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Native Firebush

Native Firebush

Hamelia patens

  • ​Common name: Firebush, Scarlet Bush​
  • Scientific name: Hamelia patens
  • Family name: Rubiaceae
  • Origin: Florida
  • Height: 6 to 12 ft
  • Width: 5 to 8 ft
  • Growth: Fast
  • Zone: 9-11
  • Light needs: Full sun to Part shade
  • Salt tolerance: Poor soil salt tolerance, but moderately tolerant of salt spray
  • Soil/pH/Texture: Well-drained sandy, loamy, or clay soil, acidic to alkaline (pH 6.0-7.5)
  • Moisture: Moderate water needs, water regularly until established, then only water when soil is very dry.
  • Drought tolerance: Moderate
  • Pests/Diseases: Scales, mites, and aphids may pose a threat
  • Growing conditions: Best planted in late spring or summer in a sunny area with well-drained soil. Should be watered regularly at first, but once established it is very low maintenance. It is a fast grower and should be pruned regularly to control its growth – it can easily be trained into a shrub or hedge. However, too much pruning may cause reduced blooming. In warm areas, it may grow up to fifteen feet tall.
  • Characteristics: Firebush is a dense, fast growing shrub, with simple, ovate leaves with a whorled arrangement. The leaves are 4-8 inches long with a red midvein, and stems are also red. Flowers are orange-red, tubular, and grow in clusters at the ends of stems. Blooming is year-round. Fruits are small, black, and ovular.
  • Propagation: By seeds or by cuttings
  • Wildlife: Flowers attract butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds. Birds and other small animals feed on the fruit.
  • Facts: The fruits are edible to humans and have an acidic taste; in Mexico, they are made into a fermented drink. Since firebush grows continuously, the wood lacks growth rings. Parts of the plant have been found to have antibacterial and medicinal properties, and Indigenous people of tropical America use extracts of the leaves and stems to treat ailments.
  • Designer considerations: Makes for a great hedge or shrub. It can also be trained into a small tree to be a specimen planting. It is a good choice for butterfly gardens as the flowers attract multitudes of butterflies.