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Image of Firebush in bloom A Star Is Born Texas summers are infamous, and rightly so, for the terrific stress they place on blooming plants in the landscape. Their twin trip-hammer blows of searing heat and prolonged drought make most bedding plants cry "uncle" by the 4th of July. But firebush, a new bedding plant for the north central Texas area, offers real hope to heat-hammered summer landscapes, particularly in view of the recurring fungal disease problems evident in many periwinkle plantings.

Firebush (scientific name: Hamelia patens) is an evergreen shrub or small tree native to many areas in tropical and subtropical America. It can be seen growing prolifically near magnificent stone pyramids in Veracruz and Yucatan and is prized by the natives for its beauty and many medicinal uses.

Its Advantages Are Many

Extensive testing by Texas Extension Service horticulturists has established that firebush offers many advantages to Texas gardeners. This plant:
  1. Is very heat and drought tolerant once established
  2. Will grow in almost any soil, even highly alkaline, heavy clays, as long as they are well drained
  3. Has no serious insect or disease problems when grown outdoors in full sun locations (so it's easy to grow "organically")
  4. Has a very long blooming period (nonstop from June to November)
  5. Is adaptable enough to tolerate partial shade even though it really "struts-its-stuff" in full, hot sun
Although a woody perennial in its native habitat, firebush is best utilized as an annual (mature height: 18-30 inches) from central Texas northward.

Image of Firebush in bloomThe clean, attractive foliage of firebush is dramatically highlighted by terminal clusters of scarlet red, tubular blossoms with deeper red throats. The striking blossoms (which do not require removal as they fade) are natural attractants for hummingbirds and butterflies. In fact, another common name for firebush is "hummingbird Bush" and it's sometimes difficult to get a photograph of firebush blooms without being buzzed by a hummer! The attributes of firebush just seem to keep on coming because shorter days and cool temperatures turn its foliage a beautiful blood red color in the fall.

Firebush Culture At A Glance

Landscape Uses

Aggie Horticulture | Texas Superstar TM