Hamelia patens, commonly called firebush, scarlet bush or Texas firebush, is native to Southern Florida, Mexico, Central and South America. It is also commonly known as Mexican firecracker or firecracker shrub because of the similarity of its flowers to firecrackers. Where this shrub may be grown as a perennial, it is evergreen, will rise to as much as 10-15’ tall and will bloom year-round. As an annual in the St. Louis area, it typically rises to 2-3’ tall in a growing season and blooms in summer and early fall. Tubular orange-red to red flowers appear in terminal clusters (cymes) in summer and fall. Whorls of pointed, oval, gray-green leaves (to 6” long) with pinkish veins. Leaves turn red in fall. Reddish stems and leafstalks. Flowers give way to small dark fruits. The seeds are small, dark brown and reticulate. Butterflies and hummingbirds are reportedly attracted to the flowers, and birds enjoy the fruits.
As a perennial, it grows well in hedges, borders and as an accent plant. As an annual, it may be grown in borders, cottage gardens or containers. Interesting plant for butterfly and bird gardens. Winter hardy to USDA Zones 9-10. Easily grown in average, medium, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Good soil drainage is important for this plant. When grown as an annual, this plant may be sited directly in the soil or in containers that can be overwintered indoors. Although somewhat drought-tolerant once established as a perennial in southern areas, it prefers regular moisture when grown as an annual. Best flowering is in full sun conditions. Thrives in high heat.
1. The seeds like moist, well-drained soil. Prepare a mixture of half potting soil and half sand, perlite or vermiculite. Put the soil in a pot. Water the mixture so that it is moist but not wet.
2. Put the seeds on the soil.
3. Cover the seeds with a thin layer of soil.
4. Water the seeds.
5. Place the pots in an area with warm temperatures in full sun or part shade.
6. When the seedlings are a few inches tall, they can be transplanted.