The Hummingbird Bush (Hamelia patens), also known as the flame acanthus, firebush, scarlet bush, and redhead, is a butterfly and hummingbird-attracting plant. It is native to the rocky regions in west-central Texas.
Flame Acanthus is a profuse bloomer from summer until frost. Hamelia patens can have a 5 to 8 foot (1.5 to 2.4 m) spread. The plant can grow 5 to 12 feet (1.5 to 3.6 m) tall without pruning. Non-native imported plants will only grow half the size.
Hummingbird Bush is extremely drought and heat tolerant, making it an easy-care plant. The Flame Acanthus is known for its forest green leaves, pale bark, and fiery red trumpet-shaped flowers.
The name comes from its flaming red flowers and because the plant is known for feeding the notorious hummingbirds. Other sun-loving plants will compliment hummingbird bush gorgeously. This plant is not picky about its placement either, as long as it gets full sun it is happy.
How To Grow?
Hummingbird bush can grow up to 5 feet (1.5 cm) as a shrub if you don’t prune it. It will die back in the winter but reliably regrows back from the roots in the spring. You can grow this plant outdoors in the USDA Hardiness Zones 7b to 11. What makes this an easy-care plant is its drought and heat tolerant. To help produce more flowers, ensure it gets its needed sun.
Hummingbird bush thrives in heat because it is native to Texas. It is a tough plant, which thrives in hot and arid climates. This bush dislikes moisture and prefers to grow in average to dry locations. It can survive winters at 5 degrees Fahrenheit (-15 degrees Celsius), if the temperature drops lower the plant will die off in the winter and regrow in the spring.
Hummingbird bush can be mildly toxic to dogs. When consumed, It can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and lethargy.
Hummingbird bush will flourish best in full sun but will tolerate partial shade. Its blooms are more abundant when exposed to more sunlight. When choosing a location for the hummingbird bush make sure it gets a lot of sunlight.
Scarlet bush is drought tolerant, it won’t need too much watering. Although watering might trigger blooms. It will need watering once or twice a week to attract butterflies and hummingbirds during the growing season.
Hummingbird bush will not tolerate a lot of water, make sure that the soil will not get soggy or waterlogged. Overwatering this plant will cause it to slowly wither away. The soil has to be halfway or completely dry before watering.
Soil & Fertilizer
Flame Acanthus adapts well to a wide variety of soils, from open areas to rocky slopes. The best soil would be well-drained sand, loam, clay, caliche, or limestone.
The soil’s pH level should be 6.1 to 7.8, meaning slightly acidic to slightly alkaline. No supplemental fertilizer is required, but the plant will appreciate one inch of manure around it.
The best time for pruning would be winter. You can let the plant grow freely but if you don’t want it to grow taller than 5 feet then pruning is the answer. For pruning use sharp shears or scissors. Hummingbird bushes will dispose of unneeded leaves and will grow fresh ones in their place.
Healthy pruning once a year will encourage the plant to grow healthy and strong. The biggest problem with Flame Acanthus can be overgrowth. The best option then would be to cut away everything except for secondary branches- those that grow from the main stem or trunk. Keep trimming back new branches liberally until your plant regains its shape.
You can propagate Flame Acanthus from its seeds:
- Collect the blooms when they fade, dry out, and turn brown.
- Store in a dry and cool place, like the refrigerator until spring.
- Plant the seeds about half an inch (1.2 cm) into the soil and care for them as usual.
Growing in a Pot
Scarlet bush does not necessarily love growing in a pot so we truly encourage you to plant them in a garden or a wider flowerbed instead.
If you still decided to grow hummingbird bush in a container, use a container with drainage holes. When repotting hummingbird bush choose a pot an inch wider than the last. Use the mentioned soils and water the soil lightly before and after repotting.
Diseases & Pests
There are no known pests or diseases that this plant attracts. If any disease is spotted make sure to prune any diseased parts. If any pests are spotted make sure to use pesticides. Keep an eye on your plant for an early and easy removal and treatment of pests or diseases.
Hummingbird bush is a low-maintenance and tough bush. It attracts butterflies and hummingbirds and will enhance any garden or patio. If you are just starting with gardening, then this bush is ideal to gain confidence.
The price of the scarlet bush are quite cheap. Do yourself a favor and start growing a hummingbird bush!