Botanical Name: Hamelia patens
Common Name: Firebush, Butterfly Bush
Description: Firebush is a hardy, fast-growing and showy, semi-evergreen shrub to small tree found in Florida’s hardwood hammocks and coastal and upland forests. It blooms spring through fall. Its nectar-filled flowers vary in length, attracting both butterflies and hummingbirds. The Zebra Longwing butterfly and long-tongued bees, including bumble bees, are especially attracted to the flowers. It’s the larval host for the Pluto Sphinx moth. Its berries are plentiful and are eaten by a variety of birds and small mammals. They are also edible to humans, although the taste is not particularly desirable. This is one of the best Florida native plants for attracting butterflies and hummers.
Firebush produces clusters of bright orange to red thinly tubular flowers. Leaves are elliptical to ovate with entire margins and pointed tips. Petioles and veins are often reddish. Leaf arrangement is usually whorled but may be opposite. Fruits are small green berries that turn red and then purplish-black as they mature. They are born in clusters.
Grows in sun, part sun, or part shade areas of your garden. Quickly grows 6-10′ tall x 3-6′ wide. This is a large perennial shrub. Plant it where it can grow to its full glorious height. Any shearing/pruning done on it will remove the flowers. Is hurricane wind resistant. Is drought tolerant once established. The ones I’ve grown in my personal gardens very rarely got supplemental water.
Caution: Avoid nonnative varieties of Firebush, particularly H. patens var. glabra (frequently sold as African, Dwarf or Compact firebush), as it may interbreed with the native firebush. Calusa firebush is a native cultivar that may be used if a more compact size is desired.
Not salt tolerant of inundation by salty or brackish water. Low/no tolerance of salty wind or direct salt spray.
This plant in 1-gallon containers is 8-15″ tall.
Plant Lore: The genus name Hamelia honors the French botanist Henry Louis Hamel de Monceau (1700–1782). The species epithet patens is Latin for “spreading” or “to be open” and refers to the plant’s growth habit.
Florida Hardiness Zones 8 – 11