Monday, October 11, 2010

Firebush (Hamelia patens)

Out my bedroom window bloomed an early Christmas.  The Firebush starts blooming in July, and continues through August, September, October and sometimes November too, as tubular red flowers light bright green leaves.  


Gardeners love firebush--great foliage, continuous summer flowers and no deadheading required.

Butterflies and hummingbirds love it too. In tropical climes the plants are evergreen and offer birds berries/seeds for winter fare.

This perennial is native to south and central Florida, but gardeners across the south and even southern Arizona and California know firebush grows more widely, zones 8a-11Mine dies back at first frost and we dock it close to the ground.  The well-mulched roots survive winter, even last winter's temperatures in the teens. 

I've read that firebush prefers fertile to sandy soil in sun to light-shade (afternoon shade in places like ours with scorching summers), but it's growing well in my rugged Texas Hill Country patch, planted in a full-sun, thin-clay-over-limestone area.   Our plants grow in the four-foot range but plants with deep soil and good conditions could grow to ten feet.

With an annual composting and mulching, firebush is modestly drought-tolerant, although a weekly summer watering will aid growth and flowering.  And the plants are largely pest and disease-free; even deer (usually) leave them alone.

So if you live anywhere in Zones 8a-11, plant a wiggly row to enjoy Christmas in summer.  

And as a mass call to migrating hummingbirds.

They'll remember your hospitality and visit again the next time they fly through.

For more great plants, check out the monthly blog carnival at Appalachian Feet.

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


  1. I'm glad to know that the firebush does well for you in sometimes harsh conditions. I just added one to my front porch flower bed, and I'm looking forward to its cheery presence there from now on. One concern, though, now that I've read your comment on the size: the tag on the plant said that it should grow 3 feet x 3 feet, and that's about all the space I have for it. Do you think I should move it before it gets established, considering that it could become a large problem in the future? Or does it lend itself to a regular trim for shape and management of size?

  2. It is a beauty that is for sure!
    I miss our hummers.
    Do they stay year round in Texas?

  3. Such a lovely bush Kathleen, both flowers and foliage, I am sure I had something similar growing here, it had tubular red flowers with lovely nectar. Unfortunately I lost a lot of my soft leafed plants from the radiated heat from the bush fires.
    xoxoxo ♡

  4. The fellow on the left is having a really bad hair-day. One might even say psychotic.

  5. Thanks for all the good info on the firebush, Kathleen. From what I can see online with the zone maps, it looks like we are in similar zones.

    I have a perennial fuschia that has crimson trumpet flowers that has naturalized in my garden. The hummers love that one. Fire bush looks quite similar to non-hardy fuschia to me, so I might give it a try.

    In looking it up, I read that it is in the same family as another rainforest plant, "cats claw", which is an important medicinal. I use the tincture for immune support. It seems firebush can also be used as in herbal remedies. Here's the address of the article:

    Bises, N2

  6. So far, it didn't boot me off your page today. Hooray! Nope--spoke too soon--it just booted me to the damn Dell redirect page. Goddammit.

    Loved the hummingbird photo. Hope you and Denny are well and happy.

    Love you!


  7. Two more positives - these bushes withstand all sorts of severe pruning (we had one too close to a sidewalk for years before moving it) AND they transplant easily if you are patient and allow them a season to recover.

    In fact, if you break rooted pieces off when transplanting, you'll end up with multiples with no discernible harm done.

    A very intervention tolerant plant - just my speed.

  8. What happened to the hummer on the left? I think he must have gotten some sugar water on his head. Kind of looks like a punk hummer.

  9. Bob and Vince, you win the prize for photo-eyes. It was raining and the little guy on the left was soaked. He did a good job of keeping 'his' perch against all comers too.

  10. The hummer on the left is having a bad hair day. You should call him "Spike." I had to smile when with this post as we were at the park this weekend admiring the HUGE fire bushes they have up there. Lots of butterflies.

  11. Mine is in a container this year because the bed just wasn't ready for planting at the beginning of the summer. It's hanging in there and still blooming a bit. I hope to plant it in the ground in spring and let to go crazy :-)

  12. I love firebush, too! Mine hasn't bloomed yet but it doesn't get enough sun, I think. It still performs beautifully.

    My hummingbirds are all gone; maybe some of them stopped by your place!


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