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 Shrubs Questions

Sap drips from Sophora secundiflora
May 30, 2008 - We have an old Mountain Laurel (sophora secundiflora) about 20 ft tall. It blooms pretty well and seems healthy. We are wondering why it drizzles a non-sticky sap in tiny drops. Hold out your hand and...
view the full question and answer

Deer Resistant Plants for Newton Square, PA
August 25, 2014 - I'm looking for highly deer resistant plants native to PA. Thank you!
view the full question and answer

Plants for a steep slope in New York
June 27, 2010 - We just installed a swimming pool in our back yard, which is at the top of a south facing slope. After the pool was installed the slope is now 3 ft higher and very steep (unmowable). I'd guess steepe...
view the full question and answer

Apartment Landscaping
September 13, 2005 - I live in an apartment and have a small patch filled with rocks and an ugly plant I don't know the name of. I want to take out the existing plants and put something else in. It has to be hearty,low m...
view the full question and answer

Growing Evergreen sumac in clay soil of Texas
August 19, 2011 - I'm in need of a fast growing evergreen screening shrub/small tree. I'm considering the Evergreen Sumac but before I go further I need to know if this plant will thrive and remain evergreen in the D...
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 | JOBS | SITEMAP | STAFF INTRANET
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center