Hamelia patens: Firebush, Redhead

Family: Rubiaceae
Common name: Firebush, Redhead, Hummingbird bush, Scarlet bush

Firebush plants are true magnets for hummingbirds, butterflies and insects, a must-have for your garden. These birds can destroy pests and worms on your plants. And the insects can help in pollinating firebushes, and also other plants. Firebush plants grow to a height of 5-8 feet under normal circumstances, though they are capable of growing up to 15 feet.

The stem has a reddish-brown color, branching well to give the plant a symmetric, bushy appearance. Leaves are green and elliptical, with red colored stalks. Firebush plants bloom abundantly with deep red-colored, tubular flowers in large clusters. Flower stalks and new leaves are also red in color, giving the plant its name ‘Firebush’.

During most of the year, the plant is covered with red clusters of flowers, the central buds opening first. Once open, the flowers have a yellowish-red color and petals that are separated only at the tip. The long corolla tube makes these flowers very attractive to hummingbirds.

Firebush plants also produce juicy berries which change in color from green to yellow to red to black. These little berries contain many seeds, and are a favorite food for small birds, which help in dispersal of seeds. There are some dwarf varieties as well, with smaller leaves and plants.

Firebush leaves have anti-bacterial properties; juice from leaves is used to treat cuts, wounds, burns and insect bites. Firebush plants are also used in treatment of headaches, dysentery, fever and rheumatism.

Firebushes are good hedge plants, since they can stand severe pruning and still continue to produce flowers. They are also very hardy and low-maintenance, requiring very little water and fertilization.

Propagation is from seeds and stem cuttings.

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