Hamelia Species, Firecracker Shrub, Hummingbird Bush, Mexican Firebush, Scarlet Bush

Hamelia patens

Family: Rubiaceae
Genus: Hamelia (ham-EE-lee-uh) (Info)
Species: patens (PAT-ens) (Info)
View this plant in a garden


Tropicals and Tender Perennials

Water Requirements:

Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Sun Exposure:

Full Sun


Grown for foliage


Provides Winter Interest

Foliage Color:



8-10 ft. (2.4-3 m)


4-6 ft. (1.2-1.8 m)


USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)

USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)

USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)

USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)

USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 C (30 F)

USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 C (35 F)

USDA Zone 11: above 4.5 C (40 F)

Where to Grow:

Grow outdoors year-round in hardiness zone



Bloom Color:


Bloom Characteristics:

This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds

Bloom Size:

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Time:

Late Spring/Early Summer

Mid Summer

Late Summer/Early Fall

Mid Fall

Late Fall/Early Winter

Other details:

Unknown - Tell us

Soil pH requirements:

6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)

6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)

7.6 to 7.8 (mildly alkaline)

Patent Information:


Propagation Methods:

From seed; direct sow outdoors in fall

Seed Collecting:

Allow seedheads to dry on plants; remove and collect seeds


This plant is said to grow outdoors in the following regions:

Daleville, Alabama

Buckeye, Arizona

Goodyear, Arizona

Phoenix, Arizona

Prescott, Arizona

Booneville, Arkansas

Irvine, California

Merced, California

Perris, California

Bartow, Florida

Belleview, Florida

Big Pine Key, Florida

Boca Raton, Florida(2 reports)

Bokeelia, Florida

Bonita Springs, Florida

Boynton Beach, Florida

Bradley, Florida

Brooksville, Florida

Debary, Florida

Delray Beach, Florida

Ellenton, Florida

Fernandina Beach, Florida

Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Gainesville, Florida

Hollywood, Florida

Islamorada, Florida

Jacksonville, Florida(3 reports)

Jupiter, Florida

Key Largo, Florida

Kissimmee, Florida

Labelle, Florida

Lake Worth, Florida

Lutz, Florida

Melbourne Beach, Florida

Miami, Florida(3 reports)

New Port Richey, Florida

North Palm Beach, Florida

Oldsmar, Florida(3 reports)

Palm Harbor, Florida(2 reports)

Palmetto, Florida

Pinellas Park, Florida

Pompano Beach, Florida(2 reports)

Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida

Port Charlotte, Florida

Sarasota, Florida

Spring Hill, Florida

Tampa, Florida(3 reports)

Trenton, Florida

Valrico, Florida

Venice, Florida

Wauchula, Florida

West Palm Beach, Florida

Winter Springs, Florida

Zephyrhills, Florida(2 reports)

Camilla, Georgia

Dudley, Georgia

Pooler, Georgia

Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Chalmette, Louisiana(2 reports)

Lafayette, Louisiana

Zachary, Louisiana

Florence, Mississippi

Jackson, Mississippi

Mathiston, Mississippi

Ocean Springs, Mississippi

Mount Laurel, New Jersey

North Tonawanda, New York

Elizabeth City, North Carolina

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Spavinaw, Oklahoma

Grenoble, Rhône-Alpes

Conway, South Carolina

Murrells Inlet, South Carolina(2 reports)

Okatie, South Carolina

Orangeburg, South Carolina

Hendersonville, Tennessee

Tullahoma, Tennessee

Alice, Texas

Alvin, Texas

Andrews, Texas

Austin, Texas(3 reports)

