En EspaŅol
Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Mr. Smarty Plants - Failure to thrive of Hamelia patens in Laredo

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
3 ratings

Friday - September 19, 2008

From: Laredo, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Soils, Watering, Shrubs
Title: Failure to thrive of Hamelia patens in Laredo
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I have a question regarding Hamelias patens(firebush)that I have been trying to grow for 2 years. I live in Laredo, Texas and this area should be an excellent climate for this plant. I planted 12 of these beautiful plants (6 on each side)up my entrance way to the house 2 years ago (they were small at time of planting, approximately 1 foot tall.) 2 years later, only 4 have barely grown approximately 3 feet tall, the rest are about 1.5 feet tall. I noticed that the taller ones get a lot more water,but even then the slower growing ones look healthy and do not seem to be drying out (they just don't want to grow.) Last winter (if you can even call it that since its so warm here) I thought they had all died because they lost all their leaves and basically did not start getting leaves until mid spring. Please help, I really think these plants would look great in my front yard if I can just get them to grow.

ANSWER:

We found an online article about Hamelia patens (scarletbush) that specifically talks about it thriving in Laredo. This Texas Cooperative Extension site PlantAnswers.com praised the plant as being almost immune to drought and loving heat. Another article from the Horticulture Department of Texas A&M by Dr. William C. Welch on Firebush comments that even in South Texas, it freezes to the ground and resprouts in early Spring. 

All our sources recommended trimming the bush heavily in February. Flowers are on new growth, so this will encourage blooming. The same sources say it can be trimmed to the ground and will still come back. However, it apparently doesn't really flourish until it gets very hot, and requires little water once established. Dr. Welch, in his article, also comments on the plant as being "typically a 4 to 5 foot mound."  We noted the existence of a cultivar called "Compacta." We're wondering if this might be what you have, in which case, you shouldn't expect it to grow very tall. Another possibility could have to do with the watering the plants are getting. They require very good drainage, and if you are watering them regularly and the soil is not draining well, it could be causing some problems. Finally, these plants do best in full sun, although they will tolerate some shade. 

We recommend that you watch for drainage problems, trim it back in the late Fall, and accept a potential height of no more than 5 ft.  It still will make a beautiful garden, and your hummingbirds will love you. Here is a page of images of Hamelia patens.

 

More Soils Questions

Evergreen hedge for constant rain
June 24, 2008 - We live in Washington State up north by Canadian border. We need a hedge that will survive the constant rain. We have tried cedar. They seem to turn brown and die,one at a time so we keep replacing th...
view the full question and answer

Nassella tenuissima for Woodland Hills CA
June 30, 2013 - Good afternoon, I wanted to purchase some already grown Mexican Feather Grass (Nassella tenuissima) and was wondering how often and for how long I would need to water said grass on a scheduled sprinkl...
view the full question and answer

Soil for Emory Oak from Dripping Springs, TX
April 15, 2012 - I bought an Emory Oak today at the Wildflower Center's plant sale. Upon reading about it when I got home, I see "it won't grow in alkaline soils." I was hoping to plant it in the riparian area ...
view the full question and answer

Chlorine tolerant plants for planters near pool in Florida
June 01, 2010 - I am looking for planting ideas for two planters next to our hot tub/pool. Plants need to withstand chlorine from pool, not attract bees, and take full sun. We are in South Florida. The planters ar...
view the full question and answer

Patience for slow-growing Baptisia
July 07, 2004 - I have three different varieties of well established Baptisia that I have had for several years ... none of them bloom. One of my plants got a very small flower in April, but just pooped out after th...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center