Plant of the Week – September 30, 2021: Firebush

When you see 1-gallon firebush plants in your favorite nursery next spring, that’s the time to grab some and set them out into your gardens or plant them into large patio pots.

It was 30 years (or so) ago that my Extension Service buddies Greg Grant and Drs. Jerry Parsons and Steve George brought this great plant to the gardeners of Texas.

Greg had discovered it. Jerry worked with South Texas growers to produce it, and he and Steve worked hard to trial it and get it distributed all across Texas. The rest is legend. The plant not only caught on, but it became one of the darlings of Texas gardens for many years.

Lately, however, you don’t see it as often as you should. It’s still a glorious choice as a tender perennial in Deep South Texas or a dependable annual for the rest of the state.

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What you need to know about Firebush…
It’s botanically Hamelia patens.
Native to tropical and sub-tropical America.

Cluster of tubular flowers of firebush show why hummingbirds would love it.

Grows well in full, hot sun.
Mature height as an annual: 18 to 24 inches. Space plants 15 inches apart in beds.
Suited to acidic or alkaline soils, therefore to any part of Texas.
Has no serious insect or disease problems outdoors. Whiteflies when over-wintered in greenhouse or sunroom.
Flowers from the day you plant it in late April or May until first frost in November.

Cooler weather causes firebush leaves to turn coppery red. These will continue the change until no green is visible.

Flowers are bright scarlet red. Foliage also takes on a deep rusty red color with fall’s cooler weather.
Hummingbirds and butterflies love this plant.
It’s great in beds and containers.
Combines well with mums, purple fountaingrass and other sources of fall color.

Posted by Neil Sperry
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