En Español

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

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

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
3 ratings

Wednesday - May 05, 2010

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Non-Natives, Shrubs
Title: Did Mexican fire bush (Hamelia patens) survive winter cold?
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I have a Mexican fire bush that I planted last spring and it bloomed beautifully last summer. It browned and we cut it back to the ground. Right now it's showing no signs of life and I'm afraid it may have died during our rough winter. When should I see growth, is it dead?

ANSWER:

The USDA Plants Database shows Hamelia patens (scarletbush or firebush) as being native to the southern two-thirds of Florida.  The USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map shows that portion of Florida in Zone 9 where the average minimum temperature is 20 to 25 for 9a and 25 to 30 for 9b and up to 40 degrees for the minimum in Zone 11.  Austin is in Zone 8 where the average annual temperature minimum is 15 to 20 degrees F.  Certainly we got within that minimum several times this past winter.  If your plant hasn't shown some green by now, I'm sorry to tell you but I'm afraid it's a goner.  You can test some of the branches that are left.  If they are still flexible and not brittle, there may still be some hope, but I wouldn't count on it. 

It is a beautiful plant but perhaps you should consider a plant that is native to this area if you decide to replace it.  Here are some suggestions:

Anisacanthus quadrifidus var. wrightii (Wright's desert honeysuckle)

Erythrina herbacea (redcardinal)

Hesperaloe parviflora (redflower false yucca)

Lobelia cardinalis (cardinalflower)

Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii (wax mallow)

Here are photos from our Image Gallery:


Anisacanthus quadrifidus var. wrightii

Erythrina herbacea

Hesperaloe parviflora

Lobelia cardinalis

Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii

 

 

 

More Non-Natives Questions

Japanese lilac trees in Lehi UT
July 31, 2010 - Dear Mr. Smarty Pants, We live in Utah and this past spring planted three Japanese Lilac Trees in the lawn next to the deck hoping they would one day provide some shade. They are planted in full sun ...
view the full question and answer

Safe distance from foundation for Sycamore from Preston UK
August 24, 2011 - What would be the safe distance to have a sycamore tree near your house so it doesn't affect the foundations?
view the full question and answer

Information on non-native caladiums from Austin
June 21, 2012 - Have you a leaflet on growing caladiums in the Austin area?
view the full question and answer

Problems with non-native African violets from Mason OH
May 18, 2011 - I have had 3 african violets for at least 4 weeks. I continue to water them and have moved their location. They continue to have wilted leaves. Are they done for or is there something I can do to g...
view the full question and answer

Problems with non-native bi-color iris from Spring Branch TX
August 18, 2011 - Bi colored iris. I have four plants planted around our water feature last fall. Up until recently they all looked very healthy, yet not blooming. Several weeks ago I noticed that two of the plants ...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP | STAFF
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center