is damp you will want to wait until it dries.

Spring or early summer are the best times to repot this succulent. You will know when it is time to repot once the foliage has no room to spread or is spilling over the edges of the pot. You may also see roots coming out of the drainage holes. However, these plants are slow-growing and do not need to be repotted often.