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FL WMGV Firebush

Great Summer Shrub – FIREBUSH

FloridaAsk Master Gardener Volunteer

Michele Hackmeyer

Master Gardener Volunteer logo

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.

UF IFAS WMGV Firebush 1

Firebush:  A Full-Sun, Heat-Loving Shrub Photo by: Michele Hackmeyer

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

UF IFAS WMGV Firebush 2

Native plant that grows about 5-6 feet tall and equally as wide. Photo by: Michele Hackmeyer

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 wakullamg@ifas.ufl.edu.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information, and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions, or affiliations. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Cooperative Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A&M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating

3 Comments on “Great Summer Shrub – FIREBUSH

  1. I have two hamelia patens in my yard and they’re about 8′ tall. This is in central Florida so that may make a difference. It is without a doubt the most popular plant in the landscape for birds and pollinators. Bees and wasps go nuts on them all day long. Quite a show to behold!

    Are you saying it’s ok to cut them down to 6″ above ground, or cut 6″ off the top of each stem or branch?

    Thanks for the article!

    • Our article was written with the northern panhandle yard in mind where firebush is close to its northern limit. In central Florida, you can maintain your shrub at full size year round. We cut them back in late spring here because our winter temperatures freeze them. It sounds like you have the dwarf firebush and that will stay in the 8-10′ range. They can be cut back during the winter months if the size out grows your area. For more information, you can contact your local county horticulture agent. Thanks for the comment and good luck with your plant. They really are amazing plants for attracting wildlife.

  2. Thank you for the information. I learned in our Franklin County MGV class that my wife had planted three specimen Hamelia patens in our south facing yard on St. George Island. I am going back today to weed and put landscape cloth around them so they can thrive. Also liked seeing examples of your MGV blogs, thanks.