The brilliant blooms of the Mexican Firebush plant will draw hummingbirds into your garden like a flame draws moths. The tubular flowers form in clusters at the branch tips throughout the growing season.
They are usually red or orange (occasionally yellow) and followed, in the fall, by dark blue berries which provide winter interest.
Hamelia patens is a tender evergreen shrub which will quickly reach a height of 8 feet or more in zones 8a-11 where it is hardy.
It may die to the ground where temperatures fall into the teens but it will return in the spring.
This tough plant does not require much care. It is drought and heat tolerant even on poor soil which it proves by growing and blooming with great enthusiasm on the limestone cliffs of Jamaica.
Plant it in full sun to bright shade and give it space. If you should later need to move it, don't hesitate to do so.
Mexican Firebush transplants with ease even after it is well established.
In fact, this is one of those rare plants that is so adaptable that you could plant it in the ground in the spring and dig it up and put it in a pot in the fall to overwinter it indoors.
It may not like this, but it will survive.
Once it's back outside in the ground, it will take off growing and blooming its head off again.
The leaves of Firebush plant will take on a reddish tinge in full sun.
The foliage may also turn red in the fall, but don't count on this happening. Just consider it a bonus when it does.
Plant leaves change color in the fall because of climactic changes that don't occur reliably in the southern U.S.
Hamelia patens is so attractive to hummingbirds that some gardeners call it the hummingbird plant, but butterflies and bees love it too.
In fact, it may attract too many bees.
One of my neighbors has a big Firebush plant in her side yard that I always walk a wide circle around just because of the bees that are always buzzing around it.
Let the seeds dry on the plant before removing them. Sow the seeds directly into the soil where you want the plants to grow in the fall. Cuttings root easily as well.
An easy alternative is to look for seedlings under and around the mature plant.
Water the bush regularly until it is well established, then don't worry too much about it. It needs a fast draining soil as it doesn't like to be waterlogged.
If you plant it in the coldest part of its range, it will emerge very slowly in the spring.
You can apply a little slow release fertilizer each spring or give it an all-purpose granular each month from May through September.Hamelia patens
is not a picky eater.