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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.

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

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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

 

 

 

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