Baytown, Texas

Beaumont, Texas

Belton, Texas

Blanket, Texas

Boerne, Texas

Broaddus, Texas

Brownsville, Texas

College Station, Texas

Colmesneil, Texas

Corpus Christi, Texas

Cypress, Texas

Dallas, Texas

Deer Park, Texas

Desoto, Texas

Donna, Texas

Edcouch, Texas

Edinburg, Texas

Fort Worth, Texas

Galveston, Texas

Garland, Texas

Georgetown, Texas

Groves, Texas

Helotes, Texas

Houston, Texas(7 reports)

Humble, Texas

Katy, Texas

Kilgore, Texas

Knippa, Texas

La Vernia, Texas

Lake Jackson, Texas

Lindale, Texas

Magnolia, Texas

Marble Falls, Texas

Mcallen, Texas

Mission, Texas

Missouri City, Texas

New Caney, Texas

Pearland, Texas

Richmond, Texas

Rosenberg, Texas

Rowlett, Texas

Salineno, Texas

San Antonio, Texas(5 reports)

Santa Fe, Texas

Spring, Texas

Stephenville, Texas

Victoria, Texas

Zapata, Texas

St Thomas, Virgin Islands

Hampton, Virginia

show all

Gardeners' Notes:


On Nov 10, 2019, roflol from Western, MO (Zone 6a) wrote:

Bought my Mexican Firebush about 6-7 years ago at a big box store here in Missouri, replanted into a largish pot and set it on the west-facing deck. Did well until I forgot to bring it in at the first freeze, and it looked quite dead but after several weeks in a sunny spot in the house it showed life again, and really took off growing in the spring. It's about 4 feet tall now, and looks awful every winter but comes back in the spring like a champ. Suspected it wasn't meant to be a year-round plant here so came to Dave's to see how we actually should be overwintering, and I see it can go into the garage with a monthly watering - very good to know. I hope to propagate this hamelia patens next spring with cuttings as the hummers do like it quite well.


On Oct 13, 2017, lightyellow from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL wrote:

Aside from being the number one plant for hummingbirds I have ever seen, the berries are loved by migratory songbirds.

I saw my first ever Black-throated blue warbler, actually "firsts" (several males and females) at the start of October feeding on the berries of my tall strand of firebush under an oak tree. A magnolia warbler, cardinal, and several American redstarts joined them.

Firebush die back to their roots in my zone most years but I toss a blanket over them during days with frost to stop that from happening since I like them large.


On Aug 2, 2013, faithiep from Oldsmar, FL (Zone 10b) wrote:

Such a great plant: hardy, drought tolerant, pretty and a butterfly draw. Neighbor has one, doesn't prune and it is at least 10' tall and 6' wide. I'm more interested in small shrubs so I cut it back after the winter frost like it's a hibiscus (they're both in the same bed). It has no problem coming back and keeps its nice rambling shape.


On Apr 23, 2012, Omegatop from Hampton, VA wrote:

Grew it nestled in full sun where the porch meets the house. Died to the ground this winter but new growth is sprouting from beneath the mulch. Hummingbirds are drawn to it.


On Nov 6, 2011, penpen from North Tonawanda, NY (Zone 6a) wrote:

This plant has to be container grown and brought inside for the winter in my zone 6 garden. It also needs nice loamy well draining soil. They start out slow from seed but after the first year they seem to take off. Make sure the container isn't too big for the plant's size or it will hold too much moisture and eventually develop root rot.

Fantastic hummer plant and easy to grow from seed


On Mar 29, 2011, pfherd from Corpus Christi, TX wrote:

I just planted a firebush in corpus christi z-9b . I'm still trying to figure it out.I have about 90 potted plants and more in the ground.I've heard this is a rapid grower but it has'nt taken off yet.It's planted in a 16in. pot so I know I have to bring it up ( pot size) but the leaves have a red tint and small spots on some of them. These leaves are falling off and I don't know why ?? Maybe someone else does .thanks


On Mar 20, 2011, commiskey from Jackson, MS wrote:

Zone 8a here. The first winter I had one in a container, I let it die to the ground. It came back, but late - first signs of life were in early May, and it did not flower well until October, despite six hours of direct sun a day. This year, it was spared the cold but did die back from lack of sun in the shed I was using to keep tropicals. However, I was rewarded by having signs of growth by the second weekend in March, and hopefully will get more flowering this year.

