Hamelia patens, commonly known as Firebush or Hummingbird Bush, truly is a gorgeous thing to behold during our hot summer months, flowering nonstop from early summer right up to the first frost. It is native throughout the tropical Americas, Caribbean Islands and South Florida. Despite its climatic origins, it reliably returns for us every spring if it freezes back in the winter, rapidly reaching 5 to 6 feet tall with an equal spread.
This plant exhibits variations in size, form and flower color in shades of red and orange. There are also dwarf varieties, a “velvet-leaved” form and, in recent years, the variegated “Lime Zinger” was introduced – this lively selection has chartreuse-yellow variegation on its leaves which makes the bright orange flowers pop even more.
Bahama Firebush (Hamelia cuprea), a close cousin, is bigger in stature and produces larger flowers that are yellow in color. It is most often found in our area as part of the hybrid Hamelia x “Holik,” which blends traits from both species.
Hamelia is very drought tolerant and loves full sun, but will flower fairly well in light shade too. Hummingbirds love the nectar-rich flowers and other birds and animals enjoy snacking on the small black fruit that is produced.
The standard and dwarf forms are widely available in most nurseries and garden centers. Obtaining the more elusive varieties and hybrids may require a special request, online shopping, or a visit to a Mercer Botanic Gardens plant sale!