In The Garden: Firebush is a blaze of color
Firebush (Hamelia patens) is a wonderfully cooperative and colorful native to brighten your garden. Gardeners love firebush because it produces flowers consistently year-round in our South Florida area. Its bright red tubular flowers attract hummingbirds and butterflies, including the zebra longwing and Gulf fritillary butterflies, and birds love the berries. With its airy appearance and shape, it makes a good anchor planting in any butterfly or wildlife garden.
This plant’s mature size will depend on where it is grown. In our area, it might reach as much as 15 feet tall. However, in most situations homeowners maintain them at the 5-foot to 8-foot level. This shrub makes a good mid-level planting for its pretty foliage and colorful blooms. Firebush is a no-fail plant; it is heat and drought tolerant once established, can grow in a range of soils, is somewhat salt tolerant and has no serious insect or disease problems. This plant prefers partial sun to full sun conditions.
There is a dwarf cultivar (Hamelia patens var. “compacta”), which is a shorter plant and produces lighter orange flowers with a little bit of yellow and smaller leaves. This cultivar is not a native, but does have similar attributes that make it a hardy plant for our area. It can be maintained at approximately 3-4 feet in height.
If you are looking for a carefree pretty shrub to lend year-round color and texture to your garden, give firebush a try.
In The Garden is a joint effort by all at the local garden center, at 3889 Sanibel-Captiva Road, Sanibel. For more information, contact 239-395-5859 or visit www.facebook.com/rswalshinthegarden.