The name Russelia honours the Scottish naturalist Alexander Russell (1715-1768), given to the genus by the Dutch scientist Baron Nikolaus von Jacquin (1727-1817). The species name refers to this plants resemblance to horsetail rushes, and the Latin term equisetiformis means “like Equisetum.” Russelia equisetiformis is a multi-branching plant with 4–5 feet (1.2–1.5 m) long arching branches.
The overall graceful form of the subshrub is a fountainesque mound. The stems and tiny oval leaves are bright green. It flowers profusely with small decumbent red flowers. It can bloom year-round in tropical and subtropical climates. It is a very popular nectar plant for hummingbirds and butterflies.