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 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.