Justicia rizzinii 'Firefly' (Acanthaceae family)
Renamed many times and sold under different botanical names, this final version honours the great Brazilian botanist Carlos Toledo Rizzinni (1921-1992) where the plant hails from.
I am going to call this a 'real estate' shrub because if you were selling a townhouse or flat with a balcony during winter this would be the perfect little shrub to make a residence look warm and inviting. It only grows to about 75cm but packs a punch with the firecracker scarlet and yellow flowers during the coldest months. The only downside to shrubs this small is that you need at least five planted closely together to make an impact in a garden or planter box. Given a trim after flowering means it will stay compact ,and dare I say it may make a passing imitation of a clipped Buxus given half the chance. I noticed a grower with a batch in the plant trade market this week but only in small pots, as this is still a little known shrub, and what nursery person can take the risk of producing a plant in quantity which may not sell?
I leave the final word about it to Sydney garden writer Deirdre Mowat, who, in her book Meet the family Acanthaceae, says, when describing it in flower, as 'like that of a shower of embers suspended in mid-air, sparkling in a sunny spot or lighting up a more shady one'.
A perfect description indeed.