I, too, have noticed that the plant is much more drought-tolerant once established. I bought it while in SW Florida for vacation, never having seen it before. I have seen a handful of small specimens (4" pots) in local nurseries since, although very few people know about it here.


On Nov 1, 2007, msfeatherflower from Sugar Land, TX (Zone 9a) wrote:

All of the documentation I have read on hamelia patens says it gets berries and yet mine has not ever produced berries. Now I'm wondering if this plant is doiescious and there are male and female plants. Does anyone know? Perhaps I have the male.


On Oct 14, 2007, tommyg_fla from Dade City, FL wrote:

I have two firebushes. One was actually pulled up by one of my dogs last year but after some TLC came back well. The hummingbirds love it and come out every morning during the spring and summer.

One of my container plants doesn't have as much foliage as the other which is planted in the garden. It flowers well and receives full sun. It has well drained soil and I use a time release fertilizer.


On Jun 28, 2007, MadGecko13 from Corpus Christi, TX (Zone 9a) wrote:

I know this plant by the name Mary's Tears. There is also a yellow variety that I just bought to see how it performs. It seems to like to dry out between waterings, too much water makes it very unhappy. It grows prolifically in Jamaica on limestone cliffs in poor soil, blooming its little head off.


On Apr 17, 2007, khasdorff from Victoria, TX (Zone 9a) wrote:

In addition to all the information provided by others, I would like to add that Hamelia transplants easily. I mistakenly planted 3 of them on a southwest wall for shade, but they grew so tall that my husband could not see out his office window. I had to prune them several times every season, which reduced the amount of berries produced. After 3 years in the ground, I dug up the plants and moved them in November. It is now April, and I am happy to report that all 3 are showing new growth. Now they can grow freely! I live in zone 9b.


On Aug 12, 2006, LindaTX8 from NE Medina Co., TX (Zone 8a) wrote:

I've had two of these for many years. It's truly amazing how little care they need. They're outside my fence in full sun, rarely receive any watering...pretty much just what nature provides. Drought tolerant, have survived winter temperatures in the mid-teens and they come back every spring and grow into nice good-size shrubs. Heat doesn't seem to faze them. Flowers summer to fall. Butterflies and hummingbirds love the blooms.


On Jul 22, 2006, Bartramsgarden from Trenton, FL wrote:

I have a zone 8b garden near Gainesville, Florida. This is perhaps my favorite garden plant, which I have used extensively in a variety of situations throughout my garden. Here are a few interesting notes: (1) expect it to die back even after the lightest frost (be sure to cut back dead stems), (2) expect it to come back very slowly in spring, (3) expect it to gain density each year, (4) water it at least weekly the first year as it establishes its roots (don't let it stay in a wilted state for more than a day or two; if it does not regain composure after you water it, it may be waterlogged. It likes fast-draining soil), (5)expect it to be extremely drought tolerant after establishment, (6)expect it to attract a wide variety of wildlife, including butterflies and hummingbirds, (7)expect it... read more


On Jun 5, 2006, Chris_Lorry from Vero Beach, FL (Zone 9b) wrote:

Gorgeous plant. Easy care. Planted one at two foot high in July. Now about nine months later it is over five foot high and just about as wide. Prolific bloomer and drought tolerant to boot. I did water every day for the first month after planting then every other for the next couple. Now I don't water at all. It survived our extreme winter drought with little help.


On May 22, 2006, msdazeee from Houston, TX wrote:

I've had my hummingbird plant for 2 years in Houston. It gets the west sun in the evening. Light frost will stunt it but it bounces right back. It grew to about 6 ft. tall before the frost got it last year. I just trimmed it down to about 1 foot and now it's back to 5 ft. tall. Still haven't had any luck propogating it. Would like to have more plants from this bush. Never have seen any seeds. When the hummingbirds migrate at the end of August they love it.


