Most of us grow firebush (Hamelia patens) as a summertime annual.
South Texans grow it as a perennial that freezes to the ground each winter.
Here are some reasons each of us should include it in every year's summer landscaping:
• Tolerates full sun, even when planted against reflective walls.
• It stays compact (18-28 inches) without shearing.
• Blooms all summer and right up to frost.
• Foliage changes to bright coppery-red all fall.
• Hummingbirds love it over almost any other plant in your garden.
• It has virtually no insects or diseases.
• While it grows best when it's kept moist, it's still a water-conscious alternative for all parts of Texas.
• It's perfectly suited to both in-ground beds and larger containers.
Firebush needs rich, highly organic soil to perform best.
Apply a high-nitrogen fertilizer, but do so in some moderation. Applying too much nitrogen, or growing it in shade, each can lead to lanky, poorly flowering plants.
It can be kept over the winter if you have it in a container, but you'll want to grow it in a bright, sunny greenhouse or sunroom. Or, you can just let it go away with the first freeze and know that nurserymen will have ready supplies again next year.
It is grown from cuttings.
Nurseries normally don't start offering it until May. It is readily available in Texas nurseries right now. If your nursery doesn't offer it in 4-inch or 1-gallon pots, they can order it for you. Or, you can find it elsewhere. But, do find it!