Thursday, June 6, 2013

Tree Thursday - Firebush

Hamelia patens

Okay, technically not a tree but firebush can grow to be the size of a small tree.  I have one in my backyard that is about 14 feet tall and has a 6 inch trunk (see photos below). I’m even able to hang orchids in it.   Firebush provides color year-round and if you want zebra butterflies in your yard there is no better plant.   It is suppose to be good for hummingbirds, too, but I’ve only seen one around mine in the last 10 years.  Firebush is native to Central and South Florida.  In South Florida, when we have that rare cold night, firebush will defoliate but soon flushes back out.  Branches will break during strong wind storms but even then, the plant recovers very quickly.      

There are dwarf varieties (photo 5) that grow well in South Florida, also.  There is the fear that the non-native dwarf firebush has cross-pollinated with the native firebush to create a new variety.  I do know I have many volunteer plants from both varieties in my backyard.  Firebush is easy to grow and requires very little care.   It is a wonderful addition to any landscape.   It can be maintained as a specimen tree or shrub or even sheared as a hedge.   

Growth Rate – Fast
Salt Tolerance – Medium
Drought Tolerance – High

Photos from top left to right – Native firebush, flowers and stems, trunk, branches and Dwarf firebush . Photos taken June 6, 2013. 

Gene Dempsey, City Forester
Office of Sustainability
Office - (954) 828-5785  Fax - (954) 828-4745