Firebush Information – How To Grow Hamelia Firebush Plants

By: Mary Ellen Ellis

The name firebush doesn’t just describe this plant’s gorgeous, flame-colored flowers; it also describes how well the large shrub tolerates intense heat and sun. Perfect for zones 8 through 11, growing a firebush is easy if you know what conditions it needs to thrive. But exactly what is a firebush?

Firebush Information

Firebush, also known as Hamelia patens, is a native to the southern U.S. and is a large, woody shrub. It can grow as tall as 15 feet (4.5 meters), but firebush can also be kept smaller. It grows quickly, shooting up several feet in its first growing season.

Hamelia is a favorite plant in many southern states, like Florida, because it is native and easy to grow, but especially because it produces gorgeous flowers from spring all the way through the fall. These bright, coppery-red blooms also attract pollinators to the garden, including butterflies and hummingbirds.

Firebush also comes in a compact or dwarf size, which can be found at many nurseries. There is also a relatively new cultivar called ‘Firefly.’ This cultivar looks similar to the original firebush, but its leaves and flowers are about half the size.

How to Grow Hamelia Plants

Firebush plant care is not hard if you give it the right conditions and you have the right environment for it. Once Hamelia is established, it will tolerate drought and heat. Firebush absolutely requires warmth and full sun, so this is not a plant for northern climates or shady gardens.

There are no known pest or disease issues that are common with firebush and it is not particular about soil type. Firebush will even tolerate some salty spray from the ocean.

To grow firebush in your garden, plant it in late spring or early summer. Make sure the soil drains well, because this plant will not tolerate soggy roots. Water your Hamelia regularly until it has become established.

Prune it as needed to keep it to a reasonable size but avoid over-pruning. This will limit the production of flowers. You can propagate firebush by seed or by cuttings.

For southern gardeners, growing a firebush is a great way to add color and density to a space. With the right conditions of sun, heat, and moderately dry soil, you can easily keep this pretty bush happy and thriving in your garden.

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Firebush Care – How To Grow And Care For Hamelia Firebush Plants

If hummingbirds or butterflies visiting your garden make your day, then you couldn’t find a better plant to attract them than the Hamelia firebush. It’s not just that flowers offer a delicious meal for both, but all these clusters of tubular-shaped flowers in their scarlet, red, and orange explosions are just too hard to miss.

But it’s not just butterflies and birds that love the firebush. In your garden, it offers plenty of landscaping opportunities and transforms a drab corner into a lush and breathtaking visual spectacle of colors and textures. So let’s get to know this exotic plant a little more and learn how to grow and care for it in the garden.

How To Plant A Firebush

Firebush (Hamelia patens) is a perennial. A semi-woody shrub, native to South Florida that can grow to about 5-10 ft. tall in height. Also called scarlet bush, its bright red-orange tubular flowers bloom from late spring till the first frost and attract butterflies, including zebra longwing and gulf fritillary, as well as hummingbirds. This plant also produces black berries to draw in different species of birds such as cedar waxwings, song birds and catbirds that eat the fruit. It stays in bloom through the growing season and when the weather turns cooler, some of the fuzzy leaves also turn bright red.

Firebush Features

Firebush are plentiful in nurseries and garden centers across most regions in Florida, because they are so well adapted to the growing conditions of the region. Once established, this amazing wildlife plant is also heat, drought and salt-air tolerant. It has no serious insect or disease issues either. Firebush are commonly referred to as a ‘Root-hardy perennial’ because even though it will thin out and die in the winter, new shoots re-grow in the spring. It rapidly gets bigger to the size of a bush or small tree.

How Can Firebush Be Used for Landscaping?

The easy growing Firebush plant is perfect for landscaping around your patio or deck. They work well as casual hedges, mixed borders, or even along a blank wall or fencing. They can also be used as an accent plant, a stand-alone shrub or as backdrop for low-growing plants.

Planting And Maintenance Of Firebush

Firebush should ideally be planted in late spring or summer in USDA Zones 8-11. You can place these plants at least 5-6 feet apart and away from the house by at least 4 feet. You could even grow this shrub in a large container. Whether planted in the ground or in a container, you should look to plant the Firebush where a large 8 to 12-foot shrub can be accommodated.

They grow well in a range of soils, both alkaline and acid, so there is no soil amendment needed for these native plants. They will even grow better if you add a little top soil or organic peat moss to the hole before planting.

Firebush will grow successfully in part or full shade, but will also bloom happily in the full sun of a south-facing wall. These shrubs need to be protected from strong winds.

Plants do have to be pruned so that they remain at the desired height and also to promote new growth. This is true especially in the South Florida region where they grow all year long. Spring is the preferred season for shearing the plant back to size to encourage flowering and also to look for and rectify any winter damage. Spring pruning can rectify winter freeze back or thinning.

Plant Firebush in any well-drained soil and water regularly until it is well established. These shrubs become drought-tolerant once they’ve taken hold. To establish the plant, plan for a regular irrigation schedule and allow time in between watering to let the plant dry out. Deep watering once every couple of weeks, if there is no rain.

Place nulch over the roots in the fall to prepare it for the winter freeze. There is minimal fertilization required. Just a spring application of fertilizer such as bone meal can help the plant grow fuller and it also boosts blooms.

Visit Wilcox Nursery & Landscape, the best Florida native nursery and landscaping services to buy your Firebush plants from us! Come visit our Garden Center today and check out other varieties of Florida natives. We can even special order any plant of your choice for your landscape design project. Contact us to get started.

Best Time to Plant Firebush in Florida

Although firebush thrives in all areas of Florida, where you live decides when the best time to plant the shrub into the landscape is. Those living in South Florida where temperatures are warm year-round can plant firebush into the landscape nearly all year.

AreaPlanting Dates
North FloridaApr – Sep
Central FloridaApr – Sep
South FloridaFeb – Dec

Planting date guidelines have been sourced from IFAS.

However, those living in colder areas of Central and North Florida where frosts and freezes are common shouldn’t put firebush into the landscape until temperatures warm in spring. To give the root system time to establish itself before the cold winds of winter come calling, plant the firebush spring through late summer.

If you’re desiring to grow the firebush in a container, you can plant year-round. However, those living in colder locations in the state should bring the container into a warm and protected location during winter if you don’t want the plant to die to the ground once winter’s cold temperatures strike.

Watch the video: How To Grow Hamelia Patens Plant For Bonsai. Care And Tips

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