Saturday, June 26, 2010

Hummingbird Bush (Anisacanthus quadrifidus var. wrightii)

Is anyone immune to the magic of hummingbirds?

Next week I'm giving a presentation to our neighborhood gardeners group on attracting hummingbirds.  Few words, lots of pictures, useful plant list.

And it seems a shame not to share the plants with you, even if you don't live in the Texas Hill Country.  We're not all privileged to live in the center of the universe, but many plants are adaptable and you might find a few that like your yard.

I've written occasionally about hummingbird plants in past posts, including my favorite, Standing Cypress (Ipomopsis rubra), native to 27 states.   Starting today, I'll share some of the others.

Hummingbird Bush, AKA Flame Acanthus, is native only to south-central and west Texas down into northern Mexico.  But it's commercially propagated and reported hardy from zones 7a - 10b, with happy gardeners in states as diverse as California and Virginia.  Adaptable to a range of soils from sand to rocks and clay, if well-drained.

This cheerful 3'x3' bush (reported to 6 feet, but not in my thin-clay-over-limestone garden) sports red or orange tubular flowers June through October, attracting bees, butterflies and hummingbirds.  Although the bushes are drought tolerant, my plants bloom more with a weekly watering.

Hummingbird Bush thrives in full sun but adapts to light shade.  Leaves fall at first frost.  In light winters it may remain evergreen, but a severe winter pruning will encourage summer bushiness.

Mine were slow to establish, maybe due to our thin soil, but reseed with abandon and deer take a pass on the plants. 

The hummingbirds and I dream of seeing Hummingbird Bush thick as a hedge.  The birds will nest in nearby junipers and lead their young ones to the red-flower table.

Copyright 2009-2010 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.


  1. How I love to see your garden photos, and I've miss them this summer. So sorry for not visiting as often. Have been spending a lot of time with family, and working in between ... Thanks for the eye feast here!

  2. I plant the hummingbird plants and they grow but I get so little sun under these trees that the blossoms are so slow to come. The poor hummingbirds in my yard!

  3. Lovely post dear Kathleen and your plants are beautiful, just love the colours of the flowers. xoxo ♡

  4. I have a hedge of these shrubs along one side of the fence of my veggie garden and from summer until frost, while the plants bloom, they are daily covered with butterflies, bees, and, yes, hummingbirds. Wonderful plant!

  5. I'll bet that will be a great class, Kathleen. Wish I were nearby so I could attend.

    The best/easiest hummingbird plant in my garden here in northern CA is a fuchsia which has naturalized in my yard. Can't seem to find the name of it, but it is about 3 ft tall in places and has stems topped with rows of deep rose, trumpet flowers.

    x0 N2

  6. It's good to know this is one the deer pass up. I might try one. Although, the deer in our neighborhood, eat things most other deer leave alone.

    Just back from North Dakota. The heat really set in, while we were gone.

    Good luck, with your presentation.


  7. I have a Flame Acanthus that I planted last year. I thought it had succumbed to the bitter cold of this past winter, but thankfully it pulled through. I was working in the border yesterday, clipping back a Pentas that had been nibbled on by *something* when I heard a loud whirring noise. I looked up to see a hummingbird flitting around the Flame Acanthus, just three feet away from me :-)

  8. The Moms loves hummingbirds and so do I.

  9. Another plant we have in common. My hummingbird bush will get four feet tall in north Texas. I usually cut it back to the ground every couple of years. I have never had more than about 6 inches of the tips die back in the winter. We are apparently zone 8 now (used to be 7b). It does pop up everywhere from seeds.

  10. I grow this shrub in La Mesa, CA. I love it because the hummingbirds love it. I do notice copius seedlings everywhere though. Does your seed too or is it just my climate (10b alkaline sandy loam soil).

    1. Yes, flame acanthus reseeds readily. My goal is to have a hedge of them--a living banquet for the birds.

    2. Yes, flame acanthus reseeds readily. My goal is to have a hedge of them--a living banquet for the birds.


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