Great Summer Shrub – FIREBUSH
FloridaAsk Master Gardener Volunteer
July and August in North Florida are typically extremely hot and humid. Many spring-blooming shrubs have finished and are now resting. Even those of us that
are native Floridians begin to whither the minute we step outside.
There is one shrub in my full sun (10+ hours per day) yard that thrives in this heat and is in full bloom.
Firebush, Hamelia patens, is a native plant that grows about 5-6 feet tall and equally as wide. It can be kept smaller by pruning, but it prefers to be left alone and will produce more flowers. Throughout the summer and until the first frost, it gives an abundance of bright orange-red tubular 1.5” flowers that are very attractive to
hummingbirds and butterflies. The dark black fruit that follows are enjoyed by birds. Once established, it is fairly drought tolerant, though does best with regular watering (summer rain). It is salt tolerant and grows in any kind of soil as long as it is well-drained and tolerates a wide soil pH range. Here in North Florida (USDA Hardiness Zones 8-9), it dies back to the ground in winter, but comes back every spring. Leave the plant all winter and prune back to about 6” in late winter to early spring before bud break.
Now that’s my kind of plant; hardy, low/no maintenance, and attractive plus add to its desirability, it has no serious insect or disease problems! If you need something a little smaller, besides the regular firebush there are dwarf varieties/cultivars on the market. Check their cold hardiness before planting in the panhandle.
The UF/IFAS Extension Wakulla County Office, 84 Cedar Avenue, Crawfordville, has an excellent example of firebush just to the right of our main office building. And if you have a plant question, the Wakulla County Master Gardener Volunteers hold a weekly plant clinic at the Extension office from 10:00 to 12:00 every Thursday. Come visit the gardens and ask questions, we are always here to help improve your yard. If you can’t visit in person, send your question to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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