MEXICAN FIREBUSH Hamelia patens 'Compacta'
COMMON NAMES: Firebush, Dwarf Mexican Firebush, Firecracker Shrub, Scarlet Bush, Hummingbird Bush, Dwarf Firebush
HABIT: Drought tolerant perennial shrub.
HEIGHT: 4 feet to 8 feet.
SPREAD: 4 feet to 6 feet.
FLOWER COLOR: Red and yellow or orange-red and yellow.
FLOWER SIZE: Flower size: 1"-2"
BLOOM TIMES: spring, summer and fall.
Has a very long blooming period from June to November. Clean, attractive foliage is dramatically highlighted by the terminal clusters of scarlet red, tubular blossoms with deeper red throats.
CULTURE: Full sun to partial shade. Is very heat and drought tolerant once established. Will grow in almost any soil, even highly alkaline, heavy clays, as long as they are well drained. Zones 8-11. Needs excellent drainage in pots. Propagation: Stem cuttings. Native to many areas in tropical and subtropical America. It can be seen growing prolifically near magnificent stone pyramids in Veracruz and Yucatan and is prized by the natives for its beauty and many medicinal uses.
USES: Ornamental small tree, windbreak, hedge or specimen. Wildlife attractant: bees, butterflies, birds especially hummingbirds. Although a woody perennial in its native habitat, firebush is best utilized as an annual from central Texas northward. Low–growing annuals, especially those with white blossoms (such as white ‘Carpet’ petunias) make a very dramatic contrast planted in front of firebush.
Does extremely well in containers.
PROBLEMS: Has no serious insect or disease problems when grown outdoors in full sun locations. It certainly never needs chemical treatments of any kind.
Firebush berries, photo by Mariusz Bandurski
NOTES: Containerized plants can be overwintered near a bright window inside the home and will be even larger next summer at which time they can be pruned into gorgeous miniature trees.
Firebush fruits, photo by Mariusz Bandurski
This bright red Mexican Firebush flower photo by Mariusz Bandurski
Q: The 2 photos are of a plant on the grounds of a state facility. After reading the latest Dirt Doctor e-newsletter, I inspected it to ensure the safety of our individuals. It does not have thorns, and the spikes of red blooms are not quite the same, and they appear to have a small berry. So, I'm thinking this is not Coral Bean. But are the enclosed pics good enough for you to determine the species and if it could be poisonous? Hint: the blooms attracted carpenter ants by the hundreds. — B.H. San Antonio, TX
A: Definitely not coral bean. Looks like it might be Mexican firebush but the flowers of your plant are redder and prettier than most I've seen. It's a good plant and yours looks terrific.