On Dec 24, 2005, mb112397 from Beaumont, TX wrote:

I've had this plant for 6 years and it is 7 feet tall. It is the easiest plant to care for. The hummingbirds love it! I cover it when it freezes so it will bloom in time for the hummingbirds in the late summer.I have mine in full sun and have had no problem with wilting. It does not like a lot of water. I might water it once or twice a week during the hottest months.


On Nov 19, 2005, TARogers5 from Kingston, OK (Zone 7a) wrote:

This is the first one I have tried. Kept it in a pot sitting in shallow water at the base of my waterfall. Did not touch it all summer. Grew up to about three feet an bloomed all summer in morning sun only. Love it.


On Nov 6, 2005, Vasyr from Valrico, FL (Zone 9a) wrote:

This is planted in sandy soil however it is in an area that gets a fairly good watering once per week. It's in dappled shade and is now about 6.5' tall, no joke. In fact, I've seen this plant in the Florida Aquarium standing well over 7' tall. It's a vigorous grower and has no problem with dry weather. It's great because you can trim it into a nice, round shrub or into a tree-like shape, giving other plants a semi-shady spot to grow underneath.

I'm still having difficulty figuring out how to get seeds from the plant. Each time I try, the seeds are really tender and break apart. Any suggestions, please let me know.


On Nov 6, 2005, mkjones from Aurora, TX (Zone 8a) wrote:

I give a big thumbs up to this plant. Not only does it brighten up an afternoon shaded spot under a big crepe myrtle, it has such a lovely shape and growth habit. I've had my two since midsummer, and they've yet to stop blooming. Even though the plant tag listed "full sun," my bushes thrive in the southeast morning sun, and protection from the hot Texas sun in the afternoon.


On Oct 14, 2005, gingern from Irvine, CA (Zone 10a) wrote:

I have a small garden in Zone 9b so I just planted this plant in a fairly large container. I'm hoping to be able to keep this plant pruned regularly to keep it in check.


On Sep 11, 2005, HillCntryGrdnr from Spring Branch, TX (Zone 8b) wrote:

I live in the Texas Hill Country on the north side of Canyon Lake. My yard is a work in progress of mostly Texas native/zeriscape plants. As I do not want to install a drip system, I'm planting what can survive on their own once established. I planted 8 Firebush this spring and watered them once a week only. They looked a little puny at first, and one lost almost all its leaves, so I relented and gave it a little more water and it came back.

All survived the summer, and since about the middle of August I watered every other week. Starting September I stopped all watering. Now that its cooler and the rains have started, I won't water unless we have a very dry spell next summer. I grew these in Round Rock, TX and they did die completely back in the winter. I mulched them well... read more


On Aug 28, 2005, Kameha from Kissimmee, FL (Zone 9b) wrote:

Native to Central and Southern Florida. Highly attractive to hummingbirds and butterflies. Leaves turn more red in full sun and stay green in shade. Will bloom in shade but blooms better in full sun.


On Jul 4, 2005, JaxFlaGardener from Jacksonville, FL (Zone 8b) wrote:

These plants took a couple of years to get established, but are now growing about 5 ft high in mostly shade. I don't seem to have much of problem with wilting, possibly due to shady location, but the shade may also reduce flowering. I've not yet had flowers on my Hamelias this year.



On Feb 17, 2005, Limonchik from Katy, TX wrote:

It would also grow from cuttings-I had several cuttings last Fall and all did very well in plain soil in a small pot outside....


On Sep 25, 2003, htop from San Antonio, TX (Zone 8b) wrote:

San Antonio, Tx.
After transplanting, firebush needs to be watered weekly during the first year until it sets its roots. It needs well drained soil. Perhaps the plants given plenty of water but still wilting metioned above are because the soil is not draining well. During severe heat, the plant, when young, will wilt in full sun and needs a little extra water. I found that as the plant matures and the roots spread, it does not wilt as much.

Allow plenty of room for it in temperate zones. Mine is 5.5 feet tall and equally wide after trimming it back some in July. Of course trimming back cuts off new terminal blooms, but it grows so fast new blooms return quickly. In cooler zones it does not become this large. It will not bloom as well in partial shade. It has not exp... read more


On Sep 25, 2003, deboo from Comfort, TX (Zone 8a) wrote:

I just planted 3 plants, in full sun, and then it rained for 2 1/2 days right after they were planted. Three days later, the top soil is dry, the plants are wilting, but the dirt underneath is still quite moist.


On Aug 8, 2003, broozersnooze from Jacksonville, FL (Zone 9b) wrote:

I am zone 9a. Very prolific plant here. Blooms right at Christmas. Goes beautifully with holiday yard decor. My husband, thinking it was a weed, uprooted it from the yard & threw it on the side of the road for the trash man. Luckily the trash man didn't pick it up & the pile he threw out grew into a huge bush. The area in the yard that he uprooted also grew back. It gets partial sun & tolerates the heat much better than the one that is on the roadside which only gets part shade but they've both done beautifully. A hard freeze wilts the leaves & tender stems but bounces right back in the spring.


On Aug 7, 2003, christiner from Houston, TX wrote:

Grew very well the first year. Great shrub. Saw butterflies and hummingbirds enjoy it. Planted in direct sun and did wilt if not watered a little every day. I plan to plant more next spring.


On Jul 7, 2003, nipajo from Dallas, TX (Zone 8b) wrote:

I live in zone 7, and I have the Firecracker in full sun, but it is wilting badly. It perks back up after the sun is down, but lately it has stopped perking back up and is drooping all the time now. It gets plenty of water.


On Jun 6, 2003, brianich from Pearland, TX wrote:

This plant is susceptible to even light frost, but comes back from the roots each spring, stronger than ever.


On Jan 9, 2003, ButterflyGardnr from Orlando, FL (Zone 9b) wrote:

Firebush is a very attractive shrub. Butterflies, especially Zebra Longwings, and hummingbirds are attracted to the tubular-shaped red flowers. Once in the ground, the shrub will grow quickly to its mature size. Foliage color is affected by the amount of sun the plant receives. Leaves are bright green if it is in a mostly shaded area, green tinged with scarlet if it's in partial sun, or deep scarlet if the plant is in full sun. The plant will die back in a hard frost but recovers quickly. It can be pruned as needed. The fruits are eaten by birds and other animals.


On Oct 12, 2002, lpeary from Spavinaw, OK wrote:

I live in Zone 5b. This plant grows very well in many situations. Have owned it for 3.5 years now. I have put it out in the spring and taken it in each fall - usually before the first frost. It stays fairly compact - 2ft. by 2ft., but still flowers beautifully. This is the first year I will have to cut it back to bring it in. I just lift it out of the ground and put it in a pot with regular potting growers mix and bring it in.

It will drop many leaves and look pretty sickly by March, but once returned to the ground, it comes back to life and grows vigorously from previous foliage. There seems to be little or no root stress from handling, and transfer is easy. Next year I plan to attempt propagation from cuttings and leave all but one plant in ground under 12-18" dry m... read more


On Aug 4, 2002, bleu wrote:

Vigorous grower in the summer months in Central Florida. The flowers are profuse and there is some problem with free seeding. If you want to enjoy the flowers make sure to give this bush lots of elbow room so you don't have to clip it back off of sidewalks and doorways each month.

Very drought tolerant and will grow most anywhere. Find that there are some differences in leaf color, frequency of flowering and tightness of flower clusters between the plants. But I haven't seen any botanical differentiation